Tag Archives: Human Rights

#R2P Weekly: 2 – 6 May 2016

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Gender and Genocide 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full blog here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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


Burundi:

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

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

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


 Gaza/West Bank:

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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


Syria/Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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

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

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#R2PWeekly: 25-29 April 2016

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Reducing Risk, Strengthening Resilience:
Toward the Structural Prevention of Atrocity Crimes

New Brief from the Stanley Foundation, ICRtoP Steering Committee member

In a new brief by Alex Bellamy of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (also an ICRtoP Steering Committee member), the Stanley Foundation explores new ideas on how to make structural prevention of atrocity crimes a reality.

Despite the fact that prevention is often cited as the most effective and least costly way to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, structural prevention measures are seldom given enough attention or investment.

The new brief aims to assist actors to reduce the occurrence of risk factors of atrocities and increase societal resilience to such factors. Among other recommendations, Bellamy urges stakeholders to consider 1) adopting and utilizing an atrocity prevention lens to identify sources of risk and resilience; 2) connecting atrocity prevention measures with other mutually-reinforcing agendas; and 3) relating risk assessments to resource allocations, program design, and execution.

Read the full brief here and find other Stanley Foundation policy briefs here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s new state counselor, met with members of the military and representatives of ethnic armed groups. She announced that she would be taking a leadership role in the peace process, though she also named a new government mediator to monitor negotiations between Myanmar’s military and armed ethnic groups.

The Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian organization, reported that military forces near the Shan-Kachin State border targeted and killed civilians.


Burundi:

Continuing violence in Burundi killed a military officer and three others in two separate events. The military officer was a colonel who was ambushed upon arriving home. Only one day prior, Burundi’s Minister for Human Rights survived an apparent assassination attempt. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’adboth condemned the attacks, while Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gave security forces one week to find the people responsible.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has announced the opening of a preliminary examination into the situation in Burundi. Bensouda stated that her office had received a number of reports indicating “acts of killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances,” crimes which fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction.

UN officials briefed the UN Security Council Wednesday on the Secretary-General’s suggested options for the deployment of a so-called police “contribution” to Burundi. As detailed by Security Council Report, the first option is a large, visible presence of a 3,000-strong police protection and monitoring force, which would also have some ability to protect civilians. Another possibility would be the deployment of 228 police who would be responsible for enhancing monitoring capacity, but would have no power to protect. Under this option, the UN police would work with the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi and potentially AU human rights monitors. Finally, a third option would be a minimal deployment of 20-50 UN staff who would assess the Burundian police’s operational and institutional limitations and identify strategies for future UN police involvement.

The UNHCR has calculated that the number of refugees in Burundi has grown to almost260,000.


Central African Republic:

French President François Hollande has reversed his decision to withdraw French troops from CAR, saying that the Operation Sangaris forces would remain in the country to help train CAR’s military.

21 international and Central African human rights organizations urged the new President, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, to take a tough stance against impunity for serious international crimes.

Touadera announced that his government’s first priorities would be disarming ex-combatants and rebuilding the military. In order to do the latter, however, he underscored that the international arms embargo imposed on CAR in 2013 would have to be lifted.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of MINUSCA until 31 July.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Médecins Sans Frontières has initiated a project in Mambasa to provide medical and psychological support to victims of sexual violence. Mame Anna Sane, the MSF medical team leader, reported that the number of victims amounted to 123 in March alone.

The head of MONUSCO, Maman Sidikou, expressed concern about the upsurge of political tensions in some parts of the DRC. He stressed the crucial need for “all Congolese political actors to demonstrate maximum restraint during this critical period in the political evolution of their country.”


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces shot and killed two siblings, aged 16 and 24 years old, in the West Bank as they approached a checkpoint.


Iraq:

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protested on the streets of Baghdad after a month-long political crisis. Sadr and his followers were demanding that Prime Minister Abadi abide by his plan to replace ministers with technocrats. Bowing to the pressure, Abadi submitted new names of cabinet candidates to Parliament, who eventually approved six of the nominations. They will vote on the remaining nominations on Thursday.

bomb explosion in Radwaniyah at a Shia mosque killed at least 9 people and injured 25. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion, but it is similar to attacks previously executed  by ISIL.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq reported that 1,119 Iraqis had been killed and 1,561 injured as a result of terrorism and armed conflict in March alone. 575 of the fatalities were reportedly civilians. In this vein, the U.S. stated that its airstrikes in Syria and Iraq have killed 20 civilians since fall 2015. Human rights organizations dismissed the so-called effort at transparency, saying that the real tally stood around 1,100.

Heavy fighting broke out between Kurdish peshmerga forces and Shiite paramilitary forces north of Baghdad.


Libya:

Philip Hammond, UK Foreign Secretary, stated that a deployment of British troops in Libya could not be ruled out, but that any such action would require the approval of the House of Commons.

The crisis in Libya is causing hospitals to close, or significantly reduce their schedules, according to President of Médecins Sans Frontières France, Dr. Mego Terzian. Political tensions amongst the governments in Tripoli, Tobruk, and the UN-backed government have worsened the health care system in Libya. Since 2011, health care has become increasingly scarce due to damage and lack of resources.


Mali:

Ansar Dine released the three Red Cross employees it had kidnapped last week. Nevertheless, the kidnapping, together with the damage caused to MINUSMA’s airstrip by violent protests, have impeded humanitarian aid in the region, according to humanitarian agencies.

In central Mali, officials representing the Peuhl ethnic group have claimed that the military and its allies have been torturing and killing civilians accused of collaborating with the Macina Liberation Front, an Islamic militant group in the region. A government spokesman denied any knowledge of the reports.


Nigeria:

President Buhari has ordered a crackdown on Nomadic herders from the Fulani ethnic group accused of killing hundreds in clashes since the beginning of 2016. This comes after a Fulani raid in Benue State left 300 dead and tens of thousands homeless in February. Another attack on Monday on the Ukpabi Nimbo community reportedly killed at least 20 people. These Fulani raids are considered to be the country’s second biggest security threat after Boko Haram.


South Sudan:

After repeated delays, rebel leader Riek Machar finally landed in Juba on Tuesday and was sworn in as Vice President in the new unity government under President Kiir, successfully completing the first of many important steps in the peace process. President Kiir called Mr Manchar his “brother” and claimed to “have no doubt that his return to Juba today marks the end of the war and the return of peace and stability to South Sudan.”

The US has pledged $86 million in additional aid to South Sudan under the condition that the leaders engage properly with the peace process. Failure to do so, the US warned, could result in the levying of sanctions or an arms embargo against the country.


Sudan/Darfur:

The results of the Darfur Administrative Referendum show that Darfuris overwhelmingly voted to keep the region’s current administrative status, leaving Darfur divided into its initial five states. Chairman of the Darfur Administrative Referendum Commission announced that 97% of registered voters chose to keep the current system and stressed that voting was held amid stable security conditions. Representatives of the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group, declared that the “results reflect the fraud the Sudanese government continues to employ in all of its elections.” The referendum fulfilled a requirement under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur that was signed in July 2011.


Syria:

Government and rebel forces killed over 30 civilians over the weekend, a further detriment to the fragile Geneva peace talks and the US-Russia backed ceasefire. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that the interim truce established between the Assad regime and the rebel opposition in late February has now effectively collapsed. Fighting has resumed in the areas that were covered by the ceasefire over the past month, government forces specifically killing 12 civilians in Aleppo on Saturday and 13 more near Damascus. The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which represents much of the opposition, has stated that only Moscow can revive the cessation of hostilities by persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt his offensives against rebels throughout the country.

U.S President Barack Obama announced that he would send up to 250 additional special forces to Syria in order to support local combatants in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).

Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that a deadly airstrike hit one of its hospitals in Aleppo, killing at least 14 patients and three doctors, including one of the city’s last pediatricians. Local reports claim that Syrian or Russian warplanes are responsible, but the Syrian military has denied targeting the hospital.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, closed the latest round of peace talks in Geneva without setting a date for the next round to begin. However, he reported that he hoped to convene indirect negotiations and called on Russia and the US to save the talks and “revitalize” the ceasefire. A major point of contention during the latest round of talks has been the increase in violence and civilian casualties across the country, especially in the city of Aleppo. Meetings between the US and Russia this past week have yet to yield any sign of renewed political will to revive the ceasefire. Russia has defended the recent Syrian attacks around Aleppo, claiming they have been in response to rebel groups who are not signatories of the ceasefire.


Yemen:

In a major shift in Yemen’s civil war, the Saudi-backed coalition mounted its first large-scale offensive against al-Qaeda forces in the south.

The UN Security Council asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit, within 30 days, a plan on how peace can be achieved in Yemen.

The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick,urged all parties to the conflict to desist from any act of violence that would undermine the cessation of hostilities agreement. He further asked the international community to increase its support for Yemen, highlighting the urgent need for “safety, food, water, basic healthcare and education for children.”

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Campaign Against Arms Trade urgedObama to use his visit to Saudi Arabia to bring up the use of cluster bombs in Yemen, weapons which have allegedly caused numerous civilian deaths and violated international humanitarian law.


What else is new?

During Genocide Awareness Month, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has been sharing reflections on past atrocities. Click here to read their stories.

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#R2P 4 – 8 April 2016

Untitled

Report: Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia 

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

Read the full report here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

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

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


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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


Iraq:

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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


 What else is new?

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

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

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#R2P Weekly: 28 March – 1 April 2016

Untitled
On the Way to Ending Impunity:The Cases of Karadzic, Bemba, and Ongwen

Last week was an important one for the advancement of international criminal justice and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). On 24 March 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rendered its judgment (summary) in the Karadžić case, three days earlier, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba; and on 23 March, the ICC also decided that there was enough evidence in the Ongwen case for it to proceed to trial. Both RtoP and international criminal law, as exemplified here through the ICTY and the ICC, aim at bettering the world’s prevention of and reaction to atrocity crimes. Accountability for the perpetrators of such crimes serves as a vital element of upholding RtoP, as ending impunity for these crimes functions both as a deterrent for future perpetrators and as a means to rebuild communities in the wake of atrocities. As such, any improvements in accountability for atrocities can also be considered an improvement in the implementation of RtoP.

(…)

To read the full blog, click here.
To read the statement by the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide on the conviction of Radovan Karadzic, click here.

 


Catch up on developments in…

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

 


Burma/Myanmar:

The outgoing government of Myanmar lifted a curfew in Rakhine State this week, imposed in June 2012 after clashes that displaced over 140,000, mostly Rohingya.

U Htin Kyaw of the National League for Democracy was sworn in on Wednesday as the new president of Myanmar. In his speech, Mr. Htin Kyaw urged “patience in the pursuit of democracy”, while noting that his government would strive for national reconciliation and a resolution of military clashes with ethnic groups.

 


Burundi:

Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, warned the UN Human Rights Council that the human rights violations occurring in Burundi posed a threat to the country and the wider Great Lakes region. He urged the Burundian government to release political prisoners and to ensure the respect of its citizens’ human rights, be they civil and political or economic and social.

The EU has threatened to stop funding Burundi’s 5,400 strong peacekeeping mission in Somalia with the aim of forcing the Burundian government to the negotiations table.

FOREBU, a rebel group in Burundi, has claimed responsibility for the killing of an army colonel in Bujumbura.

Burundi’s ruling party accused President Paul Kagame of Rwanda of attempting to “export genocide”. Burundi’s government and the UN have both accused Rwanda of recruiting refugees to help remove President Nkurunziza from power.

 


Central African Republic:

New reports of sexual abuses by Moroccan and Burundian peacekeepers in CAR have emerged, prompting a UN investigation. Additionally, AIDS-Free World released a report that peacekeepers had abused 98 girls from 2013-present.

The French minister of defence confirmed that the French intervention in CAR, Operation Sangaris, will end in the course of the year, stating that French troops had achieved their mission of restoring security there. The withdrawal shall happen parallel to the build-up of the MINUSCA and the EU Training Mission.

Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Central African Republic’s new president, took office on Wednesday, vowing to restore peace and security to the country.
 


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Three days of clashes between the DRC’s army and the FDLR and Mai Mai militia have killedsixteen in Mpati.

The UN Security Council unanimously extended the mandate of MONUSCO, refusing to cut down on the 20,000-strong force, despite recommendations from Ban Ki-moon and request from the DRC government.

Several opposition parties endorsed the former governor of Lubumbashi, Moise Katumbi, for president. Katumbi was a member of President Kabila’s party, but quit while accusing Kabila of plotting to stay in power last September.

The DRC began the trials of twenty soldiers accused of rape and other crimes while serving as UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic.
 


Gaza/West Bank:

The HRC passed a resolution creating a blacklist of companies involved in settlement activities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The resolution wasdenounced by Israel and the US.

The OHCHR has stated that it is extremely concerned by the extrajudicial execution of a Palestinian man in the West Bank, fearing that it might not have been a lone incident. The Office has called for a “prompt, thorough, transparent and independent investigation”.

 


Iraq:

An ISIL attack near a gathering of workers in Tayaran Square in Baghdad killed 7 and wounded 27.

 


Libya:

Martin Kobler, Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya,condemned executions by armed groups in Warshafana against civilians in the north of the country, citing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

The UAE Red Crescent is airlifting 300 tons of aid resources to Libya.

The Libyan ambassador to the UN has asked the UNSC to exempt its blacklisted sovereign wealth fund from sanctions imposed by the Council in 2011, claiming that mismanagement of funds is causing the loss of billions of dollars at the Libyan Investment Authority. However, the resolution adopted by the UNSC only reaffirms the Council’s intention to make frozen assets available to Libyans at a later date.

The heads of Libya’s UN-backed unity government, known as the Government of National Accord, have made their way to Tripoli, the capital, in order to broker a ceasefire between the rival factions and better confront ISIL.
 


Mali:

According to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi has agreed to plead guilty to destroying religious and cultural sites in Timbuktu. He faces war crimes charges for his involvement in the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque during the city’s occupation in 2012.

Special forces have arrested Souleymane Keita, the top jihadist leader in southern Mali, and one of his allies near the border with Mauritania. Originally part of the jihadist forces which took control of large swathes of territory in northern Mali in 2012 and ousted by the French in 2013, when French troops ousted the jihadists in 2013, Keita went south to start his own jihadist group called the “Ansar Dine of the South”. He has been accused of running a jihadist training camp outside of Bamako and for carrying out attacks in the capital and in cities near the border with Côte d’Ivoire.

Authorities in Mali also arrested two citizens accused of “actively participating” in a deadly attack on a beach resort in Côte d’Ivoire on 13 March that killed 19 people. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, the third such strike in West Africa in recent months after the attacks on a hotel in the capital city of Mali and another on a hotel in Burkina Faso, demonstrating the mobility and access of the growing jihadist threat these countries face.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concerns about the number of challenges facing UN peacekeepers in Mali and the spreading insecurity throughout the country. In his latest report, Ban noted “The northern and central parts of Mali remain under the threat of criminal, violent extremist and terrorist groups, which take advantage of the limited presence of Malian law enforcement institutions.” Although a peace agreement was reached last year between the government and the rebels, jihadist violence still presents a real threat and the national government has not been able to maintain the country’s security with its domestic forces alone.
 


Nigeria:

In their latest report on Nigeria, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the Nigerian government’s response to the Damasak attacks last year “woefully inadequate”. The attacks resulted in the abduction of 400 women and children, including 300 schoolchildren, by Boko Haram.

In the days after the HRW report, a local Damasak resident, government administrator, elder, and chief reported that Boko Haram had abducted an additional 500 girls, boys, and women from Damask on 24 November 2014. The government of former president Goodluck Jonathan denied reports of the abduction last year, while other officials expressed doubts over the claims. One of the people that came forward, whose child had been among those abducted, claimed that the people of the city had “kept quiet on the kidnap out of fear of drawing the wrath of the government.”

Although Damasak is the largest documented school abduction by Boko Haram, it has drawn less international attention than the group’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, of which 57 are confirmed to have escaped, although 219 girls remain captive. Two girlsarrested by authorities during an attempt to carry out a suicide bombing on a village in Cameroon could be part of this group, and two parents of the Chibok abductees have been sent to Cameroon to meet with the girls.

Although US cooperation with Nigeria had effectively stalled during Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency due to his refusal to investigate accusations of corruption and human rights abuses committed by the Nigerian military, on Wednesday, the United States and the current Nigerian government agreed to set up working groups to strengthen security cooperation and the economy and tackle corruption.
 


South Sudan:

The United Nations has reported that over 48,000 South Sudanese have escaped to Sudan since the end of January, due to food shortages and ongoing conflict. Since the conflict started in December 2013, tens of thousands of people have been killed and over 2 million displaced. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is concerned about the amount of South Sudanese seeking asylum in Sudan, with an average of 500 refugees, equivalent to 100 households, arriving daily in East Darfur. The 2016 South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP), which covers all refugee programmes in the area, is only funded at 3 per cent, which leaves many emergent and necessary efforts, such as providing clean water, sanitation, medical assistance, food and shelter, incredibly underfunded.

In response to a report published by Radio Tamazuj, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has stated its commitment to protecting populations in the country. The report by the popular local media outlet accused UNMISS of declining to protect displaced persons in a camp called Sector 5 in Malakal. UNMISS had said in a previous statement that Sector 5 is not a priority for them, as they are still focusing on Sectors 1-4, which have been recently damaged by fires. However, UNMISS also stated that its peacekeepers are protecting 200,000 people seeking refuge within their bases all over the country and are working to protect people outside of their bases. The UN body hopes that the upcoming peace agreement between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar will result in displaced persons returning home.
 


Sudan/Darfur:

The Special Prosecutor of Darfur Crimes, Al-Fatih Mohamed Tayfor, accused rebel groups of abducting children and forcing them to participate in military activities. Tayfor stated that the recruitment of child soldiers by armed movements violate all international conventions and international humanitarian law, as well as the 2010 Child Act. The leaders of Sudan’s primary rebel groups, such as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) have agreed to take increased measures to protect children in conflict areas.

Continuous attacks and air raids on East Jebel Marra in Darfur have resulted in most of the population of the area fleeing to camps for the internally displaced. Others have sought shelter in caves and valleys in the Jebel Marra area. Moreover, there is reportedly not a single healthcare facility throughout southern Darfur. As of 20 March, conflict had displaced approximately 129,200 people in Jebel Marra conflict since 15 January.
 


Syria:

The Syrian government recaptured the historic city of Palmyra on Sunday, marking an important milestone in the fight against Islamic State fighters, who had conducted a 10-month reign of terror in the area. The city is locally known as the “Bride of the Desert” and is popular for its 2000-year-old ruins that used to draw in visitors from all over the world, before ISIL destroyed many of the monuments. The recapture was supported by Russian military forces. The loss of Palmyra is seen as one of the biggest setbacks for the Islamic State since it declared a caliphate in 2014 across much of Syria and Iraq. This victory by the Syrian government has also opened up a vast, strategic space of desert leading to IS occupied territory in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in the east.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 363 civilians were killed during the first month of the ceasefire.This is the lowest number of monthly civilian deaths since November 2011. The 363 civilians that died last month is in stark contrast to the 1,100 who were killed the previous month, including 234 children. Nevertheless, while the ceasefire has brought some calm to Syria, fighting has continued between rival groups and jihadist factions.

The United Nations is considering appointing a specialist to facilitate negotiations with the goal of a possible prisoner exchange between the Syrian government and the rebel opposition. This effort has been identified as a priority for the Geneva peace talks, as the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has demanded that the government release prisoners countless times. The responsibility of the new specialist will also be to ensure that named-detainees are not harmed after their release.

President Bashar al-Assad told an interviewer on Wednesday that he rejects the idea of a “transitional body with full executive powers” proposed by the opposition, which requires him to step down. Assad continued to state that Syria needs a national unity government consisting of various political parties that will secure the transition to a new constitution. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last December that called for a road map to be created in order to establish “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months, as well as a schedule for the drafting of a new constitution which should be followed by an election.

In the meantime, three days after President Vladimir Putin’s declaration to pull military forces out of Syria, Russia’s naval ship nicknamed “the Syrian Express” left the Russian Black Sea port for Tartous, Russia’s naval base in Syria. The exact contents of the ship are unknown, but according to an analysis by Reuters, the movements of the ship suggest that Russia is attempting to maintain its military presence in Syria as well as supply the Syrian army. However, over half of Russia’s fixed-wing strike force flew out of Syria following the declaration for the partial withdrawal.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community on Wednesday to aid in the resettlement of about a half a million Syrian refugees over the next three years. The United Nations Refugee Agency has aimed to resettle 480,000 by the end of 2018 but has admitted that it may be a struggle due to widespread fear, as well as a lack of political will. Ban urged states to pledge towards creating new legal pathways for humanitarian admission through family reunions, as well as labor and study opportunities.
 


Yemen:

A previously agreed upon prisoner swap was carried out between Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels ahead of the planned cessation of hostilities and peace negotiations, freeing 109 Yemenis in exchange for 9 Saudis.

UNICEF has warned of the disastrous humanitarian consequences of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen, especially in relation to children, reporting that more than 6 children are killed every day in the conflict. The United Nations Population Fund, meanwhile,reported that the Yemeni conflict has left 3.4 million women between the ages of 15-49 needing humanitarian assistance. Reproductive health and other services are severely lacking, putting the lives of thousands women and (unborn) children at risk

In attacks claimed by ISIL, three suicide bombers killed 26 people near security checkpoints in Aden. The attacks, which took place last Friday, coincided with the first anniversary of the start of the civil war.

An airstrike by unidentified planes has left at least four suspected al Qaeda members dead.
 


What else is new?

The ICRtoP is pleased to welcome two new members to its coalition:

Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights (Kurdistan, Iraq)

Founded in 2005, the Jiyan Foundation originally began in Kirkuk, Iraq as a rehabilitation center for victims of violence and torture in the region. Since then, the Jiyan Foundation has opened offices throughout several cities in Iraqi Kurdistan as well as an office in Berlin, Germany. Their main purpose is to promote and protect human rights through their assistance to victims and survivors of torture, terrorism, and atrocity crimes, with the organization working with over 2,000 victims over the years. The Foundation provides free medical treatment and psychotherapeutic support as well as social and legal counseling to assist in physical and mental and reintegration into society. Additionally, the Jiyan Foundation conducts programmatic initiatives focusing on human rights education, political advocacy, and the promotion of public awareness for atrocity crime prevention.

Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights
Founded in 2011 following the rise of the “Arab Spring”, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor documents violations of human rights committed throughout the Middle East and North Africa with the aim of informing public opinion and advocacy for action in the region. There are a range of issues in focus for the organization including, but not limited to, women’s and children’s rights, detention of prisoners of conscience, commission of torture, and refugee and migrant rights. Through a series of press releases, publications, infographics, and videos, as well as direct advocacy, the organization strives to galvanize political will to hold perpetrators to account and stimulate action for prevention and protection.

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#R2P Weekly: 29 February – 4 March 2016

Untitled

ICRtoP Summary of
Thematic Panel Discussion on RtoP within UN General Assembly

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 09.55.29

On Friday, 25 February 2016, the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened a high-level thematic panel discussion entitled From commitment to implementation: Ten years of the Responsibility to Protect to mark the 10th anniversary of adoption of the norm.

Find the ICRtoP’s summary of the dialogue here. To read any of the statements made, click here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


 Burma/Myanmar:

A Burmese human right organization, Network For Human Rights Documentation- Burma (ND-Burma), released a report identifying 84 human rights violations between January and December 2015. The violations occurred both in areas of active armed conflict and those covered by ceasefires.

John Ging, director of operations at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), called for an end to discrimination against displaced Muslims, particularly the Rohingya.


 

Burundi:

The African Union plans to deploy 100 human rights observers and 100 military observers toBurundi. Members of the opposition have complained that 200 observers is insufficient to cover Burundi’s territory.

The East African Community named former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as the new mediator for talks on ending Burundi’s crisis, a move welcomed by the opposition group National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Accord (CNARED).

A UN team of experts began investigating human rights violations in Burundi. The experts will remain for one week and present their findings in late March. Meanwhile, authorities in Bujumbura unveiled a mass grave, which they claim contains the remains of government supporters.


 

Central African Republic:

According to LRA Crisis Tracker, the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnapped over 200 people in eastern CAR this year, already nearly twice the amount that had been abducted last year.

In a press release, the ICRC noted that hundreds of thousands of displaced people in CAR are waiting to return home from displaced camps. Armed men number among the camp’s residents, while accidental fires have wreaked havoc in three separate sites.

CAR’s constitutional court confirmed Faustin-Archange Touadera’s election as president.


 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The DPRK’s foreign minister denied any claims of human rights violations by his State, warning that his country would no longer work with the Human Rights Council. He also pointed towards gun violence in the United States of America and the handling of the refugee crisis by European States as “proof of partiality and double standards.” During this session of the Council, Japan and the EU will likely present a resolution condemning the violations in North Korea.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

On 29 February, attacks killed at least 12 in Mamabio, in eastern DRC. The Center of Study for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, which monitors violence in the region, stated that attacks have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist group from Uganda.


 

Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces arrested 38 Palestinians on Monday for various reasons, including violent acts, ties to Hamas, border infiltration, and alleged arms smuggling through the Gaza sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking the Attorney General’s approval to deport relatives of West Bank terrorists to Gaza. In his letter to AG Avichai Mandelblit, Netanyahu stated, “I am convinced that such a measure will lead to a significant decrease in the number of terror attacks against the State of Israel, its citizens and its residents.” A few days prior, Mandelblit rejected a similar query from the political party Likud, arguing that such an explosion is a violation of both Israeli and international law.


 

Iraq:

At least 27 people were killed on Monday at the funeral of a Shi’ite military commander’s relative in Diyala, when a suicide bomber detonated his vest. 55 more people were wounded. This follows twin-set of market place bombings which took place in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 53 and injuring 117. These events are the deadliest of the year thus far in Iraq.

The U.S. military is planning for the next phase of the battle against ISIL, which is re-taking Mosul. The U.S. claims to have isolated the city and says that the capture of Shaddadi, Syria last week had cut the last significant lines of communication between Mosul and ISIL’s Syrian capital of Raqqa.


 

Libya:

In a briefing to the UN Security Council, the head of UNSMIL, noted that Libya risks division and collapse if it does not move ahead now. After a minority of parliamentarians opposed a vote on a new list of candidates for a cabinet on 22 February, Kobler vowed to reconvene the Libyan Political Dialogue. He further noted that the “overwhelming majority” of the Libyan people are in favor of the Libyan Political Agreement.

A new UNSMIL report stated that shelling, gun shots, explosive remnants of war, and aerial bombardments had killed 28 and injured 38 others since January.

The U.S. announced that it was prepared to expand military operations against ISIL in Libya, but only after Libyans agree on a national unity government.


 

Mali:

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a former member of Ansar-Dine, stands accused of causing irreparable damage to Africa’s cultural heritage by destroying ancient shrines in Timbuktu during the conflict in 2012 in Mali. According to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the former trainee teacher and Islamic militant had “led and personally taken part in the attacks on nine mausoleums and mosques in the city with pick-axes and crowbars.” Although trying cultural destruction as a crime is established in past jurisprudence in international law, this case is the first to be tried addressing it as a heinous crime, but the prosecutor, Ms. Bensouda, does not think this will be the last.


 

Nigeria:

On 2 March, 76 emaciated-looking people associated with the Boko Haram group, including women and children, surrendered in Gwoza, a town near Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. The food shortages are likely a result of the successful choking of Boko Haram supply chains by the Nigerian military in their fight to suppress the insurgency under President Muhammadu Buhari.


South Sudan:

A UN source anonymously claimed that approximately 50,000 may have been killed since the start of the civil war. The source further estimated that around 2.2 million had been displaced.

South Sudan missed another deadline in implementing the August peace deal, as rebel troops under former vice-president Machar signaled that they would not arrive in Juba on Tuesday as planned. The rebels announced that the government had not designated cantonment areas or food and medical care facilities for their troops. The government, meanwhile, claims that the delay is due to the rebels’ failure to submit their names to the troika, who are responsible for their transportation to Juba.


 

Sudan/Darfur:

Over 10,000 people living in the Kalma camp for the displaced protested on Tuesday, demanding an end to the six-month-long pause in food aid delivery to the camp. The displaced persons arriving at Kalma from 2013 to 2014 were not registered by the camp and therefore never added to the permanent food subsidy lists of the humanitarian organizations operating in the area. The Secretary General of the camp appealed to relief organizations, asking them “to act immediately to save people.”

In the meantime, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed reports by the UN concerning the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have fled their homes since 15 January, when the conflict in Jebel Marra escalated. UN OCHA has stated that 90,000 have been displaced since 21 February due to the continued conflict between the Sudanese army and the rebel opposition, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLA). The Ministry described that figure as inaccurate and claimed that government authorities have provided aid to the displaced, who have since returned to their villages.

The Sudanese military has meanwhile claimed control over all areas north of Jebel Marra.


Syria:

Hours prior to the start of the ceasefire in Syria last Saturday, reports surfaced claiming that over 100 airstrikes had been conducted in Northern Aleppo. Amnesty International, for its part,accused the Russian and Syrian government of deliberately and systematically targeting health facilities in Aleppo over the past 12 weeks. The human rights organization claimed to have evidence that these attacks were an attempt by government forces to gain ground before the cessation of hostilities took effect.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that there has been 31 violations of the ceasefire in 3 days. Zakharova said the exact number was provided by the U.S. and did not specify which parties have contributed to the offences. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that all alleged violations of the ceasefire would be investigated and added that both the U.S. and Russia are working on a mechanism to ensure airstrikes only target UN-designated terrorist organizations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Tuesday that his government would “do its part” to ensure the success of the ceasefire. He has also offered amnesty to the opposition if they agree to disarm. Meanwhile, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a group representing the opposition, cautioned that ceasefire violations would further threaten the possibility of finding a peaceful, political solution to the five-year war.

UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura stated that the U.S.-Russia cessation of hostilities plan is reportedly holding up despite the many setbacks. Mistura noted that the ceasefire has greatly reduced violence in Syria and created hope for the resumption of the peace talks in Geneva next week. The truce is further expected to assist in making progress with the delivery of aid to remote and besieged areas.

In the meantime, Israel accused the Syrian government on Tuesday of using chemical weapons against civilians during the ceasefire.


 

Yemen:

An airstrike on 27 February on Khaleq market killed 32 civilians and injured at least 41, making the death toll the highest from a single bombing since September 2015.

President Hadi declared that Yemen’s army and popular resistance forces have liberated more than 85% of Yemeni territories from control of the Houthis. The president was confident that his forces would soon regain control of Sanaa as well.

Amnesty International urged all states to impose an arms embargo on all warring parties in Yemen.


 

What else is new?

The ICRtoP co-signed a statement along with around 60 other domestic and international groups asking ‪US lawmakers to pass the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act in support of mass atrocity prevention. The passing of the legislation would authorize “critical tools that are needed to prevent violent conflict and save lives” such as the Atrocity Prevention Board and the Complex Crises Fund, require training for Foreign Service Officers in prevention, and more. Read the full statement with signatories here.

ICRtoP Member Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is launching the 2015 Annual Report of the Technical Secretariat of the Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention on 8 March. RSVP to diana.mantilla@auschwitzinstitute.org by March 4.


 

Above photo: General Assembly Holds Panel Discussion on Responsibility to Protect. (UN Photo/Manuel Elias.)

 

 

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#R2P Weekly: 23 November – 4 December

Untitled

ICRtoP launches call for blog submissions: Lend your voice to the global debate

Featuring leading experts on RtoP and practitioners directly working to prevent atrocities, ICRtoP’s blog on the Responsibility to Protect provides a forum for reflection on a range of issues related to the norm. Whether focusing on country situations, thematic issues, or normative and institutional developments at all levels, the ICRtoPblog.org is a leading online resource on the Responsibility to Protect.

Are you dedicated to preventing atrocity crimes through your academic leadership, policy influence, or direct work to protect populations? Do you want to be a part of and inform the debate on the Responsibility to Protect? Would you like to have an impact on the development of RtoP and action to prevent atrocity crimes? If so, then the ICRtoP invites you to submit an abstract for consideration to be a guest writer for our blog. Submissions should be no longer than 1500 words, and can focus on a diverse range of issues not yet explored on our site. If selected, the ICRtoP will welcome your final post of to be published on the blog, featured in our newsletter, and shared on our social media channels.

Submissions will be welcomed on a rolling basis and can be sent to info@responsibilitytoprotect.org. Please use “ICRtoP blog abstract” in the subject line.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Since the ceasefire last April, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) have documented eight cases of sexual violence committed by the Burmese Army, with the most recent on 5 November. Only two of the eight cases have led to arrests of the perpetrators. The SHRF have also accused the military of bombing schools and temples and firing on civilians, which has displaced more than 10,000 people.
In their first meeting since the National League of Democracy’s (NLD) win in the November elections, Aung San Suu Kyi met with current Myanmar president, Thein Sein. According to a statement, the two agreed to “to cooperate on stability and peace, the rule of the law, unity and reconciliation and development of the country as regards to the wishes of the people.”


Burundi:

The African Union Peace and Security Council has temporarily paused the deployment of peacekeepers to Burundi and has voted to increase the number of specialized observers, including military experts, police, and human rights observers. The AU has also indicated that should the situation deteriorate, it is ready to quickly deploy the Eastern African Standby Force.
Armed vigilante units have materialized in several areas. The units patrol at night, most notably where anti-government protests erupted earlier in the year. An anonymous leader interviewed by Reuters noted that “since the government has been killing people, we decided to come up with this initiative to protect ourselves.”

Various civil society groups, including the ICGLR National Civil Society Committee, Uganda Chapter, and women’s rights groups, have called for action against the increasingly volatile spiral of violence in Burundi specifically appealing to the African Union, East African Community, African Union Peace and Security Council, and the larger international community to put in place a humanitarian corridor or buffer zone to facilitate relief operations in addition to deploying peacekeepers.

The government “suspended” 10 civil society groups, including the Association for the Protection of Human RIghts and Detained Persons (APRODH), accusing the groups of fueling widespread violence. The groups have seen their bank accounts frozen by Prosecutor General Valentine Bagorikunda.UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has condemned the Burundian government’s decision, noting that civil society organizations should be able to carry out their legitimate activities without restriction.

United Nations Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon outlined three options per the United Nations Security Council’s request for options: a U.N. peacekeeping mission, a special political mission or a support team for the special advisor on Burundi, with emphasis on the latter as a recommendation.

At least seven people including a police officer and civilians were killed overnight in separate instances in the Burundian capital and surrounding area in the latest wave of violence, which civil society groups say has already killed more than 240 people.


Central African Republic:

The ODI – Humanitarian Policy Group has released a report detailing how people in the Central African Republic are affected by conflict in the context of protection threats, how they are mitigated, and expectations from those wishing to provide protection.
UNICEF announced that more than a million children in the Central African Republic are in need of immediate humanitarian aid with almost half of those under the age of five reportedly being malnourished.

David Zounmenou, a senior researcher at leading African think-tank Institute for Security Studies, stated this week that Central African Republic authorities were neither prepared to provide adequate security nor able to guarantee all eligible voters would be represented on the voters’ roll in the upcoming December elections.

 


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Fighting between the U.N.-backed Congolese army and Islamist Ugandan rebels killled 30 at a hospital, seven of whom were hacked to death.. Intelligence gaps, poor coordination, and lack of resources have left the Congolese army and U.N. peacekeeping force ineffective in the face of the armed ADF group, estimated at only a few hundred fighters.


Gaza/West Bank:

Human Rights Watch published their letter to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor on the Court’s preliminary investigation in Palestine. The letter calls for violations associated with Israeli settlement policies committed during the 2014 fighting in the Gaza Strip to be thoroughly scrutinized by the Prosecutor’s office.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressed concern at the slow progress on the case concerning the arson attack against the Dawabsha family in the village of Duma in the West Bank four months ago, calling on the Israeli authorities to “move swiftly in bringing the perpetrators of the this terrible crime to justice.”


Iraq:

Officials found a booby-trapped mass grave close to Sinjar, northern Iraq, containing the remains of at least 110 people from the minority Yazidi group. The mayor of Sinjar appealed to international organisations for help in collecting evidence for the International Criminal Court of ISIL’s alleged genocide of the Yazidis.

A suicide bomber killed six people and wounded sixteen on Saturday in Tuz Khurmatu, northern Iraq.

The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reported that a “vicious circle of violence”, including acts of terrorism and armed conflict, had killed 489 civilians and injured 869 civilians in November 2015. Baghdad was the most affected city, with 1,110 civilian victims (325 killed, 785 injured).

In his second report on children and armed conflict in Iraq,UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned in the “strongest possible terms” the continuous grave violations committed against children in the armed conflict in Iraq. He especially deplored the abhorrent violations against the rights of children committed by ISIL, which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The Turkish army reported a new wave of airstrikes by its warplanes on northern Iraq in the latest assault on targets belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The operation involved 22 fighter jets and 23 targets were hit.


Kenya:

Amnesty International said that the Kenyan government’s interference in the independence of the International Criminal Court during the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) was “a shocking indictment” of the country’s campaign to deny justice to victims during 2008’s post-election violence. Amnesty alleged that the government of Kenya effectively attempted to blackmail the ASP to comply to its demands, which would undermine the trial of the country’s Deputy President, William Samoei Ruto, by threatening to withdraw from the ICC. Although the proposal was defeated, Amnesty say it is a stark warning of the ASP’s vulnerability to state demands.


Libya:

Martin Kobler, the new UN envoy to Libya, expressed his hope that the peace accord establishing a unity government between Libya’s rival bodies would soon be signed. In a jointstatement, the Governments of Algeria, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States encouraged both rival governments to sign the UN brokered peace deal. The Tebu and Tuareg, two rival tribes from southern Libya who have been in a battle for control of the oil fields since 2011, signed their own peace agreement in Qatar. The parties agreed to a ceasefire and the removal of armed elements from Ubari.

ISIL’s presence in Sirte has now expanded into a 5000-strong body that includes administrators and financiers, according to Libyan officials in the area. A UN report corroborated such an assessment, saying that ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, “exerts more control over its Libyan affiliate than any other chapter of the group outside Syria and Iraq and views Libya as the best opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate.” ISIL’s social media accounts are also calling on volunteers to join in Libya instead of Syria or Iraq.


Mali:

The German Defense Minister announced that the government of Germany would send up to 650 soldiers to support MINUSMA. A statement released by the Malian Army has said that two Malians were arrested in Bamako in regards to the attack last week on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital city.

A rocket was fired by unknown attackers at a UN peacekeeping base in northern Mali, killing three, including two peacekeepers, and wounding 20. The UN Security Council condemned the rocket attack, noting that it could constitute a war crime. It further urged the Malian government to investigate the attack and to hold those responsible accountable.


Nigeria:

A government spokesperson warned that the Nigerian president’s deadline to crush Boko Haram by December would not be met. As if to underscore his point, a march by Shia Muslims was interrupted by a Boko Haram suicide attack, killing 21. Residents of Gulak reported that Boko Haram had destroyed a Nigerian military base, and that civilian fighters had assisted in preventing the terrorists from overtaking the enitre town until the military sent reinforcements.


South Sudan:

The Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) called for the international community and rights activists to heed its call for unrestricted humanitarian access to war-affected areas. The call came after the government’s negotiating team declined a proposal submitted by mediators, which requested a ceasefire and humanitarian access to rebel-controlled areas.

Warning of a further spiral in the cycle of revenge killings on a mass scale, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended an extra 1,100 peacekeepers be deployed to South Sudan.

At least 25 civilians have been massacred in eastern South Sudan by rebel groups, marking a targeted attack in one of the last remaining Anyuak ethnic communities in the region. Barnabas Okony, a member of parliament from the Anuak community, said that the rebels had ordered all men and boys to be killed, and leaving the girls and some mothers for sexual abuse or exploitation.

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that its workers had resumed operations this week and were able to reach thousands in southern Unity State. Civilians in the area had been cut-off from assistance after fighting resumed in October.  Joint assessment teams have found that without food, livelihood assistance, nutrition and health services, the situation is on track for degenerate even further in the beginning of 2016.


Sri Lanka:

Chandrika Kumaratunga, head of the reconciliation unit of President Sirisena’s government,announced that a Special Court to examine alleged war crimes during the civil war would begin its work by early January.


Sudan/Darfur:

While food insecurity and lack of shelter or health services plague many displaced Darfuris, for the first time since 2011 an inter-agency mission has been finally able to visit Jebel Marra, where the majority of displaced people were in need of emergency services as well as water, education, and protection services.

According to UNICEF, roughly two million Sudanese children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition annually, with nearly 550,000 of them suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in the east and conflict-hit Darfur regions. UNICEF also noted that up to 16,000 children have been forced into fighting since the beginning of 2015.


Syria:

Russia launched intensified attacks on “terrorist” targets in Syria, firing long-range cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea. Russian military said it fired 18 cruise missiles on Friday, destroying seven “Islamist” targets in Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Russian air strikes in Syria have killed 1,331 people since their campaign began on September 30: 381 ISIL fighters, 547 militants from Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and other rebel forces and 403 civilians, including 97 children. In an additional attack, SOHR reported that Russian warplanes killed at least 18 people in the town of Ariha that is held by opposition forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). U.S. officials stated that reports of heavy civilian casualties from Russian airstrikes in Syria are a main reason why the two powers are unlikely to cooperate in bombing ISIL. President Obama did nevertheless affirm that Russia could join the “broad-based coalition” led by the U.S. if it shifts its focus from defending President Bashar al-Assad.

British warplanes began bombing ISIL targets in Syria for the first time late on Wednesday, hours after Britain’s House of Commons voted to extend its airstrikes against the extremist group. Prior to the vote, the UK had limited its operations against ISIL to Iraq, but Prime Minister David Cameron won the vote by 397-223 to bomb the group in its Syrian “heartland”.

In other news from SOHR, the civil society organization reported a total death toll of 4182 people in November 2015. Among the fatalities were 1053 civilians, including 198 children and 116 women, killed by airstrikes by regime and Russian air forces, ISIL attacks, US-led coalition airstrikes, inside regime jails, shells launched by Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), Jabhat al-Nusra, the rebels and Islamist factions, shelling by the regime forces, firing by the Turkish border guards, explosions, snipers, in unknown circumstances and due to poor health conditions and lack of medicine. SOHR reiterated its call to members of the UN Security Council to issue a binding resolution that prohibits targeting civilians in Syria.

Human Rights Watch reported that Turkey has effectively closed its borders with Syria and is returning Syrian asylum seekers without assessing their asylum claims. Reports emerged of Turkish border guards intercepting Syrian asylum seekers at or near the Turkish border and in some cases beating and detaining them before expelling back to Syria.

UNICEF Representative in Syria Hanaa Singer reported that a Syria-regime air strike on a water treatment plant in Aleppo last Thursday cut water supplies to some 3.5 million people, and while pumping has been partly restored, 1.4 million still have interruptions in their supply.


Yemen:

UN OCHA, in its 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overviewreported that around 21.2 million people in Yemen (82% of the population) are in need of some kind of assistance to meet their basic needs. The overview shows that six months of war have taken a “severe toll” on civilians’ lives and basic rights. The UN World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, reported that more than 15.2 million Yemenis now lack access to health care services, more than half the country’s total population, while there is a 55% gap in requested international funding to address the crisis. The WHO needs $83 million to address the health care crisis but has so far only received $37 million.

UN Humanitarian Aid chief Stephen O’Brien accused Yemen’s Houthi rebels of blocking and diverting aid deliveries to the city of Taez, where 200,000 people are living under siege and which continues to be held by government and loyalist forces.

Human Rights Watch released a report with allegations of unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Houthi rebels, which have resulted in civilian deaths and casualties. Human Rights Watch alleges Saudi Arabia, its coalition partners, and also the United States, have failed to investigate the unlawful airstrikes.

Al-Qaeda fighters drove pro-government forces out of Jaar in southern Yemen on Wednesday in a new show of strength by the group, whose presence in the war ravaged country is reportedly expanding. The fighting in Jaar killed 15 people. Al-Qaeda also consolidated their control over territory in southern Yemen after fighters captured the towns of Zinjibar and Jaar from pro-government forces.

The British ambassador to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, said on Wednesday that long-delayed peace talks on the Yemeni conflict could finally begin in Geneva in mid-December. Mr Rycroft said the threat posed by extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda highlighted the need to find an urgent resolution. UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has tried for weeks to launch peace talks, but no date has been announced.


What else is new?

The ICRtoP and the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect will be holding the third workshop in the series “Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia” in Kuala Lumpur from 7-9 December. The workshop will convene civil society from Myanmar and Malaysia for a training on the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes and sessions on formulating national action plans for civil society on atrocities prevention.

Liberal International will be hosting a conference at the EU Parliament in Brussels and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE Group) on 10 December entitled: “The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Ten Years On: What Next?” Angela Patnode, ICRtoP’s Communications and Advocacy Officer, will be presenting on the panel “Is RtoP Dead? Syria, Ukraine, and Beyond”. ICRtoP members and partners based in the area are welcome to attend, please contact info@responsibilitytoprotect.org for more information.

A special issue of Global Society entitled “Contesting and Shaping the Norms of Protection: The Evolution of a Responsibility to Protect” is now available. The issue includes a collection of papers by researchers from around the world that analyze the debates about RtoP at key moments over the past ten years.

The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is offering a graduate-level Genocide Prevention Certificate (GPC), in collaboration with Stockton University. Click on the link for more information.


 

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Rights Up Front and Civilian Protection: An Uneven First Year

This November marks one year since Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the momentous “Rights Up Front” action plan to put the protection of civilians and their human rights at the forefront of the UN agenda.

Born out of the tragedy witnessed in the final months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, and the “systemic failure” that characterized the United Nation’s response, the initiative is meant to ensure that the inaction seen in Sri Lanka, Rwanda, and Srebrenica is never repeated.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Mr. Charles Petrie, Assistant Secretary-General, Independent Review Panel on Sri Lanka.UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By emphasizing timely reporting and early warning, Rights Up Front seeks to prevent human rights abuses before they rise to the level of mass atrocities.  Where prevention fails, the UN’s main priority will be the protection of civilians. In many ways, this is simply a reiteration of the core purpose of the UN. However, Rights Up Front is unique in that it offers a six-point plan directed at the UN Secretariat, funds, and agencies to institute changes that will lead to tangible improvements in prevention and response.

According to the Secretary-General’s summary of Rights Up Front, the six points are as follows:

1: Integrating human rights into the lifeblood of the UN so all staff understand their own and the Organization’s human rights obligations.

2: Providing Member States with candid information with respect to peoples at risk of, or subject to, serious violations of human rights or humanitarian law.

3: Ensuring coherent strategies of action on the ground and leveraging the UN System’s capacities to respond in a concerted manner.

4: Clarifying and streamlining procedures at Headquarters to enhance communication with the field and facilitate early, coordinated action.

5: Strengthening the UN’s human rights capacity, particularly through better coordination of its human rights entities.

6: Developing a common UN system for information management on serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

Given the focus on the protection of civilians and prevention of mass atrocities, the initiative has clear potential for reinforcing the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). Indeed, RtoP was directly referenced in the Deputy Secretary-General’s informal remarks on Rights up Front to the General Assembly in December 2013. One year later, there have been some positive signs that Rights Up Front is starting to take hold, including the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)’s unprecedented ‘open-gate’ policy to protect civilians in South Sudan. However, the recently revealed controversies surrounding the United Nations/African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) suggest that the UN could once again be repeating the very mistakes that the initiative was designed to prevent.

 

Rights Up Front in South Sudan: An Imperfect Success Story

The record on Rights Up Front’s implementation has been mixed. While a system-wide plan such as this is bound to take time to run its course, there are some early examples of qualified successes, as well as some unacceptable failures.

The ‘success ledger’ includes the decision of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to open its gates to tens of thousands of civilians fleeing inter-ethnic violence between the Dinka and Nuer after the outbreak of civil war in December 2013.  The former Special Representative to the Secretary General reflected on the decision, confirming its adherence to Rights Up Front and stating “The fact that we opened our gates actually has saved very many thousands of people’s lives… There will be incredible challenges going forward with this decision, but it was the right one. It remains the right one.”

UNMISS provides water to civilians seeking shelter in one of its bases in Juba after outbreak of violence in December 2013. UN Photo/UNMISS.

Likewise, Oxfam’s head of humanitarian policy and campaigns, Maya Mailer, opined on how this development demonstrates progress in the mission’s policy towards the protection of civilians. She reflected on the mission, and its heavy state-building focus, as it was back in 2009, recalling that “…while the UN mission had a mandate from the UN Security Council to protect civilians, that came way down a long list of other priorities.” Mailer mentions both RtoP and Rights Up Front as potential influential factors in this shift.

Although the long-term safety of civilians seeking shelter in what are now being called Protection of Civilian sites is far from assured, this impromptu decision made in the face of an imminent massacre provides hope that the protection of civilians is indeed being prioritized among UN missions.

 

Darfur Controversy Risks Repeating the Mistakes of the Past

Nevertheless, it is easy to have one’s optimism dashed when observing recent events in the Darfur region of Sudan. Back in April, Foreign Policy broke a story alleging that through chronic underreporting, UNAMID had systematically covered up attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers carried out by forces acting on behalf of the Government of Sudan (GoS).

One example among the many includes a brazen attack by Sudanese troops and pro-government militias on a UN base in Muhajeria in April 2013. Though this particular violation occurred before Rights Up Front was initiated, to date, no one has been held accountable for the attack that left one Nigerian peacekeeper dead, and several more injured. Indeed, UNAMID still refuses to even acknowledge the government’s involvement, instead blaming “unidentified armed assailants.”

More recently, ICRtoP member, The African Centre for Peace and Justice Studies has documented a “brutal campaign of counter-insurgency” led by the pro-government Rapid Support Forces throughout Darfur. The campaign of violence has been marked by aerial bombardments and ground assaults that have targeted civilians with increasing intensity since earlier this year. In spite of this, UNAMID continues to afford minimal priority to reporting on and ensuring accountability for such acts. This is evident in the most recent UNAMID controversy, in which allegations that the mission improperly investigated a mass rape in the town of Tabit has led to further accusations that it is covering-up the government’s transgressions.

Ostensibly, UNAMID has made the decision to omit mention of GoS involvement in attacks due to a lack of concrete first-hand evidence.  However, observers have pointed out that it is more likely that UNAMID’s lack of reporting was done to appease Khartoum, a government that is renowned for its obstruction of international peacekeeping efforts and the quest to achieve accountability for past atrocities committed by its leaders. Most notable among them is President Omar Al Bashir, who is wanted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

UNAMID leadership visit victims of ambush

Tanzanian UNAMID soldiers listen solemnly to a debriefing after an ambush by “unidentified assailants” that left 7 peacekeepers dead. UN Photo/ Albert González Farran.

If, as Human Rights Watch has suggested, Darfur represents a test-case for implementation of Rights Up Front, then it exposes some key areas in which it has been lacking. The incomplete reporting of GoS attacks indicates that UNAMID staff might not fully understand their human rights obligations or how to properly uphold them, as demanded in the first action point. Furthermore, it leads to a breakdown in the candid reporting to member states required for proactive and strategic engagement, as specified in point number two.  The fact that the mission has not issued a public report on human rights since 2009 reinforces this narrative. As ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda chided “UN reports are an important and increasingly unique source of public information about the situation in Darfur, and must be held to the highest standard for the sake of the victims…” 

This is especially important as improper reporting can also hamper the ability of the Secretary-General to carry out his ‘Article 99’ responsibilities to accurately pass information to the Security Council to inform their decisions on matters related to international peace and security. This in turn affects the ability of the Council to adjust mandates in a way that reflects the reality on the ground, depriving the mission of necessary resources and additional Chapter VII measures that may be required to protect civilians. Thus, the ability to leverage the UN System’s capacities to respond in a concerted manner, as specified in the third action point, is also compromised.

The Secretary-General has since responded to allegations with an internal investigation, and recently stated that he will take “all necessary steps to ensure full and accurate reporting by [the joint mission],” adding that “keeping silent or under-reporting on incidents involving human rights violations and threats or attacks on UN peacekeepers cannot be condoned under any circumstances.”

These developments are troubling, as they are a repeat of the patterns that led to the UN’s ineffectiveness in Sri Lanka. In spite of the positive progress in South Sudan, the case of Darfur suggests that the UN has yet to “fully learn the lessons of the past”, as instructed by Ban Ki-moon upon his announcement of Rights Up Front.

 

Strengthening Rights Up Front Implementation

For the potential of Rights Up Front to be realized, the UN will have to address the lingering deficiencies that jeopardize efforts to protect civilians. In August 2014, Daniel Bekele of HRW urged that:

“With the surge in Sudanese government-led attacks on civilians, credible public reporting on the situation in Darfur is more important than ever…The UN should not allow this core aspect of its work to be degraded, especially when the Secretary-General has pledged to put ‘Rights up Front’ in the UN’s work.”

Philippe Bolopion bluntly warned that the example of Darfur “should be a wake-up call to other U.N. missions, whether in Mali, CAR [the Central African Republic], Libya, or South Sudan, that proactive and transparent reporting on human rights violations, regardless of the perpetrators, is a core function of the mission…”

However, while it is important to ensure that timely and accurate information is reported, for example, through regular ‘horizon-scanning’ exercises, the political will to act on this information is also essential. In September 2014, the International Peace Institute held its annual Trygve Lie Symposium, this year focusing on Rights Up Front. As was mentioned by Helen Clark, action on the initiative depends on “speaking truth to power to the Security Council,” but also on the willingness of member states to act.

In this sense, it will also be necessary to build, “a broad coalition” involving a “range of regional groups,” so as to catalyze momentum among member states, urge the Security Council to take action, and garner support for funding and logistical contributions to UN missions. Panelists at the IPI symposium lamented such action as becoming increasingly difficult, though it underpins the viability of all UN efforts.

 

The Role of RtoP in Rights Up Front

With their many shared objectives, it is also essential to discuss the role of RtoP in strengthening Rights Up Front implementation. In her assessment of Rights Up Front for Opinio Juris, Kristen Boon made an important point regarding this relationship. While RtoP has indeed been cited as an important precursor, and the two are often mentioned in the same context, there has been little attempt to elaborate on specific measures under the RtoP toolkit that can reinforce the initiative. The same can be said about the ability of Rights Up Front to ensure more consistent application of the norm.

Pillay visits UNMISS

Former High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng give a joint-press conference on South Sudan. UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

The 2014 Secretary-General report on RtoP focused on international assistance to states to uphold RtoP (aka Pillar II), and provides the most direct linkage to Rights Up Front. The report welcomed Rights Up Front as an avenue for improving the UN’s ability to fulfill its second pillar responsibilities by improving early action and emphasizing the collective responsibility of the UN. In a separate section, the report identifies a role for the Human Rights Council (HRC), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and other relevant organs in encouraging states to uphold their primary responsibility by addressing human rights concerns.

Still, the report stops short of identifying particular aspects of each initiative that could serve to strengthen implementation of the other, or how relevant UN bodies, such as the HRC and the Office of the Special Representative to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide (OSAPG) can complement one another in fulfilling RtoP or Rights Up Front.

A clearer articulation of this relationship could perhaps build on the recommendations for improved coordination made by the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng at the HRC’s High-Level Panel on the Prevention of Genocide in March 2014. For example, Dieng recommended that the HRC adopt the OSAPG’s Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes to further guide its work. Such changes could help mainstream an atrocities lens throughout the UN system, and ensure that human rights abuses do not rise to the level of atrocity crimes.

 

One Year On, Critical Assessment Needed

While Rights Up Front is a promising initiative, noteworthy for rallying the efforts of the UN behind the human rights cause, implementation has been checkered so far. UNMISS’ open-gate policy in South Sudan is a positive example of a flexible response that prioritized the imminent protection needs of civilians. On the other hand, the debacle in Darfur has exposed weaknesses in human rights reporting, and an overall lack of transparency that runs counter to the noble intentions of Rights Up Front. To truly learn the lessons of the past and maximize civilian protection, an honest and more in-depth assessment of the initiative and its implementation is needed as its one-year anniversary arrives.

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Myanmar’s Controversial Census, Discriminatory Laws Further Stoke Atrocity Fears

Myanmar’s Rohingya population currently faces a worrisome combination of grave human rights conditions and a dire humanitarian crisis. For decades, the Muslim minority have been marginalized under the military junta and remain so since the country began undertaking some democratic reforms beginning in 2011. However, since 2012 the situation has become markedly worse following the violence and forced displacement inflicted upon them by Buddhist mobs in Rakhine state. An ICRtoP post from August of last year provides an overview of the deadly violence, detailing government participation and the response of civil society organizations.

Myanmar UN

UN Special Adviser on Myanmar meets with Buddhists, and Muslim refugees in March 2013. AP Photo/Khin Maung Win.

Since last covering the crisis, the situation remains largely unimproved and indeed appears to be worsening. 140,000 Rohingya have been forced into cramped displacement camps, criticised by international aid groups for their languid conditions. Some observers have even evoked the imagery of a “concentration camp”  to describe them. Many more Rohingya have fled, embarking on perilous journeys to neighbouring Malaysia and Thailand where they are exposed to the dangers of trafficking and other abuses.

Violent attacks continue, as for instance in January of 2014, when 40 men, women and children were killed in northern Rakhine, and as recently as a week ago when Buddhists mobs looted and attacked Muslim shops and mosques in Mandalay, killing 2 and injuring many more. Compounding all of this is the government’s decision to order the suspension of Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) operations in Rakhine State, cutting off a major source of humanitarian assistance and health care for displaced Rohingya. Other aid groups have since come under attack, further limiting assistance to populations in need.

Marginalization and persecution also continue, as Rohingya are denied the right to citizenship by the state. Restrictions on freedom of movement and policies for population control, including a two-child policy, also feature as official state decree. Such treatment is enforced by the state security forces and endorsed by the country’s majority Buddhist population, encouraged by extreme nationalist factions such as the 969 movementwho are convinced that Muslims threaten to overtake Buddhists as the dominant religious group.

 

Proposed Laws and the National Census Exacerbate Human Rights Concerns

The most recent Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar continued to express deep concern for the situation of the Rohingya. Recent developments do little to assuage such concerns. First, the government recently sponsored a discriminatory bill advocated by the 969 movement through way of petition that received 2.5 million signatures, many of which are believed to have been obtained forcefully. The bill places restrictions on religious conversion and inter-faith marriage, both policies seen to be aimed at placating the anti-Muslim sentiments of the 969 movement by unlawfully preventing the further spread of Islam. In response, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom and Belief has called on the government to scrap the bill, claiming “State interferences into the right to change one’s religion or belief are per se illegitimate and incompatible with international human rights standards.”

Furthermore, the recent national census has now added to the potential discord, due to its controversial inclusion of data on religion, ethnicity and citizenship that groups such as International Crisis Group (ICG) warned would exacerbate inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions.  A last minute government decision to remove “Rohingya” as an official ethnicity, instead allowing the option to identify as “Bengali,” was the result of such tensions. The decision was largely taken due to threats of violence and census boycotts by Rakhine state Buddhists and the 969 movement, who objected to the Rohingya’s inclusion. Bowing to this pressure and labelling Rohingya as Bengali has been a common method used to paint the group as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. Speaking to this, The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect criticised the decision, stating that “Denying Rohingyas the ability to self-identify on the census…reinforces the dangerous perception that Rohingya are ethnic outsiders.”

 

Civil Society Warns of Myanmar’s “March to Genocide”

Many NGOs are raising alarm bells over the abuses being committed in Myanmar. For example, Bangkok-based ICRtoP member Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-BURMA) has done valuable work documenting human rights abuses through publications such as their “monthly bulletin”. The bulletin for the month of June, 2014 warns that “In Arakan [Rakhine] State, regime security forces and extremist Buddhist Rakhine continued discriminatory policies and open attacks on Rohingya communities.” The bulletin lists a number of incidents involving unlawful arrests, looting, and physical violence committed against Rohingya and their property.

Meiktila Mosque

A woman and her child walk past a damaged mosque after clashes in Meiktila. AFP/BBC photo.

Fortify Rights’ February 2014 report examined leaked documents that confirm and detail state-supported policies of persecution, primarily targeting the Rohingya. Their findings led them to conclude that:

The government policies…systematically single-out Rohingya as a group on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, and at times gender, stripping them of a range of human rights, including the rights to non-discrimination, health, nationality, and freedom of movement. The degree of deprivation is so severe that it would qualify as “persecution” as a crime against humanity under international law

In March, 2014, ICRtoP member United to End Genocide also commissioned a report, ominously titled “Marching to Genocide in Burma” based on a recent fact-finding mission. After witnessing the suffering of the country’s Rohingya, they made the alarming claim that “Nowhere in the world are there more known precursors to genocide than in Burma today.

In yet another instance, Human Rights Watch reported in April of 2013 that “The Burmese government engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues today through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement.

 

The Responsibility to Protect in Myanmar

These findings make it clear that the government of Myanmar is failing its primary obligations to protect the Rohingya from a series of atrocity crimes. Sustained pressure and response from both national and international actors can convince the government to change course, end restrictive, discriminatory policies, and play a more active role in mitigating violence and hatred towards the Rohingya.

ICRtoP member U.S. Campaign for Burma has taken the initiative to encourage the U.S. government to use its rapprochement with Myanmar as an entry point to influence change. Such advocacy led the House of Representatives to pass House Resolution 418, urging the Burmese government to end the persecution of ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims.

Likewise, United to End Genocide has launched a public campaign aimed at the U.S. President and Congress. The campaign calls on the U.S. government to pressure the Myanmar government to rescind their expulsion of MSF, demand a credible and independent investigation into violence against the Muslim minority in lieu of the flawed Rakhine Inquiry Commission, and to update their sanctions list to include those responsible for the most recent violence. The campaign seems to have resonated in Congress, as the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently called for a range of punitive measures against the government of Myanmar that includes visa bans, an end to U.S.-Myanmar military cooperation, and potential economic sanctions.

Police officers guard a Muslim residential area in Mandalay

Police officers guarding a Muslim residential area in Mandalay. Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters.

The broader international community also has a key role to play. Given the potential for the census results to inflame further violence, ICG recommends that census donors accept responsibility for their lack of due diligence in ensuring a sound process, and encourage Myanmar’s government to reconsider the release of the results, given the sensitive political realities.  Refugees International has also recommended donors establish a “crisis cell” in cooperation with Myanmar’s Minister of Immigration and Population, Minister for the President’s Office, and the UN resident humanitarian coordinator to respond to any crisis associated with the census.

In addition, Fortify Rights has called on the international community to urge the government to abide by recommendations of the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights, abolish local orders that restrict the basic human rights of Rohingya, and communicate to all national, local and community authorities that these practices are not to be encouraged or enforced.

Importantly, they also recommend the provision of “financial, technical, and advocacy support” for local human rights defenders. This constituent could be crucial in changing the government’s current course, and indeed a growing swell of civil society resistance from prominent groups such as the 88 Generation Student Group is increasing domestic pressure to end abusive and discriminatory practices.

There is some indication that this pressure is working, as the government has introduced a pilot program for validation of citizenship that may offer Rohingya a path to naturalization. However, the viability of this program is in question after controversy over the census. It has also been noted that such support runs the risk of putting these groups in danger, as overt assistance may be seen as reinforcing the Buddhist narrative that their way of life is under threat from both Muslims and the international community. Therefore, donors should be calculated in their support programming.

 

Myanmar’s Democratic Transition: Entry Point for Assistance?

Given the democratic transition occurring in Myanmar, it is easy to focus on this good news story and forget about the conditions making life for the country’s Rohingya insufferable. However, just as the country’s political opening has created the space for extremist voices; it also provides opportunity to foster a true democratic culture. The international community’s reengagement can be used as an entry point to provide assistance under the second pillar of RtoP, thus providing incentives and capacity-building for the government of Myanmar to uphold its primary responsibility. Addressing the question of citizenship and abolishing all current and proposed government policies that limit basic human rights would be a positive first step.

For more information on the crisis in Myanmar and how the Responsibility to Protect applies, visit our crisis page and our ‘At a Glance’ feature.

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Spotlight on the World Federation for the United Nations Associations

We are delighted to introduce to you a new Spotlight series on the ICRtoP blog, where you will be able to learn more about Coalition members and their ongoing activities and initiatives to advance the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) norm. 

The World Federation for the United Nations Associations (WFUNA), an ICRtoP member since 2009, launched its Responsibility to Protect Program in 2011. ICRtoP spoke with Laura Spano, RtoP Program Officer at WFUNA, who provided some insight into the goals of and challenges associated with WFUNA’s work on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP).

WFUNA strives to deepen the understanding of the RtoP norm and highlight its potential as a guide for national policy amongst NGOs around the world. WFUNA’s RtoP program provides this increased awareness to mobilize civil society to advocate for their national leaders to operationalize the norm. As Spano told us, “The main goal of the program is to mobilize and push for the political will to prevent and act in the face of mass atrocities.

WFUNA represents and coordinates a membership base of over 100 national United Nations Associations (UNAs), which link citizens to the United Nations by emphasizing the relevance of UN developments at the local level through teaching, advocacy, and exchange programs. Among other areas of collaboration, WFUNA has teamed up with several UNAs in different regions around the world to create activities about and build support for RtoP. The program seeks to empower UNAs to target advocacy to four key groups: civil society, the academic community, politicians and the media.

To this end, WFUNA conducts capacity-building trainings for NGOs in these regions, in partnership with national UNAs and others, including, on occasion, the ICRtoP. These trainings provide a comprehensive background on RtoP and on the role of actors in implementing the norm and expand on how civil society can continue raising awareness and engage in effective advocacy. WFUNA also maintains an online platform to facilitate collaboration across regions as well as the exchange of expertise and best practices from outreach, advocacy and teaching activities. “Working with UNAs allows WFUNA’s programs to generate a more nuanced national understanding of the norm as the UNAs have a good understanding of domestic policy gaps and where progress is needed,” said Spano. In addition, partnering with national UNAs, which often already have well-established networks of civil society actors in the country, streamlines the dissemination of information on RtoP and hence increases awareness of the norm. “Ideally, once we run our initial training,” Spano stated, “the UNA has enough knowledge to take the norm forward in a national context with the assistance and support of WFUNA.”

Progress is visible after just one year. WFUNA and UNA partners, in particular UNA-ArmeniaUNA-Georgia and UNA-DRC,  have trained 48 NGOs, produced a number of  articles on the norm, 5 toolkits which were translated into five languages, and produced a documentary feature on the current situation in the Middle East and the RtoP norm, which was broadcasted on national Armenian television.

Dag Hammarskjold Symposium: Youth from UNA-Uganda, UNA-Tanzania and UNA-Kenya discuss the importance of RtoP in East Africa.  Credit: WFUNA

Dag Hammarskjold Symposium: Youth from UNA-Uganda, UNA-Tanzania and UNA-Kenya discuss the importance of RtoP in East Africa. Credit: WFUNA

Another key component of the RtoP program in 2011 and 2012 was the Dag Hammarskjöld Symposium Series, which provided a regional forum to engage key stakeholders in the RtoP debate. Participants looked specifically at the tension between state sovereignty, the role of intervention, and the implications for the RtoP norm. The Series reached four continents with conferences in Kenya in June 2011, China in December 2011, Venezuela in February 2012 and India in October 2012.

During our conversation with Ms. Spano, she discussed the impact of the crisis situations in Libya and Syria on global opinion towards the norm, saying that WFUNA saw an increase in debate on the implementation of measures to respond to RtoP crimes, and a resulting “divergence in ideas and understandings of the norm from conference participants.”  Consequently, WFUNA’s work shifted, as appropriate, from its initial, primary focus on awareness-raising to narrower discussions to clarify misconceptions and assess the challenges associated with implementation. Nonetheless, Spano noted that across all regions, she saw a tangible increase in knowledge of the norm and its principles, which has allowed for more comprehensive discussions on RtoP tools to prevent atrocity crimes. According to Spano, the enduring challenge is to ensure that all actors understand that “the foundation of RtoP is really about prevention.”

WFUNA will continue to challenge misinterpretations of RtoP and ensure that the norm is understood by civil society, academics, politicians and the media, as well as other relevant actors. To stay up to date on WFUNA’s work with UNAs all throughout the world, be sure to visit their website.

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New “At a glance” Series Looks at Key Measures Under RtoP’s Third Pillar

Since 2009, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly has held an annual informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P). The discourse is based in part on reports published by the UN Secretary-General ahead of the meetings exploring measures within the norm’s scope or the role of various actors.

These dialogues are an important opportunity for Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations and civil society to discuss the norm’s implementation and assess best practices from past crisis situations. This year, the General Assembly plans to discuss the broad range of political, economic, humanitarian and, if necessary, military response measures available to actors at the national, regional, and international levels within the third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon addresses attendees at the 2010 informal interactive dialogue on early warning, assessment and the Responsibility to Protect. (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

ICRtoP encourages actors at all levels to participate in this timely discussion and generate constructive conversation on the regional and international community’s response to imminent threats or occurrences of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. Furthermore, the Coalition has developed a clarifying document about the spectrum of measures available within the norm’s third pillar and how these measures can be employed by actors at all levels.

In order to foster a more complete understanding of RtoP’s third pillar ahead of this summer’s UN General Assembly dialogue, ICRtoP will be publishing a new series of “At a Glance” educational tools on the role of actors and measures available to prevent and halt mass atrocities. Each “At a Glance” will provide an overview of how a specific measure or group of actors fits within RtoP’s third pillar, debates and challenges regarding implementation, and steps that can be taken at all levels to strengthen prevention capabilities.

The first document, published on 12 April, focuses on Preventive Diplomacy and the Responsibility to Protect, a particularly timely topic in the wake in joint United Nations-League of Arab States Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s efforts to find a mediated solution to the crisis in Syria. As the “At a Glance” explains:

Within the RtoP framework, preventive diplomacy offers a set of tools to be used on a case-by-case basis by a wide range of actors to peacefully respond to threats and occurrences of mass atrocities by facilitating political solutions. Quiet diplomacy and engagement behind the scenes gives all parties an opportunity to participate in dialogue outside the international spotlight and on their own terms.  Mediation, often led by appointed diplomats or special envoys, allows for encouragement from the international community to build political will for peaceful settlement if parties are reluctant to negotiate. Other important tools include political missions, which are civilian-led and can facilitate dialogue to prevent escalating threats or assist in rebuilding efforts such as inclusive governance or reconciliation; and peacekeeping missions, which incorporate preventive diplomacy into their security-based mandates and offer political support to encourage peaceful conflict resolution.  

The publication also looks at the challenges associated with Preventive Diplomacy, and the steps national, regional, and international actors, including civil society, can take to strengthen the manner in which this measure is implemented to respond to country-specific situations.

The latest “At a Glance”, published on 27 April, discusses the role of International and Regional Justice mechanisms in responding to threats of mass atrocities. The recent examples of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issuing its first ever verdict in the case of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo on 14 March, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone ruling on 25 April that former Liberian President Charles Taylor was guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, have shown international and regional justice mechanisms at the fore of the fight against impunity. As the publication states:

Within the RtoP framework, international and regional justice mechanisms and institutions contribute to the prevention of and response to threats of mass atrocities by ending impunity, deterring would-be perpetrators, and delivering justice to victims. Under RtoP, the state bears the primary responsibility for the protection of its population, and is thus held accountable for the commission of mass atrocities.  Many judicial bodies interpret this responsibility by investigating cases where populations are at risk, and then indicting, trying and sentencing individual perpetrators, regardless of rank or title, for the commission of one or more of the RtoP crimes. These institutions work to facilitate transitional justice, ensuring accountability for massive human rights violations and establishing a basis for sustainable peace and reconciliation.  

The “At a Glance” also elaborates on the challenges faced by these bodies, the role of national governments and civil society in strengthening them, and the existing mechanisms at the regional and international level, including an overview of the ICC, the International Court of Justice, ad-hoc tribunals and special courts, and regional judicial bodies.

The publications on Preventive Diplomacy and International and Regional Justice are just the first two of a series of seven “At a Glance” documents, in which the following measures will be covered (by order of publication):

  • The Use of Force
  • Monitoring, Early Warning and Response
  • The Role of Actors within the United Nations
  • Targeted Sanctions
  • The Role of Regional and Sub-Regional Arrangements

Our Coalition hopes that these publications will foster a more complete understanding of the wide range of measures available to the international community when a state manifestly fails to protect its population from mass atrocities, and will contribute to constructive international conversation on the norm’s third pillar.

Download the following educational tools:

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Filed under CivSoc, Human Rights, Informal Interactive Dialogue, Prevention, Regional Orgs, RtoP, Third Pillar, Timely and Decisive Action, UN