Tag Archives: Human Rights

#RtoPWeekly: 6 – 10 March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


DPRK:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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


Sri Lanka:

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


Sudan:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

#RtoPWeekly: 20 – 24 February

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Sudan: UN Expert calls on government to protect civilians in Darfur

nonosiThe United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, finished a 12-day trip tothe Darfur region of Sudan, speaking out about his findings this week. During his trip, Mr. Nononsi visited Adi Kong, a villagein the west of the Darfur region and spoke with the civilians living there. Voicing the concerns of the people of Adi Kong, Mr. Nononsi said they remain “anxious about the security situation in the area” and lack access to basic services like water, education, and health care. In his statement, Mr. Nononsi also made clear that it is necessary that the government, with the aid of its international partners, uphold their responsibility to protect civilians in the community.

During the same trip, Mr. Nononsi also traveled to the Sorotony Camp in the northern Darfur region, one of the many camps housing the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the violence, where he found the security situation of those living in the camps to be “precarious”. Residents of the camp are continuously threatened by armed and criminal elements both inside and outside the camp. The lack of an adequate criminal justice mechanism and law enforcement institutions in the camp has seriously jeopardized the rule of law and put the residents at extreme and frequent risk of right violations and violence. In particular, Mr. Nononsi emphasized the situation faced by women in the Sorotony Camp, and the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence. Between 27 January and 18 February nine rapes were reported in the camp and many other cases of sexual violence have gone unreported due to fear and the social stigmatization of rape. The correlation between impunity and the prevalence of sexual violence in the camp led Mr. Nononsi to make a statement urging “the Government, which bears the primary responsibility to protect civilians within its territory, to promptly conduct investigations to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Mr. Nononsi addressed other human rights issues as well at the conclusion of his 12-day visit including encouraging the government release several civil society activists currently under arbitrary arrest and held without trial, one of whom may be held in retaliation for his contribution to the Amnesty International report alleging the use of chemical weapons by the government in Darfur last year, according to local media sources.

The situation in Darfur has become practically synonymous with humanitarian tragedy in the ongoing conflict that will be entering into its fourteenth year in 2017. Allegations of atrocity crimes and other human rights abuses committed against the civilian population of Darfur by the government and armed forces of Sudan have often been levied against the regime during its campaign against rebel forces in the western territory.  Rampant impunity has only worsened the situation as the state authorities have refused to exercise any of the five outstanding arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for Sudanese nationals, including two separate warrants for President Omar al-Bashir for atrocity crimes in Darfur. The weakness of the rule of law in the country has also extended into the daily lives of the civilian population, particularly, as noted by Mr. Nononsi, in the camps for displaced persons in Darfur, where sexual violence, banditry and murder without justice have become commonplace.

Source for above photo of President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq 
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burundi:

Alice Nzomukunda, the former Second Vice President of Burundi between 2005 and 2006, returned to the country on Monday after previously fleeing due to her criticism of the ruling government for corruption and abuse of its people. Her return is expected to have a positive impact on the government, which faced many accusations of abuses since the beginning of Nkurunziza’s third term in office, despite the constitutional two-term limit.

On 16 February 2017, Joyce Anelay, the British Minister in charge of human rights, announced that the UK will provide 2 million British pounds to Burundi after visiting the center in charge of victims of sexual-based violence in Burundi, SERUK.

Six civil society organizations associated with the Burundian government organized protests in the capital of Bujumbura as well as the town of Gitega on Saturday to protest the fourth round of Burundi peace talks in Tanzania. Exiled members of CNARED, the main Burundi opposition coalition, actively participated in the protests.


Central African Republic:

A joint statement issued by the UN, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the African Union (AU), the Organization of La Francophonie (IOF), and the European Union condemned the acts of violence committed by armed groups in Bambari, as these actions have worsened the already alarming humanitarian situation there. The parties also demanded that these groups cease hostilities immediately. The UN peacekeeping mission in CAR, MINUSCA, also reinforced its presence in the city with additional troops, including a Quick Reaction Unit and Special Forces, in reaction to the increasing rebel activity in and around Bambari.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Re’ad Al Hussein, called upon the DRC to stop all human rights violations. He expressed that the military does not fix the root causes of conflict between the government and local militias; instead, it is only succeeding in endangering innocent civilians. In a video leaked this past weekend, government soldiers can be seen shooting citizens presumed to belong to the Muenza Nsapu village militia, an example of the types of attacks the UNCHR described. Zaid also stated that the government is responsible for ensuring its security forces protect human lives, rather than actively harming civilians. The DRC is currently ignoring demands for an independent investigation into the alleged executions of unarmed civilians by DRC troops in the Kasai region after a video emerged on social media of the soldiers shooting men and women.

On Sunday, Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari told reporters the DRC is moving away from a solely military solution, stating that “the state is envisaging political, traditional and humanitarian solutions on the ground.”


Gaza/West Bank:

On Monday, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) claimed in a press release that a total of seven death sentences – three at sentencing and four others on appeal – had been handed down by military courts in Gaza to civilians for alleged collaboration with Israel. Thus far in 2017 the military courts have sentenced 11 to death, with seven new convictions and four upheld from the previous year, creating a total of 103 death sentences in the Gaza Strip since 2007. In Amnesty International’s yearly report for 2016-17, entitled The State of the World’s Human Rights, allegations were imposed upon both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority ranging from summary executions, unlawful imprisonment, torture and failure to combat impunity for these and other crimes. Amnesty International also highlighted these crimes as endemic threats to civilians in the Occupied Territories.


Iraq:

On Monday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) published documented cases of gender-based violence committed by Islamic State (ISIL) military forces against six Sunni Arab women living under ISIL rule. Several local and international organizations are trying to provide adequate mental health care and psychological support to the victims of sexual-violence, but aid-workers say that understaffed medical centers and inadequate psychological services are transforming the current situation into a complex and long-term challenge.

As Iraqi forces advance south and west of Mosul in the final stage of the battle to recapture the city from ISIL, aid organizations are seeking to set up emergency camps in order to absorb the hundreds of thousands of civilians that are expected to flee the city. However, as the renewed fighting is likely to displace up to 400,000 people, mostly children, the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Matthew Saltmarsh, said during a press briefing in Geneva that it will be nearly “impossible to accommodate such large numbers on existing land.” At present, the UNHCR has eight camps open or completed, which are ready to welcome people already suffering from shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine, with another camp under construction.

The US military commander in Iraq has affirmed that he believes that US-backed Iraqi military forces will be able to retake both Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa within the next six months. On Thursday, the Iraqi Counterterrorism service (CTS) and units of the interior ministry known as Rapid Response descended upon and stormed the ISIL-held airport of Mosul as well as the nearby Ghazlani military complex. Gaining control of this strategic site was allegedly one of the “major achievements that the Iraqi forces were hoping to get” in the first phase of their advance into western Mosul.


Libya:

On Monday, Libya’s Red Crescent recovered the corpses of 74 refugees from the beaches of Zawiya, a city located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The demoralizing recovery follows the controversial refugee plan meant to stem the flow of refugees from Libya, which European Leaders agreed upon earlier this month. The bodies allegedly came from a shipwrecked raft, which was later found on the same stretch of shore, according to the Red Crescent’s spokesperson.


Mali:

The first joint military patrol left Gao Thursday morning in the first step to fulfilling the 2015 UN-brokered peace agreement between the rival factions in the country. The patrol was comprised of soldiers from the Malian army, Tuareg separatist militias, and pro-government militias, as well as forces from the UN peacekeeping mission and the French stabilization mission in Mali. Last month, while preparations were underway for what was to be the first of the joint military patrols mandated under the 2015 agreement, militants attacked the town of Gao and killed 77 people. With the successful deployment of the first joint patrol on Thursday, more are expected to take place in the coming weeks.


Nigeria:

Following further communal violence between Christian farmers and Muslim herders this week, resulting in 14 deaths, the government declared a 24 hour curfew in an effort to protect lives and the rule of law in the central regions of the country.

In its yearly report entitled The State of the World’s Human Rights, Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian government of a heavy-handed crackdown while combating extremism in the country, including forced disappearances and human rights abuses against journalists and the media, amongst others. Nigerian armed forces responded to these allegations with sharp denial and accusations of fabrication by Amnesty International.

Additionally, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel stated this week that more than seven million people are at risk of starvation in Nigeria’s northeastern region, which has been subject to the greatest levels of fighting between military and insurgency groups. Currently, the UN estimates $1.5 billion USD is needed to combat food insecurity in the region, and aims to have one-third of that total raised from donor states by the end of February 2017.


South Sudan:

The United Nations-mandated commission on Human Rights in South Sudan has called for “an international, independent, investigative mechanism for South Sudan to be set up” even before a hybrid court is set up, to look into and gather evidence of crimes committed throughout the conflict in the country.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir publicly called upon members of the country’s opposition and partners to the 2015 peace deal this week to leave aside doubts and join him and his administration in the restoration of peace by uniting the population.

On Monday, the UN reported that in the northern central regions of South Sudan people are dying of starvation. The UN has issued a formal declaration of famine for parts of the country. The World Food Program (WFP) in South Sudan labeled the famine “man-made” due to the political and social turmoil since 2013. Unless food is provided, it is estimated 5.5 million people will experience extreme food shortage by this summer. As of today, it is estimated that 100,000 people are at risk of starvation, while 1 million are on the brink of famine. According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the UN needs $4.4 billion USD by the end of March to avert a famine catastrophe in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen, but have only raised $90 million thus far.

In recent weeks, outgoing Chairperson of the African Union, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has expressed and reiterated increased concern for the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan, causing even more issues for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.


Sudan:

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) announced on Wednesday, that the recent clashes with government forces in the contested South Kordofan region, which began Monday, have stopped. However, the SPLM-N has also alleged that government artillery has continued to shell SPLM-N positions in violation of the ceasefire. Both sides have remained formally supportive and committed to a ceasefire in the region while simultaneously each alleging that the other side has violated it.

On Tuesday, one of the rebel factions in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement for Peace and Development (SLM-PD), became the most recent signatory to last October’s National Dialogue Document. The Document is intended to pave the way for a new permanent constitution for the state, but has been boycotted by many key opposition groups until such a time as confidence-building measures are implemented.

The decisions of the United Kingdom and other European Union (EU) states to engage with the government of Omar al-Bashir in efforts to curb the flow of migration into the European continent, has raised criticism from politicians on both sides of the aisle in London. The All Party Group for Sudan and South Sudan, a collective political campaigning group of Members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords from across party lines, released an advisory report last week, questioning the UK Parliament’s direction towards greater cooperation with the Sudanese government. The group argued that increased engagement with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is still the subject of outstanding arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court and whose government has been accused of numerous human rights abuses, jeopardizes the reputation of both the UK and the EU as forces supportive of human rights on the international stage.


Syria:

On 23 February, the latest round of UN-sponsored Syria peace talks began in Geneva. Ahead of these new negotiations, 40 human rights and other organizations said on Tuesday that, in order to reach a stable and long-lasting political solution for the Syrian people, participants should prioritize key human rights issues. These issues are namely to end unlawful attacks; to ensure humanitarian access and safe evacuation of civilians; to guarantee an appropriate mechanism for justice; and to reform the actual Syrian security sector. However, this round of negotiations has not begun under the best auspices. The ceasefire brokered by Turkey, Russia and Iran during the recent multilateral meeting in the Kazakh capital of Astana is already falling apart. The lack of ability to enforce a stable and long-term ceasefire and the weakening of rebel positions are making it increasingly less likely that there will be an agreed-upon political transition in Syria. The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, also expressed low expectations for major progress during this planned round of negotiations. Conflicting agendas are not only dividing the government and the opposition, but also the different rebel groups from one another, as their positions have been weakened by infighting over the past month.

On Thursday, when the talks began, the rebel faction surprisingly called for “face-to-face discussions” with government representatives. As Salem al-Maslet, spokesman for the High Negotiation Committee (HNC), the umbrella group representing the opposition, has said, “it would save time and be proof of seriousness instead of negotiating in [separate] rooms”.

On Tuesday, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Ali Al-Za’tari urged all parties to the conflict to promptly ensure safe passage for an estimated 5,000 civilians trapped in and around the town of Al-Bab in northern Syria. The UN has expressed “deep concern” over their fate, since that area remains under the control of the Islamic State (ISIL).


Yemen:

Vicious fighting continued this week between the warring parties in the Yemeni conflict along the coast of the Red Sea. Government forces have been driving towards the rebel-held port city of Al Hudaydah since capturing Mokha to the south, bringing the frontlines closer to the vital conduit for UN-supervised aid that passes through the city. Unexploded rockets have already landed inside the port of Al Hudaydah and airstrikes have destroyed many critical roadways and bridges, significantly impeding the transport of much-needed commodities, according to a statement on Tuesday by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick. Mr. McGoldrick also said in the statement that he was deeply concerned about the increased militarization along the western coast and the direct toll it is having on civilians.


What else is new?

The Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum (CPPF) has released a new manual on atrocity prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. This manual, entitled “Atrocity Prevention in a Nutshell: Origins, Concepts and Approaches,” outlines key concepts and considerations on approaches to genocide and atrocity prevention. It is broken down into different sections, each highlighting an important aspect to atrocity prevention and response.  To read the full manual, please click here.

 

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#RtoP Weekly: 13 February – 17 February

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Burma set to investigate abuses against Rohingya Muslims

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

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

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

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


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

Burundi:

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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


DPRK:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Iraq:

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

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan:

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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#RtoPWeekly: 6 – 10 February 2017

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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: 10 – 14 October 2016

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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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#R2PWeekly: 03 – 07 October 2016

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

picture1

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic: 

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

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo: 

Political and security developments

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

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

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


Gaza/West Bank: 

Political developments

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

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

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

Security developments

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

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


Iraq: 

Political developments

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

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

The humanitarian situation

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

Security developments

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:  

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

Political developments

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

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

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

Security developments

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

The humanitarian situation

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


Syria: 

Political and security developments

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

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

The humanitarian situation

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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

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#R2PWeekly: 12 – 16 September 2016

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ICRtoP Releases Summary and Educational Tools on
2016 UNGA Dialogue on RtoP

On 6 September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held its eighth annual informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The dialogue followed the August release of the UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) eighth, and final, report on RtoP entitled, “Mobilizing collective action: The next decade and the responsibility to protect.”

68 Member States and one regional organization delivered statements on behalf of 95 governments. The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, represented by Mr. Gus Miclat of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, as well as three ICRtoP members –The Global Centre for R2PThe Asia-Pacific Centre for R2P, and The Canadian Centre for R2P – delivered interventions. Over the course of the dialogue, Member States reaffirmed their commitment to RtoP and supported the Secretary-General’s vision for mobilizing collective action. In doing so, Member States supported a variety of initiatives to overcome current barriers to implementation. Echoing past dialogues, but with increased support, 37 Member States as well as the European Union (EU), collectively representing 59 States, spoke of the need for veto restraint. This concern manifested itself through support of either/both of the complimentary initiatives led by the governments of France and Mexico, and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT). Many States as well as the Group of Friends of RtoP (GoF) and EU also proposed ways in which the UNGA could support RtoP in the coming decade, calling for a new UNGA resolution on RtoP and/or the formalization of the dialogue on the UNGA agenda. Emphasizing the title of the report, 11 Member States and the GoF called for the next UNSG to prioritize RtoP, with many others highlighting the need to further mainstream the norm. Finally, many Member States made note of the changing landscape of the past-decade, citing the rise of non-state actors in the commission of mass atrocity crimes as well as the continued disregard for international law, with many calling for ensuring accountability for perpetrators and more support for the International Criminal Court.

The ICRtoP has produced a number of educational materials about the UNSG report and UNGA dialogue, including a summary of both the 2016 report and dialogue, an infographic highlighting the major themes raised in the meeting, and an updated page on the UN and RtoP, which includes information on all UNGA dialogues.

View the ICRtoP’s summary of the UNSG report here.
View the ICRtoP’s summary of the UNGA dialogue here.
View the ICRtoP’s infographic highlighting key themes here.
View the ICRtoP’s UN and RtoP page here.
To read interventions delivered at the UNGA dialogue, visit here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq 
Libya
Mali
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Aung San Suu Kyi made visits to leaders of the United Kingdom and United States this week, including a meeting with British Prime Minister, Theresa May on Tuesday, and US President, Barack Obama, on Wednesday. In her meeting with PM May, the two discussed British support for the people of Burma, with the Prime Minister expressing concern of the commission of human rights abuses by Myanmar’s military. After her meeting with President Obama, which marked her first visit to the country since her party’s electoral victory, the US President announced that he is prepared to lift American sanctions on Burma due to the further democratization of the country in past months. However, a senior US official said that some sanctions would remain in place, such as an arms ban, “in order to ensure that the military remains a partner in the democratic transition.” Human rights organizations haveurged the US to maintain such military sanctions until the military and its allies respect human rights and democratic norms.


Burundi:

It was reported on Thursday that a former army officer and his family were killed as a result of a grenade attack, with local residents stating that the attack may have resulted from the former officer’s links to the government.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Late last week, the DRC released eight pro-democracy activists and 170 other prisoners, some of which were found guilty of “insurrection, acts of war and political offences,” according to the ministerial release order signed by the country’s justice minister. The government’s release of the prisoners was in response to opposition parties’ demands as a pre-condition for their participation in the dialogue taking place in the capital. However, on Monday, opposition parties walked out of the talks after the government proposed that local elections should occur before presidential elections, claiming that their stance on the order in which elections will be held is non-negotiable. A government spokesman said that such an act is only a negotiating tactic and that the dialogue is not over.

The UN mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, reportedly rescued another 268 people from a national forest in the country’s northeast. Riek Machar, South Sudan’s main opposition leader fled South Sudan into the DRC after fierce fighting in Juba and over 750 of his supporters have followed him across the border. Officials are concerned over the stability of the region with the arrival of Machar and his supporters as the DRC government currently has limited control over its restive border regions and heavily depends on MONUSCO for security assistance. South Sudan has accused MONUSCO of supporting Machar in the conflict and have condemned the UN mission’s actions.


Gaza/West Bank:
 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video late last week that claims Palestinians want to “ethnically cleanse” the West Bank of Jews, and that Jews would be banned from living in a future Palestinian state. Palestinians have denied these claims and US officials have condemned the Prime Minister’s accusations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed that he was disturbed by the PM’s statement that opposition to the Israeli settlements is “tantamount to ethnic cleansing.”

On Thursday, the Israeli air force carried out strikes on three Hamas locations within the Gaza Strip after a rocket was fired into Israel on Wednesday. Later that day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referenced the attacks, warning that leaders on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “do not serve the cause of peace.”


Iraq:

As the Iraqi military prepares for an offensive on Mosul, ISIL’s defacto capital in the country, the US has announced it will provide up to $181 million in humanitarian aid to assist with the expected consequences of the military action. The United Nations anticipates that up to one million people will flee their homes as a result of the offensive, which is expected to launch as soon as next month.

The US also announced that Iraqi forces, with the support of the US-led Coalition, have retaken almost half of the land previously held by ISIL.


Libya:

The British Foreign Affairs Committee released its report on Wednesday following an investigation into the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya.The report found that the launch of the military intervention was based on “inaccurate intelligence” and “erroneous assumptions.” Furthermore, the report asserts that the British government, under then-Prime Minister David Cameron, “failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element,” which contributed to the political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal (warfare), humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.”

On Tuesday, Martin Kobler, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya,warned that although political space has opened up in the country, political divisions among the parties to the conflict are worsening. He added, “Today more than ever, strong action is needed to convince Libyan stakeholders to build institutions that are open, participatory and able to address the needs of all of its citizens.”


Mali:

Unidentified gunmen killed three soldiers and injured two others late last week in an ambush near the town of Boni in the Mopti region of central Mali.


South Sudan:

The Sentry released a groundbreaking report following its investigation into the networks led by President Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, in which the organization found a link “between systemic corruption and violent conflict, including the mass atrocities committed during the civil war.” The report’s findings indicate that those in power and leading these networks have amassed tremendous wealth as a result of rampant corruption, with officials financially benefiting from the continuation of the war and humanitarian crises that have erupted as a result.

The government of South Sudan has responded to the release of this report by threatening legal action against the organization, with the presidential spokesman stating that there will be steps taken to sue The Sentry. Action has also been taken against national newspaper, the Nation Mirror, allegedly for having published information on the report. The prominent paper has since been shut down, with no indication on how long this will last and causing increased concern for media freedom in the country.

Mercy Corps has stated that, unless humanitarian support is drastically and urgently increased, an estimated 40,000 people will be at risk of dying in Unity State from starvation that has been fuelled in part by the ongoing conflict in the country. In addition to those at risk of death, an estimated 4.8 million are directly impacted by the hunger crisis.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council held consultations on Wednesday to discuss the status of the Regional Protection Force, with Member States expressing concern over recent statements made by members of the South Sudanese government that went against commitments to the force. The Council met with President Kiir while in South Sudan earlier this month, and agreed to a joint statement that expressed acceptance of the force. Some governments stated at the 14 September UNSC meeting that if this commitment is not upheld then the Council must consider stronger measures, such as an arms embargo. The same day, it was reported that President Kiir stated that the UN was working to support his rivals as UN actors assisted in the transportation of Riek Machar to receive medical care, and thus the organization was “not part of the solution.”

On Thursday, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan expressed its concern for the state of human rights in the country, including harassment and intimidation of civil society and journalists, and the commission of sexual violence against civilians.


Sudan/Darfur:

Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir is set to visit Shattaya, a locality in which 150 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have reportedly recently returned to their homes.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported 298 new Sudanese arrivals last month in South Sudan, bringing the year’s total to 9,291 so far. Around 90 percent of the arrivals were women and children.


Syria:

On Monday, a nationwide ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia took effect in Syria at 7.pm. local time. This is the second such attempt by the global powers this year. The ceasefire is an attempt to allow badly needed humanitarian aid to reach previously cut off populations and, if the ceasefire holds, the US and Russia plan to begin coordinating efforts targeting the Islamic State (ISIL) and Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, formerly called Jabhat al-Nusra, who are not included in the truce. Prior to the ceasefire, neither the Syrian government forces nor any of the rebel groups had formally declared to respect the agreement, but representatives from both sides indicated that they would. However, at the deadline for the cessation of hostilities, the government said it would respect the ceasefire, but maintain the right to defend itself from attack.

Only a few hours before the ceasefire took effect, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a public appearance at a mosque in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus which was recently recovered from rebels after a four-year siege. While there, he promised that the government would take the land back from “terrorists” and rebuild Syria.

On Tuesday, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, lauded the “significant drop in violence” in the 24 hours following the start of the ceasefire. He said, “Sources on the ground, which do matter, including inside Aleppo city, said the situation has dramatically improved with no air strikes.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that it had not received any reports of any combatants or civilians killed by fighting within any of areas the regions where the ceasefire is in effect.

By Wednesday, even with the successful holding of the ceasefire, no humanitarian aid had been delivered to Aleppo due to a lack of security guarantees. The UN attempted to negotiate for the safety of 20 aid trucks and their drivers. Mr. Mistura said, “There is always in these cases attempts to politicize humanitarian aid. So the government has been putting some conditions which I will not elaborate on and the opposition—at the receiving end in eastern Aleppo—have been putting some conditions.” He added that the deliveries would only be made when those conditions were met. By late Wednesday night, the US and Russiaannounced a 48 hour extension of the ceasefire, as UN officials continued to negotiate for the security of the aid convoys. However, within less than 24 hours, US and Russian officials accused their counterparts of violating the ceasefire agreement. Nonetheless, reports of relative calm continued from Aleppo and other areas covered by the truce, while aid convoys remained halted at the Turkish border on Thursday, continuing to await security guarantees.


Yemen:

The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen declared that he “remains deeply disturbed by the unrelenting attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure” in the country, this statement coming after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a well killed 30 civilians last Saturday. It was said that the attack occurred after the machinery being used by workers drilling for water was mistaken for a rocket launcher. In addition to those civilians being killed by direct fire, photos have shown the horrific impact the war has had on children as 1.5 million are facing malnutrition according to UNICEF.


What else is new?:

Dr. James Waller, Academic Programs Director for the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation will hold an event on Thursday, 29 September in New York City to promote his newest book, entitled Confronting Evil: Engaging in our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide. The event will take place in room 1302 of the International Affairs Building at Columbia University from 12-2pm. If you would like to attend, please send a short RSVP tojack.mayerhofer@auschwitzinstitute.org to confirm your attendance.

The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies will be holding a conference entitled, “Assaulting Cultural Heritage: ISIS’s Fight to Destroy Diversity in Iraq and Syria” on 26 September. To learn more about the event, including how to register, click here.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 22 – 26 August 2016

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UNGA to hold interactive dialogue on RtoP

On 6 September, the United Nations General Assembly will meet for its 8th annual UNGA Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect. The informal, interactive dialogue was first convened in 2009, following the Secretary-General’s first report on RtoP. Member States have met each year since that date to discuss the latest annual report and reflect on the advancement of the norm. This year, Member States, regional organizations, and civil society groups will meet to discuss and reflect on the Secretary-General’s latest report, focusing on a vision for collective action in the future implementation of the norm.

General Assembly Discusses Responsibility to ProtectThis year’s report, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: The next decade of the responsibility to protect,” is Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s eighth and final report on RtoP. In it, Mr. Ban highlights the accomplishments made in the advancement of the norm and takes note of the international community’s failures in preventing and responding to atrocity crimes. He also points out that the world is facing an increasingly challenging context, where both State and non-State actors pose threats to populations. However, the Secretary-General also suggests a range of recommendations for actors at all levels with which these obstacles might be overcome, so that the international community can work together to better protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanityinto the next decade of RtoP.

Read the Secretary-General’s full report here.

Read ICRtoP’s summary of the report here.

View ICRtoP’s page on key developments on RtoP at the UN here.


Source for above photo: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi

CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq

Libya
Mali
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria

Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On Thursday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing women’s participation in peace efforts in Burma and the harmful impact war has had and continues to have on women. HRW encourages the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups to ensure that women actively participate in efforts to end the country’s recurrent armed conflicts.


Burundi:

The Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission chairman has announced that the views they collected from across Burundi have shown public favor for removing the two-term limit attached to the country’s presidency. The Commission is made up of 15 members, including religious and political leaders and civil society representatives, and they are set to submit their findings in a report to Parliament for approval. However, President Nkurunziza will make the final decision.


Central African Republic:

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)imposed sanctions against Salim and Ali Kony, the sons of the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. These sanctions seek to restrain the notoriously violent rebel groupaccused of abducting 498 civilians in the Central African Republic between January and June 2016.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The trials of 215 alleged members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) accused of massacring civilians began in the DRC over the weekend. 80 alleged ADF members were present in court on Saturday and the rest of the suspects are to be brought in at a later date. Six of the accused allegedly participated in the machete attack which killed scores of civilians near Beni last week.

Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday in order to protest fears that President Kabila will delay elections and remain in power past the constitutionally allowed date at the end of this year. The resulting strike crippled the capital city of Kinshasa where shops were mostly empty. Police also used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators who gathered in Kinshasa to protest.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Sunday, Israeli forces bombarded the northern Gaza strip in the worst assault in the area since 2014. The attack was in retaliation to a rocket fired from the enclave into southern Israel. The Arab League and Turkey have both condemned the attacks, which have widely been labelled as disproportionate.

On Wednesday, Israel absolved its army of any wrongdoing for an airstrike during the 2014 Gaza War that struck a UN school. The incident resulted in 10 civilian deaths outside the school, causing international outrage.


Iraq:

Developments in the Fighting
Over the weekend, the Iraqi military and local militia successfully liberated the last ISIL-held portion of the island of Khalidya in western Iraq.

On Monday, six Iraqi civilians died fleeing the town of Hawijah when they hit a roadside bomb planted by ISIL. The past several weeks have seen several thousand people fleeing the area for government lines 140 miles north of Baghdad.

Iraq announced the complete capture from ISIL of the city of Qayyarah on Thursday after Iraqi troops stormed into the city center on Tuesday and secured the outskirts of the city the following day. Located to the south of Mosul, the city and its airbase will serve as the staging ground for the inevitable assault to retake Mosul from ISIL.

The Humanitarian and Political Solution
On 21 August, Iraq executed 36 men for their alleged roles in the deaths of over 1,700 Shia Iraqi air force recruits during the massacre at the Speicher military base near Tikrit in June 2014. Several of the accused had claimed that they had been forced to confess under torture or had not even been in Tikrit at the time of the massacre, with these claims echoed by Amnesty International. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has publicly expressed his disappointment with the executions, highlighting concerns over due process and fair trials.

On Tuesday, the UNHCR warned that it expects hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced by the oncoming Iraqi and Kurdish assault to retake the city of Mosul from ISIL. The total number of people expected to be displaced could reach as high as 1.2 million.

A new Special Report from Reuters, has determined that Shia militias in Iraq, operating under the Iraqi government-sanctioned and supported banner of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), detained, tortured and killed significantly more Sunni civilians in the assault on Fallujah in June than US authorities have publicly admitted. In total, with over 700 Sunni men and boys still missing, the report uncovered that over 1,500 faced abuse at the hands of the PMU, while at least 66 Sunni males died by torture or execution.


Libya:

On 22 August, the eastern-based parliament of Libya voted to reject the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed attempt at a unity government for Libya, dealing the GNA a major setback in its attempt to reunify Libya. One of the main points of concern is that of military appointments, with many in the east backing renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, currently engulfed in his own campaign against Islamists and his other opponents, and fearing that the GNA leans too heavily on the support of extremist-oriented militias. The GNA has stated it will continue to seek approval of the eastern-based parliament  and will be changing cabinet proposals for the unity government in order to gain their support.

On Sunday, Libyan fighters continued their push to complete the capture of the center of ISIL’s operations in Libya, Sirte, capturing the city’s main mosque as well as a jail run by the terrorist organization. ISIL’s area of control has now been restricted to a small residential area in the center of the city.

Over the weekend, the US military, for the first time, acknowledged the use of AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters, flown by US marines, in the fight against ISIL in Sirte.


Mali:

The trial of Ahmad al-Fadi al-Mahdi began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week. He is charged with the destruction of cultural heritage sites – a first for the ICC – for his alleged participation in the destruction of mausoleums and a mosque in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu. On Monday, al-Mahdi pleaded guilty to ordering the destruction of the sites – another first for the ICC. Many have lauded the landmark case, while others have criticized the ICC for not also holding al-Mahdi accountable for his alleged involvement in the rape, murder, and torture of civilians in Timbuktu during the same time period.


Nigeria:

Nigerian authorities have reported that airstrikes carried out by the country’s military are believed to have killed senior Boko Haram fighters and fatally wounded Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the violent extremist group.

Later in the week, Boko Haram militants attacked Nigerian troops near the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, but the soldiers repelled the attack and killed two senior Boko Haram commanders and several other militants.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech in the Nigerian city of Sokoto, stating that the overall success of Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram depends on if the country can overcome the reasons people join Islamist militant groups and if the government and military are able to build the public’s trust.

As Nigeria’s military has advanced its campaign against Boko Haram in the northeastern region of the country, it has exposed the “catastrophic” suffering of the people who have previously been out of reach from humanitarian aid organizations for months or even years. Estimates suggestthat at least 65,000 people are facing “famine-like” conditions in the recently liberated and yet inaccessible regions of Yobe and Borno states. Furthermore, at 4.5 million, the number of those facing a need for food aid in the northeastern regions of the country has almost doubled since March of this year. There have also been reports of human rights violations, including forced disappearances and recruitment, murders, sexual violence, and others, in the region. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 49,000 children will die in Borno State this year if they do not receive aid.


South Sudan:

Developments in the Fighting
This past weekend saw intense fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, leaving over 250 dead. Later, on 20 August, fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in the northern Unity State left seven SPLA soldiers and three members of the SPLM-IO dead. As the fighting continued sporadically through the week, thousands have become displaced.

On 21 August, several regional commanders of the SPLM-IO defected to the SPLA in Unity State. They are believed to have taken with them 11,000 soldiers stationed in the Guit area of Unity State to the SPLA and South Sudanese government. However, officials with the SPLM-IO claim only 80 soldiers joined the commanders in defecting.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
On 21 August, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir gave the governor of Wau State permissionto establish peace deals with any members of the armed opposition in the area who are willing.

The newly appointed South Sudanese First Vice President Taban Deng Gai visited the Sudanese capital of Khartoum earlier this week and met with Sudanese President Omer al- Bashir. They discussed both the continuing security disputes between the two nations as well as Sudan providing immediate humanitarian assistance in South Sudan. Mr. Gai publicly called on the SPLM-N, who are currently fighting the Sudanese government, “to obey the call for peace”.

Speaking on Monday during an official trip to Kenya, US Sec. of State John Kerry warned both the South Sudanese government (SPLA) and the opposition (SPLM-IO) to fully implement the peace deal agreed to last year or be prepared to suffer sanctions and an arms embargo.

On Tuesday, the Sudanese government confirmed that former South Sudanese First Vice President Riek Machar is currently in the country, days after Mr. Machar had emerged from several weeks of hiding in the neighboring DRC.  The Sudanese government further announced that Mr. Machar is in the country for urgent medical attention, but is currently in stable condition. The South Sudanese government has issued a warning to Mr. Machar, urging him to denounce violence and agree to censor himself from politics.

On 23 August, the UN announced that retired Dutch military officer Major General Patrick Cammeart will take the lead in an independent investigation to determine whether or not UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians during the fighting in Juba in early July.

A peace conference has been announced between the rival communities of the Dinka Bor and Murle in Jonglei state in an attempt to put an end to rampant child abduction and cattle raiding between the two peoples in hopes of stabilizing the region. The peace conference is currently planned to start on 30 August.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government has announced that peace talks with the armed groups who recently signed the African Union-brokered Roadmap Agreement for Peace for Sudan will resume in September. The talks originally collapsed soon after they began due to distrust and discord over the particulars of humanitarian access and a cessation of hostilities in the Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

The Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association has announced that it will not join the umbrella opposition organization, the Sudan Appeals forces, and thus, will not join the two-track peace negotiations taking place.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting
On Tuesday, after several days of increasingly intense clashes and after having seized most of the city, Kurdish forces agreed to a truce with the Syrian government in the north-western city of Hasakah. Government control in the city has now shrunk to a small cluster of buildings in the city center. The truce outlines a ceasefire, prisoner exchange, and the withdrawal of all armed forces from the city.

On Wednesday, following the several days of shelling and the gathering of rebels on the Turkish side of the border, Turkish armed forces and forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) jointly entered Syria to launch an assault on ISIL-held Jarabulus. Titled Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that its aim is both at ISIL and the Kurdish fighters of the YPG. The combined-offensive marks the largest military effort by Turkey in the Syrian civil war and Turkey’s first offensive ground incursion into Syrian territory. Syria has condemned the incursion but offered no resistance.

Later that same day, ISIL launched an unsuccessful attempt to storm a US-backed FSA camp near the Jordanian border. The attack on the Forces of Martyrs Ahmad al-Abdo rebel group base is believed to have left at least 33 dead, including a majority of ISIL fighters.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
In a softening of its position on Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated over the weekend that while still holding firm to the belief that Assad cannot be a part of Syria’s future, Turkey would be willing to see him stay on in a transition period if it helped to facilitate an overall end to the conflict. The Prime Minister went on to urge all powers involved in the conflict to “turn a new page on Syria”  and unite to stop the violence and form a country that maintained its territorial boundaries and represented all Syrians, highlighting Turkish concerns over growing Kurdish aims in Syria.

On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “one way or another” US-Russian discussions over cooperation in Syia are coming to an end. Mr. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on Friday in Geneva where their meeting will heavily focus on Syria.

On 24 August, a joint investigation by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined that the Syrian government is responsible for two of the gas attacks it investigated under its mandate, while ISIL is responsible for another one. A further three attacks hinted at the Syrian government being responsible but could not be definitively proven. The joint investigation was established by the UN Security Council to look into chemical weapons use in Syria.

On Wednesday, on a visit to Turkey, US Vice President clarified the US’s position on the YPG and the current Turkish offensive into Syria, stating that Turkey had the US’s full support and that the YPG must retreat to positions east of the Euphrates to keep receiving US support.

On Thursday, Russia agreed to the UN’s plan for weekly 48-hour ceasefires in Aleppo to allow humanitarian access to the city. UN officials, however, are waiting for guarantees of security and agreement from the all belligerents present on the ground before they begin humanitarian operations.


Yemen:

On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes in Sana’a near where an earlier pro-Houthi demonstration of thousands had taken place in the capital’s central square.

The Control Arms Coalition has condemned the United States, United Kingdom, and France for their arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The sales were deemed “illicit” due to the high number of civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes.

On Monday, a joint report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) detailed the displacement of over 3 million refugees as a result of the conflict in Yemen.

The UN’s human rights office has requested an inquiry into the civilian deaths in Yemen, stating that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60 percent of the killings.

On Thursday, during his visit to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for a new initiative to reignite peace talks between Yemen’s government and the Houthi rebels. Additionally, Kerry pledged $189 million in U.S. aid towards the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

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#R2PWeekly: 11 – 15 July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


 Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Libya:

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sri Lanka:

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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

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

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


Syria/Iraq:

Developments in the Fighting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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#R2PWeekly: 4 July – 8 July 2016

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UN Warns of Increased Likelihood of  “Full-Throttle Sectarian Violence” in Iraq

In the backdrop of the devastating ISIL bombing on Sunday that killed 250 people, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, warned of the possibility of a new chapter of sectarian violence in Iraq. Speaking on 5 July, Mr. Zeid stated, “ISIL needs to be defeated, and defeated soon.” However, Zeid continued, “The way we react, in Iraq and elsewhere, will in many ways decide whether ISIL benefits from its indiscriminate acts of mass murder, or is ultimately destroyed by them.”

Mr. Zeid’s concerns for a return of sectarian violence do not solely lie in the rubble of the Karada market but in the graves of the dozens of Sunni Iraqis believed to have been killed recently by Shia militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). On 1 June, over 8,000 villagers escaping the village of Saqlawiyah reached government lines held by the Kataaib Hezbollah militia of the PMF. Among those who fled, 900 have gone missing and 49 are believed to have been immediately executed or died under torture by Kataaib Hezbollah. 

 
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Reports of abuse by the elements of the PMF have been rampant. Their tactics allegedly include kidnappings, torture, executions, massacres, and forced evictions. In January, Human Rights Watch accused the PMF of committing war crimes in the fight against ISIL and noted that “again civilians  are paying the price for Iraq’s failure to rein in the out-of-control militias”.

As the Iraqi government formally incorporated the PMF into the state security apparatus on 7 April 2015, it shares responsibility for its behavior. The Prime Minister of Iraq has set up a special human rights committee to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the PMF, although Mr. Zeid has urged for more serious measures to end impunity and hold those who are responsible for the abuses accountable. Such a step — as well as others intended to curb sectarian violence, such as building the capacity of the Popular Mobilization Commission tasked with overseeing the PMF — could help Iraq to fulfill its primary responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing.

For more information on the reported abuses of Shia militias, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

A mob burned down a Mosque in Rangoon on Sunday. This is the second such attack in under a week in predominantly Buddhist Burma. Authorities have reportedly made no arrests.

Nineteen NGOs demanded increased action to combat hate speech and religiously motivated violence in Burma.


Burundi:

On Tuesday, the government of Burundi rejected a claim made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al Hussein as “negative” and “false”. Zeid had reported that the violence in Burundi was ethnically motivated and could escalate into a conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi populations.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Burundi’s intelligence services have tortured dissidents, including beating prisoners with hammers. HRW urged the Security Council to deploy international police to the country and set up an international commission of inquiry.


Central African Republic:

On Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’as Al Hussein warned that the situation in CAR was worsening, notably due to recent unrest in Bangui and other parts of the country.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

On Wednesday, the United States announced that it was imposing sanctions on leading North Korean officials, including Kim Jong-un, for human rights violations. The designations follow a report from the US State Department naming individuals most responsible for the abuses, which include forced labor, extrajudicial killings, and torture. The US Treasury Department blacklisted the officials, freezing their assets and blocking them from any transactions with American citizens.

The UN has named Argentine lawyer Tomas Ojea Quintana to succeed Marzuki Darusman as its new Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The DRC has selected the digital security firm, Gemalto, to supply the country’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) with 22,000 mobile biometric voter enrollment kits in order to support an update of the national registry of voters.


Iraq:

On Sunday, 250 people died in an ISIL suicide-bombing in the Karada market district of Baghdad. The attack is the single deadliest in Iraq since 2003, with hundreds more injured. In the wake of the attack, the outburst of public anger has brought Iraq’s security measures into question, causing Iraqi Interior Minister Mohammed Ghabban to resign and new security measures to be ordered. Also on Sunday, ISIL reportedly killed 8 of its own fighters as well as 7 residents of the city of Hawijah in southwestern Kirkuk. Later, an attack on the al-Salam camp for internally displaced persons, located south of Baghdad, killed 3 and left fifteen wounded.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government announced the capture of several villages from ISIL in its push to the airbase at Qayara, 40 miles south of Mosul. However, in the wake of seizing Fallujah from ISIL, the Iraqi government’s capture and occupation of the city has reportedly begun to take on sectarian undertones. Despite orders and pledges to the contrary, Shia militia members who aided in the siege of Fallujah, have been seen freely moving in the city center, while Shiite banners, graffiti, and posters have been plastered on the main highway overpass in Fallujah. Some Iraqi commanders in Fallujah have come forward with accusations that the militia members burned houses to the ground in the city, bringing to fruition the fears of the Iraqi government.

On 4 July, Minority Rights Group (MRG) warned in a new report that Iraq may be facing the disappearance of its minorities. Tens of thousands of minorities have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled after thirteen years of civil war and sectarian conflict. The report pays particular attention to the Iraqi Christian population, which has declined from 1.4 million in 2003 to 250,000 today, while also highlighting the plight of the Yezidi, Kaka’i, Shia Turkmen, and Shabak peoples.


Kenya:

In Nairobi on Monday, around 300 people protested the killings of a human rights lawyer, Willy Kimani, and two other men. On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters gathered once more in Nairobi and set a police station on fire, where Kimani and the others were originally held after their abduction and where they were later killed. Four police officers based at the police station are currently in custody and the site is being treated as a crime scene.


Libya:

In a new report this week, Amnesty International detailed the horrors experienced by migrants and refugees at the hands of Libyan traffickers. Victims were predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa, and their testimonies include stories of death, sexual violence, religious persecution, torture and starvation.

On Friday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) released its monthly report for June 2016, stating that 49 civilian casualties occurred last month, including 18 deaths and 31 injuries.


Mali:

According to Malian authorities, two gunmen killed two gendarmes and wounded a soldier late Friday night in Menaka, a town in northeastern Mali.

850 peacekeepers from Burkina Faso, including 21 women, are set to join the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), according to the country’s defense ministry.

An accident during a MINUSMA training exercise killed two Dutch soldiers and wounded another on Wednesday in Mali. This brings the total deaths of peacekeepers in Mali to at least 103 since the deployment of the mission in April 2013.


Nigeria:

Late last week, the UN warned that tens of thousands of children would die of malnutrition this year in northeastern Nigeria if they do not receive aid soon.

On Monday, suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers oil militant group blew up two pipelines in southern Nigeria belonging to the US-based Chevron and the Nigerian state oil company. President Buhari pleaded with the oil militants and others in a statement on Wednesday to “give Nigeria a chance”, promising to keep the country together regardless of the divisions across the country.

The Nigerian military shot and killed two female suicide bombers on Tuesday in the town of Monguno in northeastern Nigeria as they attempted to detonate their explosives in the vicinity of people displaced from the fighting in the country. Although the soldiers killed the women, some of the women’s explosives did detonate, injuring two civilians. A third bomber in another area was successful in exploding her bomb, but the blast resulted in no other casualties. The military also killed four suspected Boko Haram fighters in an unrelated ambush the same day around Kukawa, also in the northeast of the country.


South Sudan:

On 5 July, South Sudan’s armed opposition (the SPLA-IO) warned that recent killings of its members could derail the peace agreement signed in August 2015. The SPLA-IO listed and detailed five cases in which its officers allegedly died at the hands of government agents.

The government’s official narrative on the source of recent fighting in Wau state is being challenged, with reports now surfacing, which place the blame on the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA). Eyewitnesses to the violence have begun reporting that members of the SPLA and youth from an ethnically Dinka neighborhood began attacking neighborhoods belonging to the Fartit ethnic group. The official narrative states that the violence was due to a new rebel group attempting to seize the town. The UN estimates that 70,000 people have been displaced by the fighting that left at least 43 dead, including 39 civilians and 4 police officers.

On 2 July, the newly appointed Governor of Wau state, Andrea Mayar Achor, made public his plans for how to restore stability to the area, which saw massive levels of fighting on 25 June that forced tens of thousands to flee. The plan calls for three stages: 1) stabilizing the security situation in order for the displaced to return, which includes free movement for humanitarian organizations; 2) the holding of public dialogues on what happened during the civil war and how the community can move forward; and 3) the start of a reconciliation process.


Sri Lanka:

Following the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ comments last week expressing his concerns about Sri Lanka’s slow progress in the investigation of war crimes and human rights abuses during the country’s civil war, the Sri Lankan government announced on Wednesday that it would set up a special court to hear allegations of wartime abuses by next year.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 5 July, the EU released a draft proposal of how it will divert 100 million Euros of development aid into military border control measures in migrant transit countries such as Sudan. The money would likely go to the Sudanese government militia, the Rapid Support Force (RSF), who currently serve as border guards. Part of the Sudanese national and intelligence security services, the RSF largely consists of former members of the Janjaweed, a Sudanese Arab militia responsible for taking part in the genocide in Darfur.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has announced it has serious concerns over the four month ceasefire in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states. The SPLM-N views the ceasefire, announced on 17 June,  as the result of US pressure and as only “a declaration of intent”, as a true ceasefire would require monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.

On 4 July, a subset of the Sudan Liberation Movement proposed a new ceasefire in Darfur to be monitored by the UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The rebels have put forward the ceasefire proposal in hopes of having humanitarian aid delivered to the region of Jebel Marra, which has experienced several months of intense fighting.

Also this week, in a reversal from earlier statements, the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, stated that the opposition groups comprising the umbrella group Sudan Call forces will likely sign the African Union High Implementation Panel’s Roadmap Agreement for Peace in Sudan in several days

On 4 July, fighting broke out between the Sudanese military and Rizeigat Savannah militiamen in east Darfur. The fighting left several casualties.


Syria:

On 5 July, the Syrian Kurds and their Arab allies declared the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli to be the capital of the new federal system they are establishing in northern Syria. Elections are currently planned for three months after the approval of the social contract, which is already leading to increased tensions with the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad put forward the composition of the new Syrian government, to be headed by former Electricity Minister Imad Khamis. Despite changes in personnel in over half of the positions, there has been no trace of inclusion of any opposition figures or groups in the composition of the new government.

Amnesty International released a brief accusing five rebel groups in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo of committing war crimes and multiple other violations of international humanitarian law.

On 2 July, a two year old local truce between rebels and the Syrian government collapsed in the town of Jayrud with airstrikes that killed 43 people. The truce had led to the area becoming a safe haven, with thousands of internally displaced Syrians living there. Meanwhile, on 6 July, the Syrian government announced a 72 hour ceasefire would go into effect at 1:00 AM on Wednesday to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Nevertheless, the government cut off the sole rebel supply road into Aleppo the next day.

The SDF has opened up a trade corridor in northern Aleppo province between those territories it controls and those under the rule of ISIL. Territories held by the parties are separated by a 2 km long neutral area. The SDF claims that the decision, reached on 25 May, is one that will allow civilians under ISIL-rule to move freely out of their territories and ensure that they receive enough food and supplies.

On 2 July, al-Nusra took the leader of a Western-backed rebel group, the Jaish al-Tahrir brigade, hostage along with 40 of his troops in northern Syria. The brigade had formed in February as a coalition of Free Syrian Army groups in order to stop the push of ISIL near the Turkish border. al-Nusra has targeted the leaders of Western-backed groups in the past, in the hopes that the groups would then dissolve.

On 4 July, the estimate of civilians who have fled the ISIL-held northern Syrian city of Manjib reached 13,000. Moreover, on Monday ISIL repelled an attack by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) near Manbij and managed to retake previously lost territory in the counter-attack.


Yemen:

On Monday, the Saudi government intercepted a ballistic missile, believed to be fired by the Houthi rebels at the southern Saudi city of Abha. This marks the fourth attempt to fire a ballistic missile into Saudi territory since the ceasefire agreement in April.

A suspected drone strike in the south Yemen province of Shabwa killed three al-Qaeda fighters on Saturday. Meanwhile, rocket fire, believed to be from Houthi rebels, allegedly killed seven children in the central Yemeni city of Marib on Monday. The city is currently held by the internationally recognized Yemeni government, while the Houthi rebels continue to control the hinterland to the west and north of the city.

At least 26 people died in an al-Qaeda attack on a Yemeni military base attached to the international airport in the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday. Six Yemeni soldiers and 20 militants died.


What else is new?

21 African civil society groups and international organizations with a presence in Africa released a short but compelling activist video today entitled “AU: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC.” Some African leaders have repeatedly charged the ICC with targeting Africa and, in the past year, the African Union has been discussing possibly calling for African ICC States Parties to withdraw from the Court. As Ibrahim Tommy, a Sierra Leone activist, says in the video: “The big clash [these days] is over African leaders, the powerful few, who really want impunity for themselves, versus the vast majority, in fact all of the victims of Africa’s continent who want justice every day.”

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