Tag Archives: Human Rights Watch

#R2PWeekly: 23 – 27 October 2017

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Russia vetoes extension of mandate for joint UN-OPCW
chemical weapons inquiry in Syria

On 17 November, the mandate of the Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM), the impartial investigation set in motion to find those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, created jointly by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), will expire. The investigation was created in August 2015. However, Russia has recently threatened to veto the extension of the JIM’s mandate. Russia supported the creation of the JIM in 2015 and has supported the extension of its mandate in the past, which is why it would be inconsistent for them to veto this time. However, Russia, along with China, has vetoed matters in the UNSC related to the use of chemical weapons before, and has allegedly been increasingly critical of the findings from the investigations. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the JIM still has a lot of work to do, and, in May, the organization reported the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons as being widespread and systematic, thereby possibly amounting to crimes against humanity. As of 15 September 2017, 114 States have expressed support for the Accountability Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Code of Conduct, and furthermore, 96 States support the French and Mexican initiative, which proposes that States in the UNSC refrain from the use of veto in cases of mass atrocities. Ole Solvang, the deputy emergencies director at HRW, expressed fear that a Russian blockade of the mandate would send a signal of impunity to those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria and lead to further use of the banned weapons.

On Tuesday, Russia nonetheless chose to veto the extension of the JIM mandate. This was the ninth time Russia vetoed action to be taken against the Syrian government. Russia has previously rejected a report conducted by UN human rights investigators, which found the Syrian government responsible for the chemical attacks in Khan Sheikhoun in April. Reportedly, Russia continually pushed for an extension of the vote on the mandate until after the findings from the JIM had been assessed, but had insufficient support, leading to the veto of the extension of the JIM’s mandate. Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York, commented on this calling it a “routine abuse of the veto,” which is the “equivalent of a green light to war crimes.”


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC

Iraq
Kenya 
Philippines
Syria
Yemen 

Other

Burma/Myanmar

After reviewing the situation in Burma, the United States (US) is set to withdraw its military assistance to Burmese units and officers who have been involved in the violence related to the ongoing Rohingya crisis. The imposition of sanctions on Burmese authorities is also being considered. In an official statement, the US State Department called for accountability for all crimes committed in this context.

On 24 October, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch published their submission to the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee outlining the crisis. The submission listed specific accounts of the atrocities including multiple accounts of sexual violence against women and children. The submission called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and UN Member States to take action without delay.

France and the UK have circulated a draft resolution calling on the Burmese government to cease military operations in the Rakhine State and grant immediate access to UN agencies and other aid partners working to address the worsening humanitarian crisis. The draft condemned the violence occurring on both sides, including references to the 25 August Rohingya rebel attacks. However, the draft has been met with opposition from China, a neighbor and ally of Burma.

Switzerland has increased aid to Rohingya refugees from 1.8 million to 8 million Swiss francs. The Humanitarian Aid Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has provided tents, emergency supplies, and funding to operations run by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, the World Food Programme, and other non-governmental organizations.

Bangladesh sent a delegation to initiate talks with Burmese officials regarding the safe return of over 600,000 Rohingya migrants on 23 October. This delegation will seek the safe return of the Rohingya migrants to their homes in Rakhine State as quickly as possible.


Burundi:
The European Union (EU) has renewed sanctions against Burundi until 31 October 2018. These sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans against four people whose actions, according to the EU, undermine democratic governance and obstruct the search for a peaceful solution in Burundi. Since the beginning of the crisis, the EU has called on parties to refrain from committing violent acts and to tackle impunity for perpetrators. The European organization considered the continued deterioration of the situation in the country as justification for the sanctions renewal.

Central African Republic:

In a recent visit to the country, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned about the existing religious divide in the CAR and has called for the engagement of the international community to solve the crisis. He restated the need to strengthen the UN Mission in the country (MINUSCA) and to ensure a thorough reconciliation process, while calling on religious leaders to spread a message of peace. During UN Day, the Secretary-General also honored peacekeepers who were recently killed in attacks in the CAR.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The UN has declared a Level III Emergency in the DRC along with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. This activation recognizes the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the country and aims to ensure that the aid system scales up its response. As the Norwegian Refugee Council stated, the recognition of a Level III Emergency remarks that the humanitarian assistance provided to date has been insufficient.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that the number of internal displaced persons (IDP) in the country since 2015 has risen to 3.9 million, and approximately 428,000 have been displaced in the last three months alone. With the state of current militia activities and ethnic and political violence in the country, the agency has said that the risk of further displacement remains high. The security situation has made sustaining livelihoods very difficult for the population, and many are becoming increasingly dependent on aid. UNHCR also noted that out of the 236.2 million USD needed to provide assistance to refugees and IDPs, only a fifth of it has been received.


Iraq:
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found that confrontations on 16 October in Tuz Khurmatu, a town near Kirkuk, between the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) Peshmerga forces and forces from the Iraqi government conducted indiscriminate firing, which resulted in the injuring of at least 51 civilians and the deaths of 5 others, according to three medical workers located in a Turkish-run hospital. According to the same reports, civilian dwellings were hit by mortars and projectiles. It was not possible for HRW to get information on possible civilian casualties from any other areas close to Kirkuk. HRW called on the Iraqi authorities to investigate allegations of civilian properties being destroyed and to prosecute those responsible. Reports from Amnesty International supported these findings and showed evidence of broad scale impacts on civilians and their properties from the violent confrontations in Tuz Khurmatu. Satellite images, photos, videos, and testimonies reportedly demonstrate evidence of civilian houses being looted, burned, and  demolished, causing tens of thousands of people to flee, now in fear of returning. The direct attacks on civilian properties allegedly took place predominantly in Kurdish areas of the multi-ethnic city. While the witnesses interviewed by Amnesty were unable to determine if the indiscriminate attacks they witnessed were attributable to Kurdish or Iraqi forces, attacks have reportedly also been launched on Kurdish refugee crowds.

On Wednesday, the KRG proposed to install an immediate ceasefire, to freeze the results of the recent referendum, and to begin an open dialogue with the federal government, based on the Iraqi constitution. However, the Iraqi Prime Minister has ordered his forces to retake all disputed territory, signaling the military offensive is likely to continue regardless of these recent Kurdish efforts to resolve crisis peacefully.


Kenya:

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat have released a joint statement calling for peace during this week’s Kenyan presidential election re-run. The statement said that authorities must refrain from using violence and respect civil rights. The AU and the UN said they will also monitor the situation.

Diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, among others, have also warned of insecurity ahead of the presidential election re-run and have called for an end to the violence and multiple threats targeting electoral commissioners. Opposition leader Odinga has called for a mass protest on Thursday, the day of the elections.

On Wednesday, 25 October, a day before the election, the Supreme Court failed to take a petition to postpone the election re-run. The petition, filed by three Kenyan citizens, including a human rights activist, said that officials were not able to ensure that the election was free, fair, and credible. The Supreme Court did not take the case because only two out of the seven judges attended the meeting, while at least five judges are required for a quorum. Some judges who did not attend claimed to have not been in attendance due to insecurity.

With the presidential election re-run taking place at the time of publication, there have already been reports of clashes taking place between police officers and protesters.


Philippines:
The European Union (EU) has reported this week that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has deteriorated the human rights situation in the Philippines tremendously. The EU has cited Duterte’s statements that incite the police to take aggressive approaches when dealing with drug users and pushers.


Syria:

The Syrian government regime has tightened its siege in the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus in recent months, reportedly blocking access to around 400,000 civilians from receiving essential goods, such as food and medicine. Consequently, the number of infant deaths has risen dramatically, with children as young as one month old dying from lack of milk and food. Eastern Ghouta is one of the de-escalation zones created by a Russian- and Turkish-brokered deal, however, the Syrian government continues to impose and tighten blockades on the area. Activist Raed Srewel referred to the situation as “the worst kind of criminality” and expressed that a UN initiative to solve this is needed to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

The city of Al-Qaratayn, which had previously been retaken from Islamic State (ISIL) by Syrian forces, was retaken by ISIL early this month, which controlled the city for nearly three weeks. Since then, an alarming number of casualties have been documented. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SORH) has reported that at least 128 persons, both soldiers and civilians, were executed by ISIL during its 20-day long siege of Al-Qaratayn. ISIL executed the victims under the charge of “communication and espionage in favor of the regime forces.” These numbers have been confirmed as Syrian government forces managed to retake the city over the weekend. Further information released Tuesday suggested that children were among the casualties. According to reports from civilians, government forces performed the same patterns of action, executing civilians due to suspected collaboration with ISIL during their control of the city. The city has reportedly shifted hands many times during the year.

On Monday, The Russian Defense Ministry reportedly compared the recent military offensive to retake Raqqa from ISIL by the US-led coalition to the bombing of the German city of Dresden in 1945. According to the Ministry, more than 200,000 people lived in Raqqa before the conflict, while only 45,000 remain today. The US-led coalition said it takes all possible precautions to avoid civilian casualties, but has previously accepted responsibility for the deaths of more than 600 civilians in Syria and Iraq since 2014. However, as previously reported in the ICRtoP weekly, this number has been reported to be much higher by human rights groups, among them the SOHR (for more information please click here).


Yemen:

This week, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with senior Saudi Arabian and Yemeni officials during a four-day visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh to discuss his initiatives to end the violence in Yemen through a political solution. By the end of his visit, Mr. Ahmed commented that the parties were “exploring significant steps that each side can take to restore confidence and move towards a viable negotiated settlement.” These steps include a renewed ceasefire and a return to diplomatic negotiations.


What else is new?
ICRtoP member HRW, along with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and the Fondation pour l’égalité des chances en Afrique, have launched a campaign to bring former President Yahya Jammeh from the Gambia to justice for his alleged human rights abuses during his presdency in the country. Jammeh ruled the country for 22 years before losing the elections in December 2016 and seeking exile in Equatorial Guinea. His government has allegedly been implicated in arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and torture. Targeted killings also reportedly occurred during his rule, including the alleged killings of opposition leader Solo Sandeng in April 2016 and newspaper editor Deyda Hydara in 2004.

On 9 November, ICRtoP member the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation will be launching the latest entry in its Sheri P. Rosenberg Policy Papers in Prevention series, entitled, “A Shifting Paradigm: Social media and the changing nature of conflict and conflict response,” featuring author Christopher McNaboe. Please click here for more information on the event and how to RSVP.

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#RtoPWeekly: 25 – 29 September 2017

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 The ICRtoP and scores of NGOs around the world appeal for action in Burma

Since 25 August, over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma to escape violence described by the United Nations as “ethnic cleansing.” Finally, on 28 September, the UN Security Council (UNSC) met for a public briefing by the UN Secretary-General on the situation in Burma for the first time in over eight years.

Ahead of this UNSC meeting, the ICRtoP and 87 other organizations from all over the globe signed an appeal calling for the UN, UN Security Council, and UN General Assembly to take action.

The appeal states:

UN member states should act to pressure Myanmar to end crimes against humanity

We, a global coalition of 88 civil society organizations, urgently call upon UN member states to take immediate steps to address the human rights abuses and humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya population. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein have described the Myanmar security forces’ ongoing campaign against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State as ethnic cleansing. As more evidence emerges, it is clear that the atrocities committed by Myanmar state security forces amount to crimes against humanity. The United Nations and its member states need to take urgent action.

We urge UN delegations, especially those from the 114 countries committed to the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Code of Conduct, who made a pledge to support “timely and decisive action” to prevent or end the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, to immediately undertake efforts to adopt a resolution in the UN General Assembly addressing the situation, and call upon the UN Security Council to consider measures to be imposed on the Myanmar government.

A General Assembly resolution should demand an immediate end to the abuses, that humanitarian aid agencies have immediate and unhindered access to populations in need, and for the UN Fact-Finding Mission authorized by the Human Rights Council in Geneva to be allowed unfettered access into and within Myanmar to investigate alleged human rights abuses across the country. It should also demand that the Myanmar authorities commit to ensuring that all Rohingya and other refugees and displaced people are able to return to their places of origin safely, voluntarily, and with dignity, and to dismantling the institutional discrimination and segregation of Rohingya and other Muslims in Rakhine State that forms the backdrop to the current crisis. The resolution should also urge member states and the Security Council to explore possible avenues to bring perpetrators of crimes under international law to justice.

We also urge members of the Security Council to add to the pressure on Myanmar authorities by seriously considering options such as an arms embargo against the military and targeted financial sanctions against individuals responsible for crimes and serious abuses.

All concerned UN member states should also consider bilateral, multilateral, and regional actions they can take to place added pressure on the Myanmar government. In particular, we call on all states to immediately suspend military assistance and cooperation with Myanmar.

If governments, UN officials and diplomats simply hold meetings and make speeches as atrocities continue in Myanmar, they bear the risk of failing to use every diplomatic tool at their disposal to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign and further crimes against humanity. In the face of mass destruction, killings and hundreds of thousands displaced, inaction should not be an option.

For the full text of the appeal and a complete list of  the signatories, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq 
Kenya 
Nigeria
South Sudan 
Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other 


Burma/Myanmar:

On 22 September, seven members of the UN Security Council asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to brief them on the situation in Burma. Those who initiated the request include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Egypt, Sweden, Senegal, and Kazakhstan. The Security Council has met in private twice since conflict erupted in Burma on 25 August, and issued a statement last week condemning the violence. Members of the Security Council expressed interest in the passing of a resolution, but it is expected that in such an event, UNSC Permanent Members China and Russia would utilize their veto power.

In her speech to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) this week, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called upon the international community to create “safe zones” inside Burma where Rohingya migrants could return. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged that the proposal be reconsidered, and referenced the acts of violence in safe zones in former Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sri Lanka.

The Burmese government has reported that they have discovered three mass graves with the remains of at least 45 Hindus in the Rakhine state. Burmese officials accused, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARCA) of being responsible for the murders. It is reported that Burmese forces recovered the remains of 20 women and eight boys, including six boys under the age of ten.  A third mass grave nearby contained the remains of 17 more Hindus, according to Burmese officials. Locals have reported that ARCA have abducted 100 Hindus, and killed all but eight women. ARCA also reportedly forced the women to convert to Islam.

On 25 September, HRW released a report accusing the Burmese security forces of atrocities, including rape, forced deportation, murder, and persecution against the Rohingya population in Burma. The alleged actions have resulted in countless deaths and mass displacement, according to HRW, and may amount to crimes against humanity. HRW has called for the “Security Council and concerned countries to impose target sanctions and an arms embargo on the Burmese military to stop further crimes.”

Doctors from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and from Doctors Without Borders have reported that have treated scores of Rohingya women for complications associated with rape and sexual violence. Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence, expressed concern about the utilization of sexual violence against the Rohingya minority group. She reported that victims said sexual violence was being used as a “calculated tool of terror to force targeted populations to flee.” Almost all of the reports from migrants have claimed that sexual violence was perpetrated by individuals outfitted in Burmese military uniforms. The Burmese government dismissed the claims of sexual violence, and said that the reports were “militant propaganda.” UN investigators are set to examine the reports from migrant camps in Bangladesh.

According to HRW, the Burmese government has reportedly laid anti-personnel landmines on the border between Burma and Bangladesh, which are directly in the path of refugees fleeing violence in Rakhine State. HRW also urged the Burmese government to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spoke about the utilization of landmines by the Burmese government in her speech to the UNGA on 21 September. “At least five people have been killed and 12 injured from landmine blasts,” reported Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). Even though Burma is not a party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, HRW noted that landmines are illegal because “they cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants.” Zaw Htay, spokesman for de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, claimed that Rohingya militants, like the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARCA), might be responsible for the placement of landmines on the border, while Rakhine State Security and Border Affairs Minister Col. Phone Tint directly accused ARCA for the placement of landmines.

Bangladesh has announced plans to build refugee camps specifically for Muslim children who have fled the violence in Rakhine State without parents. The number of child refugees in the Burmese conflict is estimated to be at six thousand. The Bangladeshi government believes that the separation of children into two groups — one group under the age of seven and the other from eight to eighteen years of age — would limit the amount of children becoming involved in criminal activity and being harmed.


Burundi:

On 23 September, the Minister for External Relations and International Cooperation of Burundi stressed the importance of the principle of sovereignty and non-interference at the General Assembly. The Minister called “attention to certain States, who even in the 21st century, believe they have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of other States, especially developing countries,” while also criticizing the European sanctions that have been imposed on his country.

Burundi has accused the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry into Burundi (CoI) of having a hidden agenda and of showing “affection and sympathy for the insurgents by refusing to investigate the crimes that they committed,” rejecting the report that the commission presented on 19 September. The European Union (EU) has supported the referral of the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and has stated that the East African Community should have a role in mediation. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), however, joined Burundi in calling the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) a politicized body.

The UNHRC was expected to back an EU resolution on 28 September to expand the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, but a group of African countries had its own meeting a day before and unveiled a rival resolution that did not mention the renewal of the CoI. Diplomats from the EU, United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other expressed their concern, and the EU representative said that Burundi attended meetings where the EU resolution was discussed but had never raised any concerns. Burundi’s sudden willingness to cooperate with the UN, when it had always rejected the organization’s efforts to do so, has been viewed with suspicion. John Fisher, Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch, has asserted that Burundi’s sudden switch to cooperation is not credible in light of its permanent refusal to accept the CoI.


Central African Republic: 

President Touadera said in a recent speech to the UN Human Rights Council that peace in CAR will only be achieved by combating impunity and holding perpetrators of crimes accountable. He added that the crisis in the country has weakened the judiciary and consequently, “has paved the way for people to carry out their own justice.” Touadera remarked that there is no contradiction between peace and justice but, instead, they are complementary.
On 22 September, President Touadera stated to the UN General Assembly that his main commitment was to ensuring the success of peace efforts, but also acknowledged that neither the country nor the UN Peacekeeping Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) has had the capacity to do so. He has stated that he will also “seek greater dialogue with regional actors in hopes they would provide political support for the road map for peace and national reconciliation.”
On the same day, militants that experts believe to be part of the anti-Balaka militant group attacked a MINUSCA convoy, wounding one peacekeeper.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that the situation in CAR has deteriorated since the beginning of September, especially in the western part of the country. In a report, the organization stated that armed groups have taken control of several areas, causing large numbers of displacement and attacking humanitarian workers. Najat Rochdi, the UN humanitarian coordinator in CAR, has announced that, to date, only 30 percent of the humanitarian funding needed in in CAR has been secured, and has called for the international community to provide assistance to the country’s population.

Cameroon has closed its border with CAR after the recent escalation of violence has resulted in kidnappings of Cameroon citizens by armed rebels. It is feared that food shortages will increase in CAR if the border remains closed as Cameroon supplies most food and consumer goods to the war-torn country.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

President Kabila told the UN General Assembly on 22 September that holding elections in the country is presenting major security and logistic challenges, but that he is confronting them. Kabila has also defended the military campaign in the Kasai Region, but the UN has stated it “resulted in hundreds of extrajudicial killings”. The president also stated that the killings of two UN workers in the country will not go unpunished.

Zambia has received more than 6,000 refugees from the DRC in just one month, according to the country’s president. Spokesman Amos Chanda has warned that “the refugee situation could escalate and lead to a serious humanitarian crisis” and that around 500 people have entered the country in the last week. The presidents of Angola and South Africa have joined in saying that the situation is worrying and that an all-inclusive election is needed in the DRC to heal the tensions. The chief representative of the UNHCR in Zambia has said that “it is the government of the DRC that is said to be persecuting its own people by killing, maiming and torching houses, as well as committing rape and looting food stored in granaries”. The representative has warned that the armed forces are increasingly targeting civilian populations because they cannot differentiate between those that belong to the insurgency and those who do not.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the DRC to release nine activists arrested in July when they were participating in reportedly “peaceful protests”. HRW has denounced that the nine are among hundreds of others that have been arrested since 2015 “as part of the Congolese government’s widespread crackdown on people who have opposed President Joseph Kabila’s effort to remain in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit”. HRW has claimed that the government of the DRC has targeted opposition members, including leaders, journalists, supporters or anyone with a possible link to the opposition.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that 1 million people are “severely food insecure” and around 400,000 children are at risk of malnutrition in the Kasai region. Between the months of June and August, 6,800 people have fled the region and since the conflict began the nearly 630,000 people have been displaced. The organization has warned that there are “no formal camps or sites hosting the displaced people around Kananga” and only 37 percent of the funds needed for the region have been received.

Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, has accused the government of the DRC of “turning a blind eye to systematic and gross violations of human rights committed by its security forces”. A recent report from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has also argued that the justice system in the country is not independent and “allows impunity to flourish”, which has led to further violence. In what has been a change of the official position of the government, the Minister of Human Rights Marie-Ange Mushobekwa has told the UNHRC that the DRC would “welcome investigations in the Kasai region by the international team of experts appointed by the Council”.


Iraq:

Late last week, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously voted to establish a UN investigation team to support Iraq in securing evidence for acts committed by the Islamic State (ISIL), which “may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide”. The United Kingdom, who drafted the resolution, has also promised to contribute a significant amount of financial resources to support the initiative. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called this resolution a “landmark”. However, the resolution has nevertheless received criticism by Amnesty International for being “flawed” and for cultivating a “dangerous culture of impunity”’ at the UN. Since the resolution falls short of including any provisions of ensuring accountability for parties who are not ISIL, for instance Iraqi government forces and their allies, Amnesty has expressed fears that this will “send a dangerous message” to all other parties to the conflict, that would therefore presume impunity. In the meantime, Amnesty has documented a range of serious violations of international humanitarian law reportedly carried out by Iraqi and coalition forces in the country.

On Monday, Kurdish officials stated that 3.9 million Iraqi Kurds were registered to vote at the referendum on Kurdish independence in Northern Iraq, and early counting of 300,000 ballots showed 93 percent of votes were in favor of independence. However, the Iraqi Kurds face severe threats of isolation from both the government in Baghdad and their neighboring states, including Turkey, as a response to the referendum. Iran has called the referendum “illegal and illegitimate” and has, following orders from Iraq, closed off its border with the Turkish region. On Tuesday, it was reported that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan expressed harsh comments towards the Iraqi Kurds, stating that they “would go hungry”, if he were to decide to impose sanctions on the flow of oil across the border, as well as warning that “all military and economic measures were on the table,” if the Kurds do not call off the referendum. However, this referendum remains extremely important to many Iraqi Kurds, and has been seen as an expression of long-standing grievances of the Kurdish population in Iraq towards the government.


Kenya:

Kenyan police have used tear gas to disperse protests that took place in front of the electoral commission this week. The protests included both ruling party supporters, who do not support a change in the electoral body, and opposition supporters, who demand the resignation and prosecution of officials from the electoral commission. The protests took place a month before elections are set to be held on 27 October 2017.

Around 270 suspects have been taken to court for hate speech in the wake of the elections. Irene Wanyoike, the Vice Chairperson of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, has warned that “the rising cases of hate speech by senior politicians could sink the country into anarchy”. Most of the detained used social media platforms to spread hate speech, according to  Wanyoike.

Kenya’s opposition has quit talks on how a rerun of the presidential election will be managed. The ruling Jubilee Party proposed a law that includes “enabling commissioners to appoint a new chairman and reducing the number of people required to make a quorum”, which the opposition has claimed is an attempt to bring the country to a “single-party dictatorship”. The proposed law would also “stop the court from invalidating results if the electronic transmission again fails to work smoothly,” according to the opposition. The ruling party has faulted the Supreme Court for not explaining how the illegalities they cited interfered in the elections.


Nigeria:

The Presidential Panel of Investigation in Nigeria has reviewed alleged human rights abuses in Port Harcourt by the Nigerian military. The panel heard individual and group accounts over alleged human rights violations from the 25 – 28 September.

Nigeria is set to put 1,600 Boko Haram-affiliated suspects on trial. The trial is said to begin 9 October and the suspects will appear in front of four judges.

Human Rights Watch has reported that Cameroonian forces sent 100,000 Nigerian asylum-seekers back to northern Nigeria, which still has a strong Boko Haram presence. According to international law, this makes the Cameroonian government in violation of non-refoulement laws, or the prohibition of forcible return of refugees to areas of violence. After surveying 61 asylum seekers and refugees, Human Rights Watch also documented numerous reports of assault, violence, and harassment against Nigerians allegedly perpetrated by Cameroonian forces.


South Sudan:

Forces loyal to former First Vice-President Riek Machar have captured 14 government officials and have claimed that the officials pose a security threat and will therefore be treated as war criminals.

President Kiir has stated that dialogue is the best option to end the conflict in South Sudan and has vowed to end military confrontations between rebels and government forces. The statement comes weeks after the United States imposed sanctions on three of Kiir’s allies for their involvement in fueling corruption and war in the country. However, David Shearer, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, has warned that the “parties have shown little interest in engaging in serious negotiations on the way forward, despite the various initiatives aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict.” Shearer has urged international partners to support the peace process, noting that there are only a few months remaining of the transitional period as agreed in the peace deal. He also warned that the humanitarian situation has deteriorated, with civilians and aid convoys now also being targeted.


Sudan:

The Sudanese government has submitted a draft resolution to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with the United States on the human rights situation in Sudan. However, this draft was met with criticism from the European Union, who have claimed that the draft does not include enough efforts to improve human rights in the country.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has emphasized the importance of the UNHRC to strengthen scrutiny of the situation in Sudan. “The situation in Sudan continues to warrant a Council mandated Special Rapporteur under Item 4 to monitor and publicly report on violations of human rights and humanitarian law in all parts of the country,” accord to HRW. Requests have also reportedly been made to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to “urgently dispatch investigation teams, with expertise in sexual and gender-based violence, to investigate crimes under international law and serious violations and abuses of human rights in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile”.


Syria:

In March this year, the anti-Islamic State (ISIL) coalition’s Combined Joint Task Forcelaunched two aerial attacks near Raqqa which killed at least 84 civilians, including 30 children, when allegedly targeting a civilian areas, such as a school, which housed displaced families at that time, as well as a marketplace and a bakery. In a report released on 25 September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has questioned the coalition’s ability and will to abide by the international humanitarian law principles of precaution and proportionality in these attacks. The report has claimed that, while ISIL fighters were present at the given locations at the time, so too were dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, of civilians. The coalition has acknowledged that it attacked the school in Mansourah, but it claims that the location at the time was believed to be an ISIL headquarter with no civilians present. On this note, the HRW has also expressed deep concerns as to the coalition’s methods of ascertaining numbers of civilians in the vicinity of a given target area and the process for taking all feasible precautions when launching these attacks in March. If the coalition failed to do so, the HRW has stated that the coalition may have broken the principle of proportionality in these attacks.

Pro-government and Russian forces allegedly carried out five airstrikes throughout the past week in opposition-held Idlib in northern Syria. Civilian defense workers and other humanitarian aid workers have documented the destruction of six hospitals and five defense centers, and reported at least 150 civilians killed. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) called the attacks “the most dramatic, sustained attacks on Syria’s health care system since the spring de-escalation agreement in Idlib went into effect.” The agreement to set up de-escalation zones was signed by Russia, Turkey and Iran in Astana in May this year, and, at the time was heavily criticized by the Syrian opposition for not securing safety. While the PHR called the strikes on civilian health facilities a direct strategy, the Russian defense ministry has denied directly attacking civilian facilities and stated it had attacked “hard-line Islamist militants”.


Venezuela:

The opposition has stated that it will not join the scheduled talks with Nicolás Maduro’s government, claiming that the “government has not made enough progress on issues such as human rights to warrant full bilateral talks”. Talks between the opposition and government were held in 2016 under the auspices of the Vatican, but ended because the opposition claimed that the government was using the talks as a delaying tactic.


Yemen:

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) met this week in Geneva to yet again attempt to set up an independent inquiry for investigation of alleged abuses by all parties to the conflict in Yemen. Human Rights Watch (HRW) referred to this meeting as a “chance to change course” for the UNHRC. HRW has also emphasized the urgency of the matter, by taking note of the ever-increasing support for such an inquiry by Member States within and outside the UNHRC, including the Netherlands, Canada and Belgium. Further support has also come from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than a 100 international, regional, and Yemeni rights organizations, the former head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and 14 major humanitarian organizations.

As such discussions began at the UNHRC, Saudi Arabia objected to the resolution on an independent inquiry into potential crimes in Yemen and reportedly also threatened other states, stating that the decision to send such an inquiry to Yemen could negatively affect diplomatic relations and trade. In lieu of the independent inquiry, Saudi Arabia and its allies instead proposed that the UN should send experts to assist the Yemeni human rights commission. The text proposed by Saudi-Arabia “offers more of the same” and cannot replace an international independent commission, according to HRW Advocacy Director John Fisher.


Other:

The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre will be conducting a course on the Responsibility to Protect in Ghana from 13 – 24 November 2017. This course aims at training African policymakers, government officials, military, police and civil society personnel about RtoP and its implementation. The deadline for applications is 30 September. For more information on the course and how to apply, please click here.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 10 – 14 October 2016

Rtop weekly
Yemen
: Over 140 Killed in Airstrikes on Funeral Ceremony

picture1On 8 October, airstrikes hit a funeral ceremony for a Houthi rebel commander in Sana’a, the Houthi-controlled capital city of Yemen. According to UN officials, the strikes killed over 140 people and injured over 525 others. The rebels have blamed the attack on the Saudi-led coalition, which initially denied its involvement in any operations in the area at the time, but has since announced an investigation into the “regrettable and painful” attack.

Following the incident, thousands of demonstrators protested the strikes in Sana’a on Sunday. The UN and other international organizations condemned the attack and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for a”prompt and impartial investigation‚ of this incident” to ensure the perpetrators are held accountable. A spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross stated, “We deplore this outrageous loss of civilian life.” Human Rights Watch called the attack “an apparent warcrime.” The European Union and the United States have also denounced the attack, with the US adding that its security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a “blank check.”

According to the latest data from the UN, between the beginning of the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in support of the internationally-recognized Yemeni government in March 2015 through 30 September 2016, the conflict has killed over 6,600 people, including 4,014 civilians, and has displaced over three million people. A further 7,000 civilians have been injured.

Source for above photo of the destroyed community hall where the funeral was heldKhaled Abdullah/Reuters via Human Rights Watch


Catch up on developments in

Burma/Myanmar

Burundi

CAR

DRC

Gaza/West Bank

Iraq

Kenya

Libya

Mali

Nigeria

South Sudan

Sudan/Darfur

Syria

Yemen

Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Monday, an estimated 24 people died in attacks on outposts near the Burmese border with Bangladesh. Security forces have poured into the villages surrounding the area where the attacks took place, imposing a curfew and conducting raids, while firing on those fleeing. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that such actions could lead to further destabilization of the area. The UN envoy for Myanmar has also expressed deep concern for the attacks and urged both security forces and civilians to show restraint and exercise caution to avoid continued violence.


Burundi:

Late last week, a Burundian official said that the country will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The announcement of the withdrawal came a few months after the ICC decided to investigate the violence in the country sparked by the re-election of the president. A spokesman from the ICC said the court has not yet received any official information on Burundi’s withdrawal. However, on Wednesday, lawmakers in Burundi largely voted to support the withdrawal. Out of 110 lawmakers, 94 voted in favor of the plan. If the country moves forward with the plan, Burundi would be the first country to ever withdraw from the court.

On Monday, the Burundian government banned three UN investigators linked to last month’s report on human rights violations in the country. A UN spokesperson stressed the importance of countries cooperating with the UN’s human rights mechanism. France condemned the decision and said it harmed the credibility of Burundi’s promise to respect human rights. The government also held a meeting to review the activities of UN staff in Burundi, resulting in the suspension of local activities of the UN human rights office there.

Unidentified gunmen killed three people in a bar on Monday, according to an official. One of the victims was a ruling party official and another was a school principal.

On Wednesday, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) released a factsheet on the crisis in Burundi. Amongst other things, the document shows that over 295,000 Burundian refugees are currently residing in neighboring countries.


Central African Republic:

Aid agencies have reported that fighting between armed groups has blocked aid deliveries to about 120,000 people in CAR who are in need of food. The UN humanitarian coordinator, Fabrizio Hochschild, said that the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSCA, has managed to halt the fighting, but attacks on aid workers still occur. More than 16 attacks on humanitarian actors were reported in September.

On Monday, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic and introduced the Secretary-General’s report on developments in the country. He pledged the full support of the Mission to the government and its endeavors for reform and improvement in the country. He also stressed the need for backing from the international community as the situation in the country is still fragile.

On Wednesday, militia fighters from the Seleka rebel group attacked a village hosting refugees displaced from previous violence. The fighters killed 13 civilians and injured several more before UN peacekeepers were able to repel them.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Clashes between government forces and rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed at least 10 people, including 8 civilians, on Monday in the town of Beni. The rebel group has long sought to take control of swaths of territory and natural resources in North Kivu province and other regions of the northeast.

UN Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of MONUSCO, Maman Sidikou, indicated on Tuesday that large scale violence in the DRC is imminent amidst increasing political tensions and civil unrest. Sidikou’s concerns stem largely from an electoral process that has been delayed until December 2018 as government officials point to the need for increased voter registration in order to hold an inclusive election.


Gaza/West Bank:

A drive-by shooting at a Jerusalem train station killed at least three people were and injured six others on Sunday. The gunmen indiscriminately fired at a group of civilians before being killed by police in a shootout.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Monday sealed Palestinian access to Israel from both Gaza and the West Bank for a period of 48 hours ahead of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. An additional 3,000 police officers have been deployed in Jerusalem.


Iraq:

Political developments

A dispute between Iraq and Turkey developed this week over the presence of approximately 1,500 Turkish soldiers in northern Mosul ahead of a pending offensive to retake the strategic city from ISIL later this year.  Tensions arose as Turkish officials stated their intention to keep their troops in Iraqi territory until after a successful Mosul offensive occurs.

Security developments

Three different bombings across the capital city of Baghdad killed at least 10 people on Sunday. ISIL claimed responsibility for the largest bombing, which killed five and wounded 22 Shia pilgrims celebrating the holy month of Muharram. Two separate attacks in southern Baghdad killed five people and wounded 15 others.

Reports have emerged showing that a drone booby-trapped by ISIL exploded in northern Mosul, killing two Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and badly wounding two members of the French special forces earlier this month in northern Mosul. A spokesman for the Kurdish defense forces noted that ISIL has attempted to conduct drone attacks on at least two prior occasions.


Kenya:

On Monday, Kenyan opposition officials continued to reiterate claims that the Interior ministry, the National Registration Bureau, and Huduma Centres have been secretly registering voters in areas dominated by the Jubilee coalition government in order to give the ruling coalition an advantage in the coming general election. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has denied these claims.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released a report on Thursday calling on Kenya not to close the Dadaab refugee camp, which is the world’s largest refugee camp, housing over 350,000 people. MSF stressed that Somalia, where the majority of the refugees in the camp are from, is not yet safe to return to. The Kenyan government has remained decisive and claims the country will close the camp as it is believed to pose a security threat to the people of Kenya.


Libya:

On Tuesday, a military official reported that Libyan forces are advancing into the last area in Sirte that is still controlled by ISIL. The fighting for the town has been ongoing for months between the UN-backed government and ISIL, but is now reaching the final stages. The military campaign is backed by US airstrikes, which intensified in Sirte this week in an effort to push back ISIL.


Mali:

On Saturday, a senior member of the Tuareg militant group Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) died after his car exploded in the northern city of Kidal. The CMA entered into a power-sharing agreement with the pro-government Gatia militia in February, however, regardless of the agreement, sporadic violence between the groups has continued.

On Monday, an attempted suicide-attack took place in the city of Timbuktu. The assailant attempted to ambush a patrol of Swedish peacekeepers from the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), but only managed to kill himself. The attacker was the only casualty.

Niger has announced that it will host a base for 650 German troops. The German soldiers will be part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in neighboring Mali, where they will help in securing northern Mali from further militant attacks.


Nigeria:

A car bomb killed eight and wounded 15 others in Maiduguri this week when the car collided with a taxi in a convoy on its way to Gamboru. Travellers within the state of Borno often travel between cities in military-organized convoys for increased protection from Boko Haram ambushes.

Police opened fire on a Shia Muslim Ashura procession in the town of Funtua, killing at least nine people after clashes broke out when police tried to block the procession.

On Thursday, Boko Haram released  21 of the missing Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped two years ago. The militants handed the girls over to Nigerian authorities after successful negotiations led by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government. The terms of the deal are still unknown.


South Sudan:

Rumors of President Salva Kiir’s death started floating around social media on Tuesday. Tensions arose as the reports of Kiir’s death spread and the UN warned of increasing violence. Hours after the rumors surfaced, a presidential spokesperson dismissed the news as “wishful thinking” and assured the president is alive and in good health. The statement did not quell the unrest in the country and therefore the president took to the streets in show of strength.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for rebel leader Riek Machar reported that the former Vice President would travel to South Africa after having fled South Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that the pledge made by President Kiir last month to allow another 4,000 peacekeepers to join the previous 12,000 in the country has not yet been put into action.

The South Sudanese government has been criticized for restricting accessibility for aid deliveries. On Monday, the World Food Program said that the latest obstacle facing humanitarian actors is the recent suspension of airdrops of food aid as the humanitarian crisis in the country continues to worsen.

Over the weekend, armed groups killed 127 civilians on a road as they were fleeing violence in the town of Yei. The government has claimed that the raid was “ethnically based” as all of those targeted belonged to the Dinka community. The attacked convoy carried more than 200 people who were trying to find refuge from the fighting.

On Monday, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) released a statement calling for the fighting to end immediately as reports of violent crimes committed against civilians in the country, including women and children, are “deeply disturbing”. UNMISS released yet another statement on Wednesday, where they again expressed their extreme concern for the increased reports of armed conflicts and clashes in certain regions of the country. The mission condemned the violence and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. UNMISS is currently still restricted from accessing certain areas where fighting has erupted and is working to get those restrictions lifted.

Amnesty International and FIDH said in a joint briefing on Wednesday that South Sudan must allow justice to the victims of crimes in the midst of the fighting. The organizations are calling for the proposed Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) to be established to ensure accountability for human rights violations and other crimes committed during the conflict in the country. The court would be a combination of both domestic and international law and would include both South Sudanese and international personnel.


Sudan/Darfur:

Political developments

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has announced the extension of a ceasefire in the Darfur conflict through the end of 2016, as well as his intent to create a national constitution. Opposing factions such as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the various organs of the Sudanese Liberation Movement have denounced the ceasefire and constitution as unilateral, exclusionary political rhetoric serving only parties that are members of or aligned with President Al-Bashir.

The Director of the UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has appealed to the Sudanese government to allow UN peacekeepers more access to remote regions of the country, where its populations are affected by armed conflict. Currently, UN patrols must notify the government ahead of any movements are made so that “necessary security measures” can be put in place.

Humanitarian developments

A report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre indicated that between 5,500 and 12,500 people fleeing violence in the Western Jebel Marra region of Sudan, predominantly women and children, have arrived in refugee camps in Nertiti between 1 September and 10 October. Intermittent clashes between government forces and the Sudanese Liberation Movement-Abdul Wahid (SLM-AW) are cited as the root cause of the migration.


Syria:

Political developments

The Russian parliament voted last Friday to ratify a treaty with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to authorize the indefinite presence of Russian troops within Syria. Russia has a strong military presence in the Middle East nation with bases in Latakia and Tartus supporting both air and naval operations.

French President Francoise Hollande has stated that Russia could face war crimes for its continuous aerial assault of Aleppo and other Syrian cities. The statement comes after Russia vetoed a resolution co-authored by France and Spain calling for an immediate cessation of airstrikes in Aleppo. Russian President Vladimir Putin has since cancelled his planned visit to Paris.

The Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, echoing sentiments from his European counterparts, stated on Wednesday that Russia should be investigated for war crimes in Syria. Johnson went on to call for anti-war demonstrations outside Russia’s embassy in London.

A fresh round of multilateral peace talks regarding the crisis in Syria are set to begin on Saturday. The discussions will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland and will be attended by representatives from the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and likely Qatar. The presence of the latter three countries indicates that the talks may focus on the need for non-extremist opposition militants to cease collaboration with terrorist groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formally known as the al-Nusra Front.

The humanitarian situation

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released a report on Tuesday indicating that only 11 ambulances are in operational condition in Aleppo for a population of 250,000. The report also notes that bombing has destroyed five ambulances, while an additional 8 emergency rescue vehicles are out of order due to maintenance and parts that cannot be obtained as a result of the ongoing crisis.

Security developments

A new wave of Russian airstrikes killed 25 civilians, including 4 children, and caused significant damage to residential areas in Aleppo on Tuesday. Rebel fire on a primary school in the southern city of Daraa also killed six civilians on Tuesday, five of which were school children.

Airstrikes conducted by Russian and Syrian warplanes continued in eastern Aleppo on Thursday. Over 20 air strikes killed at least 13 civilians in the region, bringing the death toll for the week thus far to approximately 145. Rebel gunfire on regime-held positions killed at least 8 civilians this week while a rocket accidentally hit a school and subsequently killed several children.


Yemen:

On Friday, the UN envoy to Yemen said he expected a 72-hour truce to be announced in the coming days. The government announced their consent to implement the truce, with the condition that Houthi militias provide access for humanitarian aid to the city of Taiz. No truce has yet been implemented.

Cross-border shelling by Houthi rebels killed one person and wounded a mother and her child on Friday according to the Saudi Arabian officials.

A Pentagon spokesperson said two missiles, fired from Houthi-controlled areas, targeted a US warship off the coast of Yemen on Sunday and again on Wednesday. In both instances, the missiles missed their target and hit the surrounding water. On Thursday, the US carried out its first direct military action on the Houthi rebels, launching strikes aimed at radar that had been used in the Houthi attacks on the US ship.


What else is new?

The NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security published an open letter to Permanent Representatives to the UN on Thursday regarding the upcoming Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The letter, which is signed by 254 organizations, including the ICRtoP, from across 55 different countries, urges representatives to provide details on the progress that their countries have made in regards to previous commitments to WPS and it also provides recommendations for future steps countries might take in certain areas, such as “women’s participation in preventing and resolving conflict and post conflict rebuilding” and “addressing humanitarian crises through a gender lens”.

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al-Senussi Arrest: Conflicting Extradition Requests, Concerns About Libya’s Justice System

 Abdullah al-Senussi, a former Libyan Colonel and Chief of Military Intelligence under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, and wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was arrested in Mauritania on 18 March by Mauritanian and French officials.

Abdullah al-Senussi was arrested by in Mauritania on 18 March 2012. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on two counts of crimes against humanity for his role in the Libyan government's crackdown against protesters last February. (Photo: Paul Hackett/Reuters)

The arrest has led to conflicting calls for al-Senussi’s extradition from the ICC, France, and Libya. The Court has called for Mauritania’s cooperation, based on UN Security Council Resolution 1970 (in which the situation in Libya was referred to the ICC), in surrendering al-Senussi to the Hague for investigation into his role in the commission of crimes against humanity in the country last year,.

press statement from the Office of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, indicated that the government was pressing for al-Senussi’s extradition to France to serve the life sentence that was handed down to him in abstentia for his role in the bombing of flight UTA 772, which claimed the lives of 170 people on 18 September 1989.

Meanwhile, Libya’s provisionally-ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) has urged Mauritania to extradite al-Senussi to face justice in Libya, and dispatched its Deputy Prime Minister, Mustafa Abu Shagour, and a delegation of senior officials on 20 March to press for a decision. Libyan officials have expressed that their Courts are ready to hold a trial for al-Senussi.

According to an Al Jazeera report on 21 March, Shagour acknowledged that he had reached an agreement with Mauritanian officials that would see al-Senussi transferred to Libya, despite continued pressure from Paris. Mauritania has not yet confirmed this decision.

These developments come as as civil society expresses the urgent need to transfer al-Senussi to the ICC, rather than to face justice in Libya. ICRtoP member organization Human Rights Watch, and others including Amnesty International, members of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) called for such action without delay.

Regarding Mauritania’s responsibilities, the CICC reminded on 19 March that Security Council Resolution 1970 encouraged states to cooperate with the Court’s investigation into Libya, including the arrest and surrender of suspects:

“Although Mauritania is not a State party to the Rome Statute – ICC’s founding treaty – United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1970 – which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC – while recognizing that “States not party to the Rome Statute had no obligation under the Statute”, urged “all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully with the Court and the Prosecutor.”

The CICC’s release goes on to state:

“While the Libyan authorities retain pri­mary jurisdiction over crimes committed in their territory, they are legally bound to facilitate the transfer of the suspects to the ICC, unless Pre-Trial Chamber I (PTC) decides that the case is no longer admissible before the Court because the Libyan authorities are investigating or prosecuting the same individuals for the same crimes at national level.”

But, as Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor, Donatella Rovera, stated in a press release on 19 March 2012, concerns remain over Libya’s ability to ensure a fair trial for al-Senussi:

“The news of al-Senussi’s arrest is an important moment for the victims of his alleged crimes in Libya. But Libya’s court system does not function and its justice system remains weak and unable to conduct effective investigations into alleged crimes against humanity, none of which are crimes under Libyan law. The ICC remains the best-placed mechanism for accountability in Libya.”

This has been echoed by Human Rights Watch and FIDH, who have also raised concerns over Libya’s troubled transition into the post-Gaddafi era, which includes the fact that thousands remain in detention under the control of militias, with widespread allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Both organizations have thus impressed upon the need for al-Senussi to be sent to the ICC instead of being tried in Libya.

Protesters demonstrate against the ongoing militia violence and pervasive lawlessness in Tripoli, Libya. (UN Photo/Iason Foounten)

However, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), an Italian non-governmental organization that runs a transitional justice program in Libya, has called specifically for al-Senussi to be tried in Libya. In a 17 March press release, the organization stated:

We take this opportunity to recall the wishes of the victims, and of the people of Libya, that both Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Mr Senussi be tried in Libya, to face justice in the same place in which they allegedly waged their brutal attacks. According to the principle of complementarity, the ICC has jurisdiction only if the Libyan authorities are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute the crimes of which they have been accused. Libya is certainly willing, as they have proved by requesting Mauritania to transfer Mr Senussi to face charges before the Libyan courts.”

NPWJ followed this call by encouraging the international community to provide assistance to Libya as it seeks to be able to try both Abdullah al-Senussi and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who, also wanted by the ICC, was arrested by militias from Zintan on 19 November 2011, and remains in custody in Libya. If, however, Libyan authorities were found unable to try al-Senussi, NPWJ said it would join other civil society organizations in calling for Mauritania to transfer the former Gaddafi-era official to the ICC.

The debate over where to extradite al-Senussi has thus reinforced the necessity of a holistic approach to international assistance in Libya’s post-conflict transition.

As Libya’s new authorities push for al-Senussi to be tried in their courts, concerns over the state of the judiciary and reported conditions in detention centers are a striking reminder of the potential risks of al-Senussi’s extradition to the country. Overall, the present situation raises serious questions about the ability of the post-Gaddafi system to deliver a fair trial that bestows justice to the victims of government-perpetrated crimes during the revolt.

At the May-June 2010 Kampala Review Conference of the ICC, the Court’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP) adopted a resolution which premised that states willing but unable to fulfill their Statute responsibilities in investigating and prosecuting individuals accused of Rome Statute crimes should be provided with the necessary tools needed to do so. If Mauritania does proceed with al-Senussi’s extradition to Libya, international assistance by the Court, members of the ASP, and civil society will be crucial to ensuring that the trial meets international standards.

The state of the judicial system and its capacity to hold fair, domestic trials reflect the broader challenge confronted by the new Libya as it struggles to consolidate security, build the rule of law, and promote respect for human rights – all integral in upholding its primary responsibility to protect its populations. Consistent with the second pillar of the RtoP, the international community must be prepared to provide assistance and capacity-building to the new Libyan authorities as the transition continues.

Click here for our post on the relationship between RtoP and the ICC.

Click here for our look at the anniversary of the Libyan protests and the challenges faced by the NTC in the post-Gaddafi transition.

Click here for our feature on the Responsibility to Protect in the aftermath of Libya, with voices from our civil society member organizations.

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