Tag Archives: genocide

#RtoPWeekly: 6 – 10 February 2017

Untitled
UN Special Adviser condemns human rights violations against Rohingya population by state security forces

On 6 February, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, issued a statement condemning the alarming human rights violations committed against the Muslim Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State by Burmese security forces. The statement follows the recent release of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) latest report on the situation, which documents the testimonies of over 220 Rohingya refugees, interviewed between 12 and 21 January in Bangladesh. On Thursday, two senior United Nations officials also stated that more than 1,000 Rohingya civilians were killed during the army crackdown, of which the humanitarian consequences have been greatly underestimated by the country’s presidential spokesman, Zaw Htay.

The latest OHCHR report includes testimonies of grave human rights violations, including mass gang-rape, killings of babies, and forced disappearances, while the UN Special Adviser called on the government to fulfill its responsibility to protect the population against these “atrocious and punishable acts”. Mr. Dieng also expressed his disappointment about the recent investigation conducted by the Government Commission over these crimes, which stated to have found nothing to substantiate the claims.

Defining the Commission as a non-credible option to further undertake new investigations, the Special Adviser also called for a “totally independent and impartial body” staffed with international observers, to be allowed access to report on and document the whole range of “long-standing discriminatory practices and policies against the Rohingya Muslims,” in order to put in place conditions that would “support peaceful coexistence among different communities in Rakhine State.”

On 8 February, Pope Francis also spoke in defense of the right of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims to “live their faith” and condemned the country’s government for its campaign of persecution, which is forcing them to flee. Charu Lata Hogg, an associate fellow with the Asia Programme at Chatham House, has said that “Pope Francis’ comments should serve as a wakeup call to the international community.”

Source for above photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq 
Kenya
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

Burundi:

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned that conditions in camps for Burundian refugees in countries of asylum are deteriorating and more land is urgently needed to accommodate the growing number of new refugee arrivals. The UNHCR stated that the number of Burundians fleeing political violence is expected to reach 500,000 this year as the UN seeks out more land for refugee camps in neighboring countries. Some UN human rights experts also reported over 60 cases of enforced disappearances in Burundi from November to December 2016.


Central African Republic:

A senior United Nations humanitarian official called for the protection of civilians and unhindered relief access to the town of Bocaranga after an outbreak of violence between two armed groups in the area this week. The violence has killed and injured civilians as well as displaced some 9,000 people.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Opposition groups in the DRC are expecting talks with the government to begin next week despite the death of the group’s leader, Etienne Tshisekedi. Opposition supporters expressed concern that Tshisekedi’s death could endanger the transition agreement recently signed with the government. This agreement would allow President Kabila to lead a transitional government for a year, after which new elections would be held.


Gaza/West Bank:

Al Mezen Center for Human Rights has reported that Israeli forces have launched airstrikes and intensified artillery bombardments on the Gaza strip. On Thursday, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza allegedly killed two civilians and wounded five others after rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula and intercepted mid-flight by Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ missile defence system. Attacks have allegedly hit civilian farms and affected other nearby civilian properties and spread panic among the population due to the reminiscent quality of the current intensification to that of the prelude to the last major Israeli offensive on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Israeli ministers have expressed their views of the situation on the border with Gaza in escalatory rhetoric. Education Minister Naftali Bennett expressed on Tuesday that open conflict is, in his view, inevitable.

UN Secretary-General Guterres has criticized the bill passed by the Israeli parliament retroactively legalizing 4,000 settlement homes previously erected on Palestinian land as a violation of international law. In addition to the UN, the European Union, League of Arab States, and Israeli allies, notably Germany, have also criticized the bill as a violation of international law.


Iraq:

On Wednesday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the Islamic State’s (ISIL) continued occupation of hospitals in Mosul, including the al-Salam hospital, is further endangering civilians’ lives in the battle against Iraqi-led forces trying to retake the city.


Kenya:

Kenya’s High Court has blocked the government from shutting down Dadaab refugee camp and forcibly repatriating 260,000 Somali refugees. The government has claimed that the camp has “lost its humanitarian nature” and is now a hub for terrorism and crime. The government has also stated that the decision to close the camp was made in order to protect Kenyans from such threats.


Libya:

On Sunday, Libya’s coast guard said it has intercepted 1,131 migrants near the city of Sabratha since January 27. Migrants include people from Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Palestinian territories.

The outcomes of the Valletta Summit, held on Friday, show the shortcomings of the European Union’s (EU) attempt to curb the refugee flows coming from Libya, aid groups said, underlining that the EU is completely abandoning humanitarian values and misrepresenting the situation in the African country. Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) also said that the summit proved EU leaders were “delusional” about Libya.

On Tuesday, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, called on Libya and on the international community to protect migrants from sexual violence. She reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation, which specifies that sexual violence is a form of persecution that warrants refugee status.


Mali:

Defense intelligence analysts have reported that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and affiliated groups may be moving to escalate violence against UN, French, national military and large civilian targets in order to impede the peace process in northern Mali. This perspective takes into account the attack on a shared military base in Gao last month that appeared to target the preparations for a tripartite joint military patrol that is part of the northern Mali peace agreement.

Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad and Niger have agreed to joint operations to combat terrorism and violent extremist groups in the Sahel region. The group plans to await UN Security Council approval and a UN resolution before establishing the force.


Nigeria:

A confrontation between soldiers and two female suicide bombers on Tuesday resulted in the death of one bomber and the surrender of the other. The incident is a continuation of a disturbing trend of the use of women and young girls as suicide bombers by Boko Haram, raising concerns that the terrorist group is forcing kidnapped civilians to become living weapons. UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs  Jeffrey Feltman has said recently that Boko Haram remains a threat, but has been significantly weakened by internal feuding and a loss of funding.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has released the regional report on Nigeria for January 2017. UNHCR reported over 1.7 million Nigerians have become displaced as a result of the conflict, and an additional 200,000 have fled to neighboring countries. The report also noted that UNHCR operations in Nigeria are currently facing a 99% funding gap in 2017 at the point of publication. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization also predicted in a report that 120,000 of the 11 million Nigerians facing food shortages will suffer catastrophic famine-like conditions as a result of the conflict with Boko Haram.


South Sudan:

South Sudan’s government has announced a plan to stem the violence across the country by 2020 through President Kiir’s call for national dialogue in the country. However, Mr. Kiir has also instructed the country’s defense minister to execute soldiers who commit human right abuses and atrocities, resulting in further violence within the country.

More than 52,000 people fled to Uganda from South Sudan in January amid fighting that the UN special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, warned could amount to mass atrocities as violence continues. Mr. Dieng has also called for action before the impact of the violence in the young country becomes irreversible. Reportings of killings of civilians, destruction of homes, rape, and many other crimes has lead critics to question President Salva Kiir’s promise to end violence and bring back peace. The chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) is also dismayed about the continuous violence. In a statement, he stressed the importance of unity amongst the government, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the international community.


Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, said on Tuesday that the country needs more time to properly investigate war crimes allegations from the nation’s previous civil war, which resulted in the deaths of up to 100,000 people.


Sudan:

The leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the group that has been fighting the government in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions for years, stated that they are still willing to discuss the delivery of US humanitarian aid to the region, but have rejected the role of the government in controlling the distribution. US diplomats have been leading an effort to establish a plan for humanitarian access in the region with consent from both the government and the rebel group.

The Government of South Kordofan has established a committee for the deployment of humanitarian aid within the state as part of the engagement plan between Khartoum and Washington to work towards lifting the sanctions against Sudan. Civil society commentators have criticized the decision by the US to back-off on sanctions against Sudan, arguing that they are still needed in order to bring about meaningful political change to the government structure in the country.


Syria:

Despite US President Trump’s commitment for more safe zones in Syria, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi stated on Wednesday that he does not see the proper conditions in the country for the implementation of such zones and called instead for investing on peace talks.

On Monday, Syrian government forces from the south and Turkish-backed rebels from the north encircled the Islamic State-held city of al-Bab. This advance is likely to trigger a confrontation between the two factions, the first since Turkey launched its “Euphrates Shield” operation in August 2016.

On the same day, representatives from Russia, Turkey, and Iran began a technical meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, to discuss the implementation of a ceasefire, ahead of the UN-sponsored Geneva peace talks to be held on 20 February. However, deep divisions between Moscow and Tehran about the possible participation of the United States are likely to hamper the talks. Moreover, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said that, as long as Islamic State (ISIL), al-Nusra, and other terrorist groups are present on the ground, a political solution for Syria will be not achievable.
On Thursday, Russian airstrikes accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others during an operation against ISIL in northern Syria. The unintended clash promptly urged the Russian President Vladimir Putin to express its condolences to the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, blaming the misdirected strikes on poor coordination between Moscow and Ankara.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International issued a report revealing torture and mass killings carried out in Syria’s Saydnaya prison. Witness testimonies claim that 13,000 civilians have been secretly tortured and hanged between 2011 and 2015.

Airstrikes in Idlib on Tuesday killed 23 people, including civilians. It is unclear if those airstrikes were carried out by the Russian or Syrian government forces or by the US-led coalition.


Yemen:

This week, the government of Yemen has requested a reassessment of US commando operations in the country, including the botched operation last month that killed numerous civilians, including children, and for closer cooperation with the US government in future operations. Human rights monitor Reprieve has reported the civilian death toll of the aforementioned US operation to be 23,  according to witnesses.

Yemeni forces also announced on Wednesday that they had fully seized the coastal city of Mocha and cleared it of Houthi forces and have shifted priority to landmine clearance and restoring peace and security in the neighborhoods.

The British High Court is expected to make a ruling within the next few weeks on the domestic legality of the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. The London-based Campaign Against the Arm Trade (CAAT) has brought a legal case against the government of the UK to halt the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. British-made armaments are allegedly being used in the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, according to CAAT, that has regularly resulted in civilian casualties with some sources claiming one out of every three airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition have struck civilian targets.

On Wednesday, Oxfam stated that the complicity of foreign governments, including of the United Kingdom, in the conflict in Yemen has accelerated the country’s approach to severe famine. The condemnation came the same day that the UN released a new humanitarian plan for Yemen in Geneva and appealed to world governments for $2.1 billion USD for emergency lifesaving relief in Yemen. The UN has called the situation in Yemen “catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating,” with 3.3 million people acutely malnourished as a result of the conflict.

The security situation in Yemen has also led to UN fears for the safety of refugees in the country. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a campaign Tuesday to dissuade migrants and refugees, primarily from Somalia and Ethiopia, from travelling to or through Yemen due to the high levels of criminal abuse and violations faced by refugees in the conflict-afflicted country. UNHCR has expressed that, while Yemen is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the ongoing state of war and insecurity in the country does not provide an environment conducive for asylum. UNHCR also stated that the lack of security for both UNHCR and partner personnel, as well as refugees, has made it particularly difficult to fulfill its mandate in Yemen.


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#R2PWeekly: 28 November – 2 December

UntitledICRtoP to hold upcoming Event: Preventing Mass Atrocities:
The Role of Women in the Advancement of the Responsibility to Protect

4a681ab8-429e-4bb9-8132-eb4a0e3a753fThe International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) is pleased to mark this year’s International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime with a public event exploring the relationship between the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) agendas in order to foster discussion, increase awareness, and produce recommendations for action. Genocide and other atrocity crimes disproportionately affect women and girls at an alarming rate as they often are directly targeted and also bear the brunt of the economic and social consequences of such crimes. However, women are not just victims of atrocities, as they have a vital role to play in the implementation and advancement of the RtoP and an inherent right to participate in the norm’s advancement.

ICRtoP would like to invite you to join us for the event entitled “Preventing Mass Atrocities: The Role of Women in the Advancement of the Responsibility to Protect,” on 12 December from 6:30pm – 8:30pm at The Church Centre for the United Nations (777 First Avenue at 44th Street, NY, NY). The event will feature civil society experts working throughout the world to advance the WPS and RtoP agendas. By convening civil society, UN, and Member State participants, the event will also serve as an opportunity to hear diverse viewpoints, and link actors working on these issues in order to raise and consider recommendations to enhance women’s participation and leadership in atrocity prevention.

Moderated by Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy-Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, an ICRtoP Steering Committee member, the event will feature a panel of civil society experts, including Louise Allen, Executive Coordinator at NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security; Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, Executive Producer – Director of femLINKpacific; and Lina Zedriga, Secretary of Uganda’s National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All forms of Discrimination.

As space will be limited, please RSVP by 5:00pm on Monday, 5 December if you plan to attend. To RSVP, please contact  wfmint5@wfm-igp.org


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On 28 November, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi cancelled her planned trip to Indonesia due to protests over government actions against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine State. The cancellation comes in the wake of a senior UN official accusing Myanmar of engaging in a policy of ethnic cleansing in order to force the Rohingya out of the country. In response to the escalating violence, the Thomson Reuters Foundation recently convened an expert panel on how to solve the issue. The panel’s responses can be read here.

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, released a statement on Tuesday expressing alarm over the security and humanitarian situation in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, following reports of human rights violations. Dieng urged the government and military to allow an independent investigation to look into the reported incidents and also called for accountability for those responsible for the alleged violations.


Burundi:

Last week, the UN announced that it will set up a probe into the violence in Burundi. Following the announcement, the government responded that it will not cooperate with the investigation as they claim it to be part of a political plot. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in support of the president. However, it is not known whether the protests are voluntary or forced upon the civil servants through threats.

On Tuesday, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressedconcern regarding several incidents, including the circulation of a questionnaire asking public servants to state their ethnicity, and reports of killings, abuse and torture. The Committeeaccused the Burundian government of being unwilling or unable to protect the population and called on the country to act swiftly to protect civilians. The Committee also called on the government to allow the deployment of a UN police contingent, mandated to monitor the situation in the country.


Central African Republic:

On 27 November, the government of CAR stated that a week of fighting between the rebel groups, the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic and Union for Peace in Central Africa, has left 85 people dead. Mr. Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, has released a statement condemning the violence amid reports that members of the Fulani ethnic group have been specifically targeted, with rebels going house to house looting, abducting people, and committing executions. His full statement can be readhere.

On Monday, a UN official said nearly half of the population, about 2 million people, in the Central African Republic are in need of humanitarian aid. According to aid groups, attacks in the country are restricting the access for humanitarian actors to deliver assistance to those most in need.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On 25 November, Ugandan rebels from the ADFNALU group released several villagers they had taken captive in order to convey a warning to the armed forces of the DRC as well as MONUSCO, the UN mission in the DRC. The message called for a halt to assaults on their positions, warning that for each rebel killed they will kill ten civilians.

On 27 November, the Mai-Mai Mazembe, a Nande “self-defense” militia, attacked both a DRC army outpost and a camp for displaced persons in the Hutu village of Luhanga, killing at minimum 34 civilians. In the weeks prior, the group had threatened to “purify” the village if the Hutus did not leave..


Iraq:

Iraqi Special Forces have killed approximately 1,000 ISIL fighters since the offensive to retake Mosul from the Sunni terrorist group began six weeks ago. Government forces were initially able to make advances quicker than anticipated in villages and towns vacated by civilians. However, fighting has slowed in recent weeks as operations begin in neighborhoods still populated with local Iraqi residents. More than a million civilians have remained in Mosul throughout the battle.

A major pipeline was hit during the continued battle for Mosul on Tuesday, leaving nearly 650,000 civilians, including women and children, without access to water. The UN has also warned that high levels of food insecurity have emerged and there is extreme need for humanitarian assistance.


Nigeria:

On 25 November, Boko Haram raided three villages in the northeast of the country, killing five people and setting fire to multiple homes.

Late last week, at the EU Human Rights Dialogue in Abuja, the EU urged the Nigerian government to ensure that the country follows global human rights practices and added that peace will be possible only if it is set upon human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.


South Sudan:

Late last week, after intense international pressure, the South Sudanese government agreedto allow the deployment of additional peacekeepers in the country, which was initially refused by the president as he regarded it as a threat to national sovereignty.

On Wednesday, the United States reported to the UN Human Rights Council that South Sudanese government troops are preparing to launch an attack on rebel areas or border states and that the US has credible information to support this report. The US also accused the troops of deliberately targeting civilians. A proposal from the US, at the meeting, regarding an arms embargo and targeted sanction was blocked by Russia.

A UN humanitarian official in South Sudan has expressed serious concern regarding the continuing blockage of aid convoys in the country and has urged all parties to allow humanitarian access to safely reach people in need. During November, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded about 91 incidents where humanitarian workers were blocked and several of these involved violence against personnel or assets. The major challenges for humanitarian workers have continued to increase as the situation for the South Sudanese population has also continued to deteriorate.

A UN commission on human rights has reported that a process of ethnic cleansing is under way in South Sudan, following a visit to the country, where members of the commission witnessed serious violations of human rights, such as massacres, rape, and the destruction of villages, based along ethnic divides, The UN commission has called upon the international community to fulfill its obligation to prevent genocide as such fears rise.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government has made public that talks have been taking place in Addis Ababa to determine the locations of Darfur rebel combatants in order to create a comprehensive framework for a cessation of hostilities agreement to be signed with the armed groups. Talks between the government and two armed groups in Darfur, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), over a humanitarian cessation of hostilities have been deadlocked since last August.


Syria:

Syrian government forces have reportedly retaken over a third of rebel-held territory in the besieged city of Aleppo. The latest offensive has included a sustained aerial bombardment from both Syrian and Russian warplanes over the area. The Russian defense ministry has stated that Syrian government troops have regained control of 12 districts, or approximately 40% of the territory, from rebels opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session on the enduring and protracted conflict in Syria on Wednesday. The UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien, referring to the current situation as a “descent into hell”, pleaded with Council members to do everything in their power to influence decision makers to bring an end to the six year conflict. Nearly 600 people have been killed since Saturday after government forces initiated a large-scale offensive to retake rebel-held areas of Aleppo. At least 200,000 civilians, including women and children, remain in the besieged rebel-held areas of Aleppo.


Yemen:

On 23 November, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed 12 civilians in the Hiran district of Hajja province. Another set of airstrikes killed at least 13 civilians on 28 November as it hit two homes in the northeast of Hodeida.

On Monday, the Houthi rebels formed a new government, which was sworn in on Tuesday, according to a Houthi-run news agency. The formation of a new Houthi government is a set-back to ongoing UN efforts to form a unity government in Yemen. However, the UN Envoy for Yemen, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, traveled to Aden on Sunday with the aim of holding discussions and with the hope of reaching an agreement between the warring parties. President Hadi firstrefused to meet with the UN Envoy as the Yemeni government is opposed to the peace plan, but later agreed to a meeting after sending a letter detailing the parts of the plan that his government will not accept.

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#R2PWeekly: 13 – 17 June 2016

UntitledUN Commission of Inquiry Releases Report Stating ISIS Has Committed Genocide Against Yazidis

“Genocide has occurred and is ongoing,” according to Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. This is the conclusion reached by the Commission in the landmark report released this week, titled “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”. The Commission determined that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been engaged in a systematic policy of genocide against the Yazidi people, an ethno-religious minority group in Iraq and Syria, which ISIL considers to be infidels. This marks the first time in history that a non-state actor has been accused of the crime of genocide. The report details, at length, the myriad of specific ways in which ISIL has systematically and continuously attempted to destroy the Yazidis in line with the understanding given in the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The report was conducted in line with the CoI’s mandate, and thus the document focuses on violations committed against the community within Syria, while also examining how ISIL “forcibly transferred Yazidis into Syria after its attacks on northern Iraq’s Sinjar region” in 2014. The report relied on 45 interviews given by survivors, religious leaders, smugglers, medical personnel, and journalists to give detail to the murders, mass executions, rapes, cultural destruction, and forced conversions that continue to take place. Corroborating documentary material to substantiate these interviews was also used, including hundreds of photographs, satellite images, reports, and the factual findings of the OHCHR Fact-Finding Mission on the human rights situation in Iraq, as well as information gathered from ISIL.

The Yazidi community of Sinjar, compromising 400,000 people, has been the victim of a systematic policy of genocide since ISIL launched their offensive on the group’s home region of Sinjar in Iraq on 2 August 2014. ISIL’s actions against the Yazidis have also included crimes against humanity and war crimes, while the genocidal measures against Yazidis have taken many forms. The report demonstrates that ISIL has conducted not only a deliberate policy of mass killings and executions, but also sexual slavery, chattel slavery, the destruction of Yazidi homes and shrines, among other crimes.  Women have been sold into slavery and forced into a daily program of rapes and physical abuse. Currently 3,200 Yazidi women and girls are held in sexual slavery across Syria, while Yazidi boys, some as young as 7, are taken from their mothers and indoctrinated into ISIL’s radical interpretation of Sunni Islam to be used as child soldiers. The whereabouts of thousands of Yazidi men and boys are still unaccounted for and 30 mass graves been found in Iraq thus far.

The report also includes a number of recommendations for the relevant parties to the current conflict as well as the broader international community. For contracting parties to the Genocide Convention, the CoI strongly reminds all parties of their obligations as outlined within the Convention and urges them to call on UN bodies to act within the mandate of the UN Charter to halt the ongoing genocide. The Commission also specifically encouraged Iraq and Syria to urgently ratify the Rome Statute and called for the UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to remain seized of the situation, bringing attention to and alerting relevant actors, and advocating on behalf of the Yazidi people. The recommendations also pressured the UN Security Council (UNSC) to do more on the issue, including ensuring that it is continuously on the Council’s docket, considering use of its Chapter VII powers, and referring its findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the event that these recommendations are not followed, the report urged the international community to recognize the ongoing situation as the crime of genocide, put pressure on the UNSC to take the necessary actions to halt the genocide, and support the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable. Furthermore, the report also called upon the international community to increase its support for the victims of these crimes through an increased and expedited asylum process as well as supporting them through increased funding for psychological programs.

The full report can be read here.


Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
I
raq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
S
outh Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other

Burma/Myanmar:

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) stated they would like to hold talks with the new government peace negotiator, Dr. Tin Myo Win, before meeting with state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. The pre-negotiations are aimed at smoothing things over before the 21st Century Panglong Conference. The Burmese army also has demands prior to the peace conference, including insisting that three armed groups, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Arakan Army (AA), disarm before negotiations take place. These armed groups have stated they will not comply, further complicating relations prior to the talks.

The Burmese government has resumed construction of a fence along the country’s border with Bangladesh. The porous border previously allowed easy access into Bangladesh for Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

The Kachin National Organization (KNO) has asked Pakistan to stop the sale of fighter jets to the government of Myanmar. The KNO President stated these fighter jets are used by the government to eliminate certain ethnic groups in conflict zones.


Burundi:

A rural secondary school in Burundi sent home 230 students for defacing a picture of President Nkurunziza in their textbooks on 14 June. Last week, 11 high schoolers were arrested for the same crime, facing up to five years in jail as a punishment. Nine schools in eastern Burundi are currently under investigation for defaced pictures of the President in school textbooks.

The United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) will conduct its second visit to Burundi from 13 to 17 June. The human rights situation in Burundi prompts a follow-up visit, where three human rights experts of the UNIIB will meet with civil society, regional partners, victims of human rights violations, and others. The final report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September.

A grenade explosion in President Pierre Nkurunziza’s hometown of Ngozi killed two civilians and injured four more on 14 June. The grenade exploded in the hands of the soldier before he threw it into a crowd, killing the soldier.


Central African Republic:

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) kidnapped 29 people from two villages in the Central African Republic this week. The kidnappings come as Uganda decided it will withdraw its troops from the African Union (AU) mission in the CAR before the end of the year. 2,500 Ugandan troops currently operate in the CAR, working to hunt down members of the LRA rebel group. According to a recent report by the UN Security Council, LRA rebels have abducted 252 civilians in the first quarter of 2016 alone. The U.N. envoy for Central Africa, Abdoulaye Bathily, said “the withdrawal of the Ugandan troops may create a vacuum which may be used not only by the LRA but also the other armed groups which are in the region.” The leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity for recruiting children as soldiers and sex slaves.

Violent clashes between Muslims and Christians claimed three lives in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui on 12 June. The fighting started as a result of Muslims avenging the death of a Muslim taxi driverbelieved to be killed by Christians on 11 June.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The main opposition parties in the DRC have decided to unite under one umbrella group in order to force President Kabila to leave office. The group calls itself “Rassemblement” or “Rally” and formed itself formally in Belgium last week. Various opposition groups have been holding regular nationwide demonstrations against a potential third term for the current president.


Gaza/West Bank:

The recent cancellation of 83,000 Palestinian travel permits by Israel may be considered “collective punishment,” which is banned under international law. The policy was criticized by the UN as possibly stoking tensions in an already frustrated conflict. The Israeli military also blocked off the West Bank for three days from 10 – 12 June due to security concerns following the attack on a market in Tel Aviv on 8 June that killed four Israelis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he will never accept the Arab Peace Initiative as it is currently on 13 June. The plan, proposed in 2002, promised full diplomatic relations with Arab states in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state in accordance with the 1967 boundary lines. While Arab states have consistently supported the peace initiative, the Israeli government has demanded changes to the conditions several times over the years.

Israeli water company, Mekorot, has cut off water valves supplying Palestinians in the northern West Bank since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israeli citizens get priority over the Palestinians in receiving water, placing a heavy burden on fasting Palestinians. Meanwhile, 95% of water in Gaza has been deemed “unfit for human use,” according to the European Union (EU). Unsanitary water, caused in large part by cut-offs from Israel, places the 1.8 million people living in Gaza without water, with many already living in poverty. The EU has supported the construction of a desalination plant in the Gaza Strip, which will serve 150,000 residents in its final stage.

Israel’s Defense Ministry announced plans on 16 June to build a wall around the Gaza Strip both above and underground. The plan, estimated to cost $568 million, is to build barriers to counter attacks through underground tunnels running between Gaza and Israel.

Hamas fired dozens of short-range rockets in Gaza on 10 June as part of a test launch. The rockets were not aimed at Israeli territory and did not bring anyone to harm.

Israeli jets launched an airstrike on the southern Gaza Strip on 14 June, causing no damage or casualties. The army stated the attack was part of an air force exercise, however refused to give more details.


Iraq:

On 12 June, Iraqi armed forces launched a new offensive in the Mosul region, pushing towards the village of Hal Aji, situated across the river from the Islamic State hub of Qayara. Qayara contains an airfield which Iraqi forces plan on using as a major-staging ground for the future operation to retake Mosul, only 40 miles to the north.

The same day, Iraqi armed forces around Fallujah managed to create and secure their first safe-exit route for civilians trapped in the ISIL-held city, currently under siege. Within 48 hours, 7,000 people had already managed to escape the city through this route. Iraqi forces announced that they had arrested over 500 suspected members of ISIL, in that figure of 7,000, attempting to flee through the safe-exit route using fake IDs. Since that time, the flow of people escaping from ISIL diminished, dropping from roughly 3,500/day over the weekend to less than 1,000 on Tuesday. ISIL has been conducting a policy of either shooting at civilians as they attempt to flee or demanding a $100 exit tax.

On Monday, the Iraqi government announced that authorities had made the first arrests in regard to reports of the execution of dozens of Sunni men fleeing Fallujah by Shiite militiamen aiding the army in retaking the city. Reports claimed that 643 men had gone missing and been subjected to torture by the militia, with 49 killed. The U.N. reported last week that it “knew of ‘extremely distressing, credible reports’ of men and boys being abused by armed groups working with security forces after fleeing Falluja.” However, not wanting to put such a label on the entirety of Shia militias that Baghdad has come to depend on for its offensives, the Iraqi President, Fuad Massoum, stressed that individuals had committed these acts and that they were not the deliberate actions or orders of a specific group.

Masrour Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Security Council and son of KRG President Massoud Barzani, told reporters this week that he believes that after the defeat of ISIL, Iraq should be partitioned into three separate states, including separate states for the Shia, Sunni, and Kurds because the level of mistrust between the different groups comprising Iraq is too high. The Kurds have already taken steps of their own towards independence, heightening tensions with Baghdad.

Moqtada al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric who helped rally an insurgency against American forces in Iraq, has asked his supporters to stop attacking the office of rival, Iranian-backed Shiite political parties. Al-Sadr has previously accused these parties of corruption and his followers stormed and assaulted multiple offices at the end of last week. The tension between al-Sadr and the rival political parties began to turn violent in late May, when his supporters stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified government district, known as the Green Zone, for a second time leading to the deaths of four protesters.

On Wednesday, two separate bomb blasts in Baghdad killed 9 civilians and left multitudes wounded. The attacks targeted a military checkpoint, killing 7 soldiers, and a fruit and vegetable warehouse, killing two civilians.

The United States and Norway have announced a joint initiative to help defuse and destroy mines put in place by ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The $30 million dollar initiative will begin this year and continue through 2017, as the US and Norway prepare to hold a ministerial-level de-mining conference in the autumn at the UN.


Kenya:

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visited Kenya this week and met with President Uhuru Kenyatta to talk about the future of Somali refugees in refugee camps in Kenya. President Kenyatta assured the High Commissioner that Kenya would uphold its international obligations and respect the rights of the refugees while returning them to Somalia.

Kenyan authorities have taken eight politicians into custody and detained them on allegations of hate speech as tensions grow between government and opposition supporters ahead of the 2017 presidential election. The detainees are made up of members of both the governing Jubilee coalition and the main opposition group, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), and stand accused of making statements that are “laced with ethnic hatred, vilification and border on incitement.” A judge authorized their detention for four days and the politicians are to appear before court again on 17 June.


Libya:

The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until 15 December to further efforts towards a political solution to the conflict. The current mandate was set to expire on 15 June. The Council also reaffirmed its support for the Libyan Political Agreement as well as the Government of National Accord in stabilizing Libya.

On 14 June, The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2292, authorizing inspections of vessels off the coast of Libya suspected of trafficking arms and weapons. The Security Council stated its concern of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups within Libya, most notably ISIL.

Clashes between the government-back military forces and ISIL in Libya left five Libyan soldiers dead and 37 wounded. Libyan forces are preparing for the final battle to regain complete control over Sirte from ISIL. The offensive against ISIL in Libya has left 145 pro-government fighters dead and over 500 injured.


Mali:

The European Council has increased the budget of the European Union’s civilian mission supporting Malian security forces, EUCAP Sahel Mali, by almost 5 million Euros after the recent security incidents in Bamako, the capital.

Clashes between pro-government militias and the Macina Liberation Front, a group of Islamic fighters, killed eight Islamist militants in the Timbuktu region of Mali.


Nigeria:

According to a new report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), women living in displacement sites in Borno state in northeastern Nigeria face a high risk of abuse. The conflict in the region has destroyed the traditional hierarchy system and has caused many families and households to now be run by women. Because of the region’s traditional community and household frameworks, and a strict Islamic doctrine preventing women to leave home to seek a form of livelihood, these female-led households are left without traditional support systems and are often forced to resort to riskier endeavours to meet the basic needs of their households.

On 12 June, only a few days after originally rejecting the government’s proposal for dialogue, the Niger Delta Avengers blew up a second crude oil pipeline in the region. The Avengers have since said that they will consider peace talks, but have also stated that they are now considering overturning another previous decision to avoid taking lives. The Avengers also reiterated a warning to oil companies not to try to repair previously blown-up facilities or pipelines.

Amnesty International has released a new report claiming that the Nigerian military has killed at least 17 Biafra secessionist protesters, including some who were shot in the back, indicating that they may have been fleeing. The Nigerian military has denied these claims, but Amnesty International is calling for the government to investigate the incident, which occurred last month in the city of Onitsha.


South Sudan:

Fighting broke out on 11 June in Central Equatoria state just south of the capital, Juba, between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to First Vice President Riek Machar. The clashes left 21 people dead and dozens injured, making this outburst of fighting the deadliest in the area since the formation of the transitional government of national unity. The forces of both sides in the area have yet to be cantoned to specific areas in the state.

On 13 June, members of South Sudan’s national security forces opened fire on students at Juba University during an election of the guild president of the university. The incident was allegedly preceded by arguments between students supporting the opposition leader, First Vice President Machar, and those supporting President Kiir. As the arguments escalated, the security forces are alleged to have broken in and intimidated the students, resulting in shots being fired and students being pushed off campus.

On Wednesday, a group of armed men overtook the town of Raja, the administrative headquarters of the newly created Lol state. The governor and his cabinet fled under heavy gunfire, with the location of the deputy governor unknown. No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack on the border town. However, the assault included a direct attempt on the governor’s life and left several injured. South Sudanese government forces managed to retake the town the next day, noting that several tribes in the area have been frustrated with the creation of the new state.

The UN has released its latest figures on those fleeing from violence in South Sudan, stating that 47,000 South Sudanese have fled into Sudan since the beginning of the year, citing the continued outbreaks of violence in South Sudan coupled with growing food insecurity. UN peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, also noted that “spoilers” are still operating in South Sudan in hopes of derailing the peace process. Since the formation of the unity government, the UN has seen three of its aid workers killed while working to support the over 150,000 civilians remaining in UN-guarded camps.

The President of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Ambassador Choi Kyonglim, has appointed the members of the Commission of Human Rights in South Sudan. The Commission has a one-year mandate to investigate the human rights situation in South Sudan and make recommendations for its improvement. The Commissioner will also advise the South Sudanese government on matters of transitional justice, accountability, and reconciliation issues and work with international and regional mechanisms.

On 15 June, Governor Patrick Zamoi of the newly created South Sudan state of Gbudue, helped launch the start of a three-year reintegration program targeting conflict-affected communities in the town of Yambio. The program seeks to teach peacebuilding techniques and increase peacebuilding capacities amongst communities. The program, supported financially by UNICEF, will particularly target women, children, and youth who were formally fighting in the civil war and need to be reintegrated into society.


Sudan/Darfur:

Over the weekend members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services raided the home of the director of the El Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment (KACE), El Bagir El Afif. KACE is among several civil society organizations that have been forcefully closed by the Sudanese government in recent years. This comes in the wake of the detention of several members of a separate civil society organization for the past several weeks by security services.

Clashes broke out on Monday when pro-government militia members attacked police and government troops in the central Darfur town of Zalingei after police arrested a high-ranking militia leader accused of stealing vehicles. The fighting was an attempt to secure his release.

On 13 June, the Sudanese government officially announced the dissolution of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) and the Darfur Peace Office in July. This is one of the final steps in the implementation of the peace agreement in Darfur.  The DRA was an outcome of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), implemented in July 2011. The original 4-year mandate of the DRA to implement the peace document was extended for an additional year last summer.

Sudanese Defense Minister Awad Ibn Ouf has announced that the Border Guard Forces (BGF) will take part in the collection of illegal weapons in Darfur. The first phase of the operation will be on a voluntary basis, while the second will involve heavy disarmament operations and legal action. However, the BGF is mainly composed of the infamous Arab militias that the central government used when Darfur first rose up in rebellion in 2003, raising concerns over potential abuses and previous tensions rising.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, noted this week that minimal progress has been made in creating a political solution for the crisis in Darfur and, as such, the mandate of the joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) should be extended for another year. Contained in the Special Report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission on UNAMID, Mr. Ladsous’ assessment of the situation highlights that sectarian violence continues to fester in Darfur due to disputes over access to land, water, and grazing areas, creating an atmosphere of insecurity. Currently 2.6 Million people remain internally displaced in Darfur.

On 15 June, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) requested the participation of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the current peace process in Sudan. The two rebel groups, which have been in conflict in Darfur with the central government since 2003, have not signed onto the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and, although they hope to sign the Document, they would like to see it opened up for re-negotiation on certain issues. As of now, the two groups also refuse to sign the Roadmap Agreement facilitated by the African Union requesting the creation of a positive environment for the constitutional conference. In the past, the Sudanese government has accused Uganda of supporting rebellion in Darfur. This tension has led the US Special Envoy for Sudan to meet with the two rebel groups later this week in hopes of overcoming the current halt in the peace process.


Syria:

The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) pushed further against ISIL this week in their offensive to capture Manbij. The SDF cut off the last supply route from the nearby town of al-Bab, which has allowed the SDF to lay siege to the town from all sides. However, the forces are still holding back from an all-out assault on Manbi out of fear of harming the civilians trapped in the city.

ISIL kidnapped dozens of Kurdish villagers this week in the northwest of Aleppo, after storming several villages. The estimated number of those kidnapped is 210. The event has raised fears that those taken may be used as human-shields by ISIL, as is currently being done in Manbij. Others fear that they may become the victims of revenge killings for the actions of the SDF.

On Saturday, 12 people died from a triple-suicide bombing in the Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab. Has has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was carried out in a predominantly Shia area, home to the holiest Shia shrine in Syria.

Airstrikes in the city of Idlib killed 34 people on Sunday, while other airstrikes in Maarat al-Numan killed seven people. Although neither the Syrian nor Russian governments have claimed responsibility, the Syrian government began an intensified aerial campaign in Idlib province last month.

On 15 June, fighting in Aleppo province killed over 70 people, as the Syrian government, rebels, and jihadists all engaged in intense fighting. The majority of this fighting took place in the villages of Zaytan and Khalasa to the southwest of Aleppo. The government also greatly increased the intensity of airstrikes and shelling on rebel-held supply lines to the north of the city. The combination of these circumstances has recently left Aleppo cut off from aid deliveries. In light of the deteriorating humanitarian situation there, the parties declared a 48-hour ceasefire, which went into effect at midnight on Wednesday. However, humanitarian officials have stressed that the ceasefire does not provide nearly enough time to deliver the required humanitarian assistance to the city.

Syrian armed forces attempted to advance on the ISIL-held town of Tabqa on 15 June. The city lies in eastern Syria on the Euphrates river, home to an important dam. The advance halted as ISIL mounted a counterattack, which has left 28 dead. Earlier in the month, buoyed by Russian air support, government troops had started their advance on Tabqa. However, ISIL has been reinforcing the town in anticipation of an intense government assault.

An aid convoy of 31 trucks entered the besieged city of al-Houla, home to 14,200 families on 11 June. This is the first out of a multitude of planned convoys to reach Syria’s 19 besieged areas, allowed after the Syrian government finally acquiesced to UN and international pressure. The delivery comes in the wake of a food aid convoy entering the city of Daraya for the first time since 2012, this past Friday. However, hours after they convoy left, airstrikes by the Syrian government were reported in the area, casting doubt on the Syrian government’s overall commitment.

In the days following the start of the planned aid convoys, the Syria Campaign released a report accusing the UN of losing its impartiality in Syria due to the overwhelming majority of aid being delivered to government held areas. The report based its findings off of interviews with both former and current aid workers in Syria, claiming that the UN’s fear of having its visas revoked or being kicked out of the country have led it to comply with the Syrian government of directing aid only to government held areas. The report further calls for the UN to set conditions for how it interacts with the Syrian government that will insure impartiality in aid delivery and that if they are not met that the U.N. should withdraw any and all cooperation with the Syrian government. The UN Spokesperson responded to the report by stating that calling such work impartial “discredits the amazing work of our colleagues, mostly Syrians, are doing every day to try to deliver aid to the Syrian people.”

After United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura stated that a large number of prisoners had been released from the Adra Central Prison near Damascus, the Syrian National Council (SNC) has come forward claiming that the former prisoners had been released after they agreed to join the Syrian armed forces. They are being sent to the frontlines near Aleppo and Qamishli to fight ISIL in order to decrease defections, according to the SNC.

In a report, released on Monday, the UN confirmed that it is making progress in its investigation of nine chemical weapons attacks in Syria. However, the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), set up by the UNSC last year, has not yet determined who is responsible for the attacks and is asking the member states to be more forthcoming with information. The 24-member team will give its final report in August, when its one-year mandate ends into their investigation into what have mostly been described as attacks using chlorine gas in barrel bombs.

On Wednesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lambasted international donors for their lack of commitment to pledges made to help those countries dealing with greatest pressure from the Syrian refugee crisis. In February, several countries, including some of the world’s most well off, pledged $11 billion to help Syria’s regional neighbors manage their growing refugee populations. However, only $2.5 million has actually been given so far.


Yemen:

On 13 June, a suspected overnight drone-strike, most likely carried out by the United States, killed three alleged al-Qaida militants in the central Shabwa province. At the same time, the Saudi-led coalition began a series of raids in the former south-Yemen al-Qaida stronghold of Mukalla, detaining some 150 men.

On 14 June, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, reneged on his plans to submit a roadmap for peace for Yemen. In doing so, an anonymous source cited that fault in the delay lies primarily with ““the [Houthi] rebels’ intransigent stance which their last statement has revealed and which took negotiations back.” The first portion of the proposed, and currently in limbo, peace plan will allegedly involve preliminary procedures. In light of this, on 15 June, the two sides began discussions over forming military and security committees to oversee a transition period. However, sticking points remain over the Houthi refusal to turn over their heavy weapons and the government having no desire to include the Houthis in a unity government. This contention over the Houthis refusal to budge on this position has led the Yemeni government to threaten to pull out of the talks.

On 14 June, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released a report tallying the continued human devastation since the beginning of the ceasefire in Yemen two months ago. Despite the ceasefire, MSF treated 1,624 people with injuries in the city of Taiz due to continued intense fighting in the city. The report highlights that none of the parties to the conflict appear to be making an effort to halt the civilian casualties in the area.

On 15 June, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it will end its military operation in Yemen, stating “war is over for our troops.” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash stated the UAE was “monitoring political engagement and empowering Yemenis in liberated areas.” While the UAE has announced its withdrawal, fighting has continued in several areas of the country leaving 48 dead over Wednesday and Thursday, with the besieged city of Taiz seeing renewed heavy clashes.


What else is new?

The ICRtoP released an infographic designed as an educational tool on the Geneva III peace process and Syria. The infographic explores the actors involved, those left out of the process, the issues at stake, and the current situation in Syria since the talks stalled.Please view the infographic here.

The Group of Friends of RtoP based in Geneva delivered a joint statement commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Human Rights Council.

The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, released a statement on 7 June in response to the inflammatory rhetoric by President Jammeh of the Gambia. The Special Advisor condemned language that was used at a political rally on 3 June, in which he referred to the Mandinka ethnic group as “enemies, foreigners,” and threatened to kill members of the group. The Special Adviser reminded that such “incitement to violence can be both a warning sign and a powerful trigger for atrocity crimes,” and urged President Jammeh to fulfill Gambia’s responsibility to protect.

On 6 June, the Friends Committee on National Legislation released a sign on letter with support from 44 NGOs, including the ICRtoP, urging Congressional Action on Executive Order S.2551 of 18 March.

Last week the United States Institute of Peace released a PeaceBrief entitled, China and the Responsibility to Protect: From Opposition to Advocacy. Written by Courtney J. Fung, the PeaceBrief explores China’s position on RtoP by providing a historical trajectory of the country’s engagement with the principle.

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#R2PWeekly: 6 – 10 June 2016

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Crimes against Humanity Occurring in Eritrea

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


 South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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


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

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Remembering Srebrenica

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the commission of genocide in Srebrenica in which, under the protection of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) brutally killed over 8,000 Muslim men and boys, throwing their bodies into mass graves, and then reburying them in secondary graves in order to hide these heinous crimes. The forces sexually abused countless women and deported the elderly, women and children against their will. The horrific crimes under the eye of the UN marked yet another failure to protect civilians from atrocity crimes. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice have both affirmed that crimes committed in 1995 amount to genocide.

Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide. Photo Credit: Brianna Burt.

Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide. Photo Credit: Brianna Burt.

While many countries and leaders throughout the world are using this solemn anniversary to honor the victims and reflect on the lessons learned from this tragedy, some political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), including the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, continue to deny that the genocide occurred. This denial has impacted how the UN sought to commemorate the anniversary as a UN Security Council (UNSC) draft resolution brought forward by the United Kingdom, which would have recognized the crimes as genocide as well as included strong references to RtoP, was vetoed by the government of Russia. This veto followed calls from actors such as Mladen Ivanic, Chairmen of the Presidency, who urged the UNSC not to adopt a resolution commemorating the genocide.

Undeniably, the international community has worked hard to change its norms, structures, and responses in an effort to avert another Srebrenica. However, Russia’s 8 July 2015 veto of the commemoration resolution, as well as failures to halt atrocities in Syria, South Sudan, and Burma, among others, shows that not all lessons from the past have been learned.  As United Kingdom Ambassador Peter Wilson highlights, “We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of twenty years ago. We must act where we have early warning. We must find greater unity in this Council and use all of the tools at our disposal to do so.”  

Lessons Learned in Fostering a Culture of Prevention at the UN

In 1999, Kofi Annan released his report on the “Fall of Srebrenica” in which he highlighted the UN’s failures in responding to Srebrenica and identified lessons to be drawn from the genocide. The report stressed that different actors within the UN, including the peacekeeping mission and Member States, failed to adequately communicate and share intelligence. According to the report, members of the battalion “were aware of sinister indications,” but “did not report more fully the scenes that were unfolding around them.” Additionally, the report explained that the UN failed to fully understand the Serb war aims, partly because of inadequate and inaccurate reporting.

The failures in Srebrenica were a driving factor for the dramatic reconsideration of how the UN conducts its peacekeeping operations as well as directly influenced the development of the Responsibility to Protect ( RtoP) to serve as the primary framework for the prevention of future atrocities. Along with the development of RtoP, other key advances include the Human Rights Up Front initiative, the appointment of the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission, and the Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes.

Lessons Learned in Fostering a Culture of Response at the United Nations

The UN’s failure to protect civilians from the horrific atrocity crimes committed in Srebrenica—as well as other mass atrocities— led the organization to conduct its own soul searching with regards to its capacity to protect populations. The Secretary-General’s 1999 Srebrenica report urged Member States to address several challenges that the Srebrenica genocide uncovered, including the gap between mandates and means, how and when to use force, as well as the principle of impartiality even when faced with a risk of genocide. Around the same time, the UNSC passed its first thematic resolution on the protection of civilians (POC) and authorized the first-ever POC mandate in a UN peacekeeping operation (the UN Mission in Sierra Leone).

Similar to the 1999 Srebrenica report, the Brahimi Report also expressed concerns in regards to creating high protection expectations, emphasizing that “if an operation is given a mandate to protect civilians, therefore, it also must be given the specific resources needed to carry out the mandate.” In regards to the UN’s past reluctance to use force in fear of not adhering to the principle of impartiality, the Report stressed, “no failure did more damage to the standing credibility of UN peacekeeping in the 1990s than its reluctance to distinguish victim from aggressor.”  It further stated that UN peacekeepers “who witness violence against civilians should be presumed to be authorized to stop it…”

Since the first POC mandate, and the release of the Brahimi Report, the UNSC has authorized more robust POC mandates in different crises, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, and the Central African Republic. Furthermore, the Council’s thematic resolutions on POC began to stress that “protection activities must be given priority with decisions about the use of available capacity and resources.” Indeed, the protection of civilians has become a core activity of many UN missions, including those with Chapter VII authorizations. The UN Force Intervention Brigade in the DRC also added another dimension to the protections of civilians, as it had the authority to take offensive action in order to neutralize armed groups. Certainly, during the past 20 years, there have been significant changes in the way in which the UN responds to armed conflicts, as well as the means and capabilities it is willing to provide to missions for the purpose of protecting civilians.

Making “Never Again” a Reality

Despite these advances, the 20th anniversary of Srebrenica is also an opportunity to reflect on what the UN has not done to prevent and respond to atrocities. War crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide continue to be perpetrated throughout the world, including in Syria, Darfur, and Burma, among countless other countries and regions. Such conflicts illustrate both that the culture of prevention has yet to firmly and consistently take hold and that states are failing to live up to their responsibility to protect populations.

For example, on the protection of civilians front, the 2014 Office of Internal Oversight Services report found “persistent pattern of PKOs [peacekeeping operations] not interfering with force when civilians are under imminent attack.” Out of 507 reported by missions with POC mandates in which civilians were at threat from 2010-2013, a paltry 101 (20 percent) had garnered an immediate response.

The recent report of the High-Level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations also echoes some of the same 15-year old concerns highlighted by both the 1999 report on Srebrenica and the Brahimi Report. In particular, the 2015 report emphasized that although there has been progress in promoting the protection of civilians, there are still significant gaps between what is asked of peace operations and what they can actually deliver. Furthermore, the Report highlighted that although many missions are operating in extremely hostile environments, “the challenges and implications of this new operating environment have not yet been well-defined or internalized.”

The Srebrenica genocide also highlighted other areas in peace operations in need of improvement, including immunity for peacekeepers. Though the 1999 Srebrenica report stated that “it is not possible to say with any certainty that stronger actions by the Dutchbat would have saved lives, and it is even possible that such efforts could have done more harm than good,” a Dutch court said in July 2014 that the Netherlands was liable for the deaths of more than 300 victims of Srebrenica. Nevertheless, accountability for peacekeepers, particularly in the wake of new accusations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, is virtually non-existent. Indeed, organizations such as the Stimson Center continue to urge the UN to “undertake a comprehensive and independent evaluation of the approach undertaken by the UN Secretariat to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse” in peacekeeping operations. (See the ICRtoP’s recent statement in this regard.)

Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide. Photo Credit: Brianna Burt.

Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide. Photo Credit: Brianna Burt.

In addition, stark challenges remain with regards to the UNSC acting to respond in the face of atrocity crimes. This stems explicitly from the continued misuse by Russia and China to wield their veto power when the Council seeks to condemn and act to protect civilians, as most notably evidenced in response to the ongoing crisis in Syria and most recently during the Srebrenica commemoration. As stressed by United States Ambassador Samantha Power, “Twenty years ago the international community failed to protect the people taking refuge in Srebrenica, and the result was genocide. Today, because of Russia’s refusal to call what happened in Srebrenica by its rightful name, genocide, the Council is again failing to live up to its responsibility.”

Civil society organizations have started initiatives that aim to address many of these challenges, including by urging UNSC members to refrain from the use of the veto in mass atrocity cases, as well as highlighting the importance of prevention and effective response. The international community must continue to address the lessons it has drawn from the Srebrenica genocide and take further steps to prevent and respond to mass atrocities.  If not, civilians across the world facing the risk of such horrific crimes and violations will continue to suffer, as did the victims of Srebrenica.

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#R2P Weekly: 6-10 July 2015

Untitled

Veto on Srebrenica Resolution Hinders Ability to Prevent Next Genocide 

The following is an excerpt from the latest ICRtoP Press Release. To read the full version, click here.

With today’s veto of a resolution commemorating the Srebrenica genocide, the United Nations Security Council again showed its inability to function properly when the veto is used, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) said today.

“Unfortunately, today’s veto is only the most recent example of the Council failing to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes,” said Don Deya, chair of the ICRtoP. “Whether it’s a resolution on Syria, Palestine, Myanmar—or on a genocide that occurred twenty years ago—vetoes show how this outdated power cripples responses to atrocities by the Council and the world at large.”

The use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes hinders the ability to fulfill the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P), a landmark norm unanimously agreed to by States in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. Under RtoP, States and the international community agreed that they had an obligation to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.

The resolution would have acknowledged the massacre of 8,000 civilians (mostly men and boys killed because of their identity) as genocide; called weekly1on states to prevent the future commission of genocide and reaffirmed the principle of the Responsibility to Protect in that regard; encouraged States to appoint national focal points on atrocity prevention; and welcomed the use of the UN Framework of Analysis on Atrocity Crimes as an early warning and preventive tool.  Among other reasons, Russia vetoed the text on the grounds that the tragedy in Srebrenica fails to qualify as genocide, despite international judicial rulings.

“By vetoing the resolution, Russia has erected a new barrier to reconciliation and remembrance,  said William Pace of ICRtoP member World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy. “Acknowledging the truth of what happened—and how we let it happen—is the only way to honor the victims, live up to our Responsibility to Protect, and prevent future genocides.”

Today, the UN Security Council has again shown its divisions when it comes to fulfilling that promise to prevent atrocities; though, the ICRtoP welcomes the strong support shown by most Council members for the resolution and RtoP norm.  The vote shows once again the vital need for Permanent Members of the Council to refrain from using their veto when it is facing the gravest of tasks—that of responding to situations of mass atrocities.

The international community must continue to work to develop regulations or pledges to restrain veto use.  If not, populations in Syria, Darfur, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—to name a few—will continue to pay the same price as the victims of Srebrenica.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:
Myanmar announced its election would take place on Nov. 8th, which will be the first open general election the country has seen in 25 years. New clashes between Myanmar’s army and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) took place in Southern Myanmar, with cease fire talks set for next week.

Myanmar passed a bill that prevents interfaith marriage. Human Rights Watch and other various rights groups criticized the bill as a campaign by nationalist Buddhists to incite hatred against Muslims.

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) at its 29th Session, adopted without a vote a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.30) on the “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar,” tabled by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In this resolution, among other points, the HRC stressed that “States have the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights” and “Calls upon the Government of Myanmar to take all necessary measures to ensure accountability and to end impunity for all violations of human rights, including in particular against Muslims, by undertaking a full, transparent and independent investigation into reports of all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”


Burundi:
The Burundian government demanded that Abdoulaye Bathily, the UN-appointed mediator, resign from his post, claiming that he is not impartial. The East African Community (EAC) then asked Ugandan President Museveni to spearhead mediation efforts; however, this appointment by the EAC was immediately rejected by Burundi’s opposition parties.

President Nkurunziza’s party, the CNDD-FDD, won the parliamentary elections, getting the vast majority of seats with a total of 77 out of 100. UN election observers declared that Burundi’s parliamentary and local elections were not free, credible and inclusive and pointed to the widespread fear and campaigns of intimidation by police and armed groups. The African Union (AU) reaffirmed that there must be an end to violence in Burundi and that all actors must be brought to the table for a peace agreement. The AU also asked the Burundian government to allow AU military and civilian experts to enter the country and observe the ongoing elections.

ICRtoP member the Pan-African Lawyers Union, together with the East African Civil Society Organizations Forum and members of Burundian civil society, filed  a petition with the the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to seek an annulment of the decision by the Constitutional Court and Burundian INEC/CENI (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante), which found Nkurunziza’s 3rd term run legal under Burundian law.

During a UN Security Council briefing on Thursday, the Representative from Burundi delivered a speech denying claims made by UN Human Rights Chief, Zeid Al Hussein, that the Burundian government and its youth militia, the Imbonerakure, acted violently against protesters, human rights defenders, and the media. Instead, he attributed the attacks to an opposition group and claimed the surge of refugees leaving Burundi had been caused by the “media onslaught” of rumors.


Central African Republic:
French officials in Central African Republic (CAR) began interviewing children allegedly abused by French troops. An armed group, disguised as UN peacekeepers, raided and destroyed a local state-run radio station in Bangui. The UN dismissed 20 peacekeepers from the CAR for the use of excessive force.


Gaza:
July 8th marked  one year since the 50 day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which claimed the lives of over 2,000 Palestinians, 70 Israelis and destroyed 100,000 buildings.

OCHA’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper,expressed concern for the ongoing crisis in Gaza and the failure to rebuild the community that was destroyed. Since July 2014, almost 100,000 people have been displaced and 120,000 still lack access to water. Amnesty International, in cooperation with Forensic Architecture, launched a new digital tool to document patterns of Israeli military violation on Gaza dating back to initial attack in 2014.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution (A/HRC/29/L.35) on “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” with 41 States in favor, five abstentions and one no vote from the US. The resolution calls for the implementation of the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry report and reaffirms the obligation to ensure the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The resolution also “calls upon the parties concerned to cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened.”


Iraq:
Iraq has seen a rise in civilian casualties as fighting intensified between Islamic State (IS) and Iraqi forces, with 25 civilian deaths in the past week and many injured. The Iraqi courtsentenced 24 IS militants to death for taking part in killing and torturing Iraqi soldiers when IS overran Tikrit last summer.


Kenya:
Al-Shabab launched another attack at a local quarry in Mandera County that borders Somalia, killing 14 people. Al-Shabab previously attacked Mandera County in December 2014.


Libya:
After the UN-led peace talks stalled this past Wednesday, the self-declared government of Libya announced the restructuring of its army into 11 brigades, including the militiamen who fought in the 2011 revolution. Fighting in the city center of Benghazi between pro-internationally recognized government forces and rebel forces resulted in the death of 14 people.


Mali:
Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for multiple attacks against UN peacekeepers in Bamako and in Mali’s border regions.


Nigeria:
Violence attributed to Boko Haram in Nigeria continued, with two bombs set off in Jos killing a total of 44 people and two female suicide bombers killing 5 in Potiskum. Later, another bombexploded in Zaria, killing 25 people. Nigeria is starting to bolster security measures to combat this recent string of Boko Haram attacks. Boko Haram is reportedly willing to release over 200 Chibok girls taken last year in exchange for 16 Boko Haram militants currently being detained by the Nigerian government. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered an official condemnation of Boko Haram’s campaign of violence in Nigeria and across the region and called for renewed support for the Multi-National Joint Task Force.


South Sudan:
This week marked South Sudan’s fourth year of independence from Sudan; however, the situation remains bleak as fighting continues between the South Sudanese government and the Sudan People Liberation Movement In Opposition (SPLM-IO) with over 10,000 people killed and 2 million people displaced since the conflict began in Dec 2013. A second attack in under a week on an UNMISS Protection of Civilians site took place on the 5th, killing one Internally Displaced Person.

Riek Machar, the SPLM–IO leader and former vice president, claimed he wanted a power-sharing deal with President Salva Kiir. However, a day later, Machar gave President Kiir an ultimatum; vowing that the civil war would continue as long as he remained in power.

Herve Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, without seeing prospects for a political solution, urged the UN Security Council to place an arms embargo on South Sudan and to impose sanctions on more rival leaders.


Sudan/Darfur:
A landmine exploded in the Blue Nile, killing at least five people amidst the continuation of hostilities between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Northern Sector (SPLM-N) and Sudanese forces in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan. 1,800 Sudanese soldiers weredeployed to East Darfur to contribute to security in the area and prevent clashes between armed groups. The European Union affirmed its support for a national dialogue to take place to address political issues among all parties to the conflict in Sudan. Displaced persons and refugees from Darfur presented a package of demands to the UN Security Council on security in the region. Meanwhile, Sudan remained firm on its demand for UNAMID to exit.

Armed groups in Sudan and South Sudan have repeatedly gained access to weapons from UN and AU peacekeepers. The report by Small Arms Survey concluded that 500 weapons and 1 million rounds of ammunition (including heavy machine guns and mortars) were taken from peacekeeping forces in Sudan and South Sudan from 2005-2014.


Syria:
The Islamic State took control of the city of Ain Issa as part of a strategic effort to push Kurdish forces out of Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that barrel bombs and fighting between the Syrian government and opposition force in Aleppo killed 15 civilians including several children. A Belgian military operation has rescued over 240 civilians from Aleppo who will now gain asylum in Belgium.

According to UNHCR, the number of Syrian refugees now living outside of Syria has grown to be over 4 million, which is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in over 25 years. Almost 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced.


Yemen:
A rocket was launched into the city of Aden and killed 12 refugees. UNHCR reiterated that all sides to the conflict must respect civilian life as well as allow access by humanitarian workers to go unhindered.

The Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government of Yemen have agreed to pause fighting for the rest of Ramadan, to begin today and end on 17 July, so that  humanitarian relief can be delivered in the country.


What else is new?
Save the Date: Join the Stimson Center and the Hague Institute for Global Justice on the 14 July 2015 from 3- 4:30 pm in the Trusteeship Council at UN Headquarters for the launch of the Report of the Commission on Global Security entitled, “Confronting the Crises of Global Governance.” Dr. Madeleine Albright will be present in her role as Co-Chair of the Commission. You can RSVP here .


 

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Debating the Responsibility to Protect in Libya, Syria

The Responsibility to Protect has been the subject of considerable debate in recent weeks, particularly as the international community continues to pursue an end to the violent crisis in Syria, and the transition in post-Gaddafi Libya moves forward with both uncertainty and concern.

This post draws on the discussion surrounding RtoP, its application in the context of these situations, and thoughts on building international consensus on the norm. These discussions reflect the ongoing need to improve international understanding of the Responsibility to Protect, and foster comprehensive international dialogue on how to implement the norm and prevent threats of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing on a case-by-case basis. It is important to note that this post is not an opening of debate on the norm or its foundations, but an examination of important points raised on how it is operationalized.

Recent International Responses Spark Debate Over RtoP 

Alex De Waal’s controversial 9 March op-ed in the New York Times on “How to End Mass Atrocities” sparked the debate, in which he chided Gareth Evans, a former chairman of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), Samantha Powers, an official on the Obama administration’s National Security Council and author of The Problem from Hell, and “fellow idealists” for misrepresenting history and misunderstanding the measures that can most effectively halt mass atrocities.

Drawing on the recent interventions in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire and the so-called insistence on stopping mass atrocities through the use of military force by RtoP supporters and Western powers, De Waal writes:

“The idealists insist on pursuing a more ambitious agenda: nothing short of democracy and justice, imposed by military intervention. And this can undermine simply getting the killing to stop. For perpetrators, the prospect of foreign intervention and prosecution rules out the possibility for compromise. For rebels, it creates a perverse incentive to escalate ethnic violence so as to provoke an international military response…Western policy makers interested in stopping mass crimes should not overlook tools that can work. Where violence is used as an instrument for political gain, it is negotiable. Some perpetrators can be moderated through diplomacy. Others will stop killing if they defeat a rebellion or realize they cannot. The main aim should be to stop genocidal killing.”

De Waal’s piece generated a number of substantive responses, particularly a direct response from Evans defending RtoP in the New York Times (11 March), a post from Roland Paris, a University of Ottawa professor and Director of the Centre for International Policy Studies, on the website of the Canadian International Council (12 March), and an article by Lloyd Axworthy, the former Canadian foreign minister who commissioned the ICISS in 2000, on why RtoP shouldn’t be defined by the situation in Libya in Global Brief Magazine (13 March).

Evans’s rebuttal, In Defense of R2P, disputes De Waal’s arguments, with the former ICISS co-chair reminding that RtoP is not, “old “humanitarian intervention” wine in a new bottle”, and that the norm is not about, “mindless moralizing, or prioritizing democracy or the achievement of longer-term justice, at the expense of effective action to stop mass killing in its tracks.” Instead, as Evans notes, RtoP is about mobilizing the will and resources to respond to mass atrocities flexibly, depending on the circumstances of the particular case.

In R2P Is Not a License For Military Recklessness, Paris also disputes what he calls De Waal’s “misrepresentation” of RtoP:

“…while de Waal criticizes “idealists” for oversimplifying complex conflicts…he himself presents R2P in distortedly simplified terms. Indeed, based on his op-ed and previous writing, he seems to want to demolish R2P rather than to engage with elements of the doctrine that are consistent with his own “pragmatic” approaches to conflict resolution.”

Drawing on the Precautionary Principles of the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, Paris raises an important point:

“…even in the face of mass atrocities when all other attempts to end violence have failed, military intervention is not warranted if it is likely to make the situation worse. This important, prudential warning at the heart of R2P is too often forgotten by the doctrine’s critics and proponents alike. R2P is not an automatic licence for military intervention. Any contemplated armed action must be justified, necessary, proportional – and proven to do more good than harm.”

This point is echoed by Axworthy in his piece, Don’t Allow Libya to Define R2P for Global Brief Magazine:

“The reality is that the original International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) report, released in 2001 made clear that the implementation of R2P is about the protection of civilians, should be considered primarily preventative and considers military action a very last resort.”

All three authors offer the efforts of Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General and the current Joint UN-League of Arab States envoy attempting to bring a negotiated end to violence in Syria, as an example of a non-coercive measure employed to respond to disastrous situations through the RtoP framework.  Such an effort, they argue, are also in line with De Waal’s preference for diplomatic solutions to mass atrocities.

Libya’s “Long Shadow”, Syria, and the Responsibility to Protect

Beyond De Waal’s critique, further debate regarding RtoP by academics, journalists, and think tanks has touched on the manner in which UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which mandated a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya, was enforced by NATO and its allies, and the implications of that enforcement on the international response to the situation in Syria (which is discussed in an extensive post featuring civil society voices).

A 19 March report by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) entitled Short War, Long Shadow, discussed the impact of the crisis in Libya on RtoP, highlighting what amounted to an opportunity missed for the norm.

According to the report, despite the crisis in Libya’s being a clear RtoP situation, and the broad support from the international community to respond with “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, “errors and omissions” by the intervening powers have resulted in a failure to advance international consensus for RtoP.

RUSI cites such issues as NATO’s command and control of the operation, the possible expansion of the scope of the mission from humanitarian (civilian protection) to political terms (regime change) by NATO and its allies, and the decision by Western powers to allow weapons and training to the Libyan rebels despite an arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council. As the report states, these issues, “have left a sour taste in the mouths of powers like Russia, China, and India,” and a concern that the legacy of Libya will be that, “China and Russia will presume that the model in future operations is rather regime change under the cloak of R2P, and will be more forthcoming with vetoes.

Echoing this, Ruan Zongze, Vice President of the China Institute of International Studies, wrote on 15 March in the China Daily that the Libya case has proven that RtoP is, “nothing more than the pursuit of hegemony in the name of humanity”. Zongze added further that:

“As Libya demonstrated, the responsibility to protect can be abused to change a country’s government, which goes against the purposes of the UN Charter, the principle of national sovereignty and the principle of noninterference in internal affairs.”

Therefore, as the RUSI report stated:

“Libya was touted as a classic test-case of humanitarian intervention, now incorporated as a new United Nations concept and usually referred to as the ‘Responsibility to Protect’, or R2P. And yet, it should have been obvious then – and certainly became obvious thereafter – that Libya remained the exception rather than the rule in the development of such an international responsibility.”

According to RUSI, the “long shadow” of the Libyan experience has loomed large over Syria, emboldening Russia and China to block any future intervention in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown, which, RUSI states, would be “justified under RtoP.”

Aidan Hehir, the Director of the Security and International Relations Programme at the University of Westminster, echoed the above findings in his 14 March post for e-IR, Syria and the Responsibility to Protect: Rhetoric Meets Reality. The author concluded that the “celebratory rhetoric” of RtoP supporters – such as EvansAxworthyRamesh Thakur, and Thomas Weiss – in light of the Libya operation has been met by the harsh reality of the Syria case, where, until very recently, a collective international response had been stymied by Russia and China.

In this sense, Hehir states that even if such a response to the situation in Syria is pursued, “it will not, however, constitute a vindication for RtoP.” This, as the author asserts, is because the Syrian case, “demonstrates, in all too graphic detail, the limits of RtoP,” which amount to the national interests of the UN Security Council’s Permanent 5 (P5) members coming to the fore and blocking collective international action. For Hehir, this touches more broadly on the inconsistent use of the veto power by the P5, and the need for “creative thinking” about UN reform and the absence of a UN rapid reaction capability.

Rodger Shanahan of the Lowy Institute for International Policy added to the discussion on Libya, Syria, and the use of force to protect civilians through the RtoP framework with his 22 March piece, Libya Was Easy.  The author drew on the differences between the Libya and Syria case, stating that:

“Even the Libyan experiment showed how difficult military campaigns…are to prosecute.  The Libyan military had a very limited capability, the terrain was extremely favourable to an aerial campaign and the international community was united in its resolve.  And it still took seven months to successfully prosecute the intervention.  In Syria none of the conditions present for the Libyan intervention exist.”

As Shanahan notes, this touches on the general difficulties in using force to protect civilians. Not only are there no guarantees that the use of force can achieve stated goals, but deployment could also have unintended consequences. As an example, the author raises the Syrian case:

Internal conflicts, particularly those of a sectarian or ethnic nature, are nearly always the most vicious and intractable of wars. The use of force against the regime in power in these circumstances, if not employed adroitly, can have unintended second and third order effects that may result in a worse situation than that originally faced.  Just as the guiding principle of ‘do no harm’ applies to the provision of humanitarian assistance, so too does it apply equally to decisions to invoke R2P as a justification for military intervention.  And in Syria, it is difficult to see how the military dimension of R2P would not breach that principle.”

This is explored further by Zack Beauchamp in his 16 March piece at Foreign Policy Magazine online, Syria’s crisis and the future of R2P, in which he contemplates the “options on the table” in Syria and the potential consequences for the norm. Beauchamp wrote:

Understanding the limits of military force in the Syrian case is critical to R2P’s viability as an international norm. A failed intervention — which would almost certainly involve the death of international troops — would taint the idea among emerging powers like Brazil and India who are crucial to making it a widely accepted part of state practice in the 21st century. Such states, while open to R2P as a doctrine, are wary of its use to justify humanitarian intervention. A haphazard invocation of R2P in Syria could destroy the doctrine’s international legitimacy just as it was being built, preventing R2P from becoming a shared framework for understanding the legal and moral role of sovereignty.”

Moving forward, Beauchamp sees a middle ground between non-intervention and the pursuit of military options in Syria, which he suggests are grounded in RtoP’s third pillar – timely and decisive response – and reflected by the UN’s current effort to consolidate a ceasefire agreement by President Assad by potentially deploying unarmed monitors and/or peacekeepers.

But beyond the case of Syria, and touching on the significant debate over Libya, Syria, and RtoP that has occurred both in the halls of the UN and across the Internet, there remains a crucial need to address the concerns that have emerged in the as a result of the Libya operation.

In this sense, this summer’s (yet unscheduled) UN General Assembly informal interactive dialogue on RtoP, which will focus on measures within the third pillar of timely and decisive response, is an important opportunity to address the concerns of Member States over the RtoP’s implementation in Libya. It will also serve as a timely forum to clarify the full range of humanitarian, political, economic and military measures available to the international community to respond to a country-specific situation under the norm’s third pillar, and stimulate further international discussion on best practices and lessons learned.

Read On

Five Ways to Advance a Responsibility to Protect agenda in Syria, by Bennet Ramberg (The Daily Star, 19 March)

The Failure of an Idea, by Kim R. Holmes (The Washington Times, 21 March)

Saving the Syrians, by Gareth Evans (Project Syndicate, 23 March)

When Intervention Fails, by Joshua Foust (PBS Need to Know, 26 March)

Stopping Assad, Saving Syria, New York Times Room for Debate, featuring Radwan Ziadeh, Ammar Abdulhamid, Simon Adams, Mona Yacoubian, Michael Weiss, and Patricia Degennaro (26 March)

Flight is Not Always An Option: A Response to De Waal, Meierhenrich, and Conley-Zilkic, by Phil Orchard (Fletcher Forum, 27 March)

If it brings freedom, a bloody Syrian civil war may be preferable to slavery, by Charles Crawford (The Telegraph, 27 March)

The Least Bad Option, by James Traub (30 March, Foreign Policy Magazine online)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace vs. Justice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deterrence and the Need for Prevention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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