Tag Archives: International Criminal Court

#RtoP Weekly: 15 – 17 April

Weekly

This week in focus:
Genocide Today: The Yazidis (2014- present)

Continuing to recognize Genocide Awareness Month, the ICRtoP turns its attention to ongoing atrocities, taking a look at the genocide of the Yazidi people at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The crimes committed against the Yazidi people is one portion of continuing and complex crisis in Iraq and Syria, and this infographic not only chronicles these events, but also highlights the ongoing plight of the Yazidis and the resulting accountability efforts.

The ICRtoP infographic can be found here.

***Please note that there will be no RtoP Weekly next week as our offices will be closed over the Easter Holiday. We will resume publication in May.***

(image via EuroNews)

Weekly Yazidi.jpg


What to Watch:

Burma: Myanmar’s 2020 Elections and Conflict Dynamics (United States Institute of Peace)
Elections for many of Burma’s legislative bodies are scheduled for late 2020, coinciding with the 21st Century Panglong peace process, and the potential repatriation of Rohingya refugees. The United States Institute for Peace (USIP) outlines the possibility for violence caused by the convergence of these events including divisive campaigning, populist rhetoric, and misinformation that will increase tensions and undermine support for the peace process. The USIP report also outlines opportunities for the international community and Burmese government to take in order mitigate the risk of conflict leading up to elections.

International Criminal Court (ICC): Afghanistan: ICC refuses to authorize investigation, caving into USA threats  (Amnesty International)
The ICC announced it will not investigate crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan. Many see the decision as an abandonment of victims’ rights, and note that crimes have been committed in the country with impunity. Amnesty further argues the Court has a moral and legal duty to reach out to the victims of crimes in the country and explain its decision.

Libya: Arab Pacifists Demand an End to Violence in Libya (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict – GPPAC)
In a statement issued this past weekend, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), expressed its concerns over the recent confrontations in the country, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an end to the use of child soldiers in the conflict. GPPAC also called on the UN and the Security Council to do all they can to prevent conflict through nonviolent means, and promote a national dialogue for peace and democracy.  At the same time, the Arab League Envoy on Libya criticized foreign nations’ involvement in the dispute, saying they are fueling the conflict and escalating violence. They called on warring parties in Libya to cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table.

Sudan: AU warns Sudan military, protesters make demands (Africa News)
The Sudanese military continues to remain in power after it removed al-Bashir from office last week. Though the military stated its intention to create a civilian government, protests outside its headquarters continue. The African Union (AU) issued a statement giving state forces 15 days to transfer power to a civilian government, or face suspension in the regional organization. Many hope the involvement of the AU and its warnings lead to a peaceful transfer of power.


But Also Don’t Miss:

International Criminal Court: All roads to global justice lead to the Rome Statute 
In an Op-Ed, Eric Paulson argues that the International Criminal Court was set up to end impunity for mass atrocity crimes, punish perpetrators, and prevent future occurrences, and that misconceptions over the ICC’s mandate threatens justice worldwide.

Israel/Palestine: Palestinian state likely not in US proposed peace plan: Report
The United States-proposed peace plan for Israel and Palestine reportedly contains practical improvements for the lives of Palestinians, but likely excludes the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.

Qatar: Doha conference seeks to address impunity for war crimes
Qatar is hosting an international conference in Doha, seeking to address impunity and find solutions in order to hold individuals and states accountable for war crimes and human rights violations.

Venezuela: First Red Cross aid delivery lands in crisis-torn Venezuela
The first International Committee of the Red Cross aid shipment arrived in Venezuela, marking a “tacit recognition” from Nicolas Maduro that a humanitarian crisis exists in the country.

Yemen: Plan for troop pullback ‘now accepted’ by rival forces around key Yemen port, but fighting intensifying elsewhere, Security Council warned
The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen said pro-government forces and Houthi rebels agreed to withdraw troops from the front lines in and around Hodeidah, though fighting is intensifying elsewhere in the country.


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#R2PWeekly: 19 – 23 September 2016

Untitled

UN Resumes Aid Delivery in Syria After Attack 

af0e1c83-b600-4b99-9ec4-07fe9e2039daThe United Nations decided to suspend all aid convoys in Syria this week following an alleged airstrike on Monday, which destroyed 18 aid trucks and killed around 20 civilians, including a humanitarian aid worker from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.  All parties involved in the conflict, including Russia and the United States, were informed about the presence of the envoy carrying relief supplies for 78,000 civilians to rebel-held territories in the northern Aleppo. The intensification of hostilities led to the suspension of envoys planned for four other surrounding cities.

Shortly after the attack on the aid convoy, United States officials claimed that Russian aircraft had dropped the bombs which hit the convoy, however, both Russia and Syria have denied these claims and any involvement in the incident. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack in his address to the UN General Assembly, calling it “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate.” UN officials have also said that it is potentially a war crime.

The fragile ceasefire that was initiated, in part, to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, has been widely tested as, first, on Saturday, a US-led coalition airstrike on a Syrian military base killed at least 60 Syrian troops in what the US military is calling an errant targeting of an Islamic State (ISIL) position. Then, on Monday, a Syrian army spokesperson stated that the week-long ceasefire had officially ended. The Syrian army has laid the blame for continual violations on the rebels and the Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement stating that there is no reason for the Syrian government to continue to commit to the truce. Aleppo-based rebel groups have also declared the ceasefire a failure, citing a lack of commitment from the Syrian government as aid intended for Aleppo was forced to sit across the Turkish border for days as the Syrian government refused to give it entry, before the attack on the aid convoy.  US Secretary of State John Kerry responded to such statements, saying that the authority to declare the ceasefire over rests with the US & Russia, with officials from both countries working to extend it on the ground. Secretary Kerry also called for all war planes in Syria to be grounded in attempts to salvage the ceasefire, but the largest wave of airstrikes in weeks ravaged rebel-held areas of Aleppo late Wednesday and into early Thursday morning,killing at least seven people, including three children. The attacks are believed to have been perpetrated by either Russia or the Syrian government.

However, on Thursday, the UN resumed deliveries of humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies, despite the continuing surge of hostilities and apparent dissolution of the ceasefire agreement.

Source for above photo: BBC News

 


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Late last week, a judge sentenced five Burmese soldiers to five years of hard labor for the murders of five civilians in June from one of Burma’s minority ethnic groups.

On Sunday, the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD) came under review at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre in Yangon. The meeting examined which ethnic and regional perspectives are to be discussed at the start of the national-level political dialogue, which is expected to now begin in January.

On Monday, eight people died in clashes in southeastern Burma that have left thousands displaced over the past month.The fighting took place between the Burmese army and a rebel-splinter group, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) in Karen state, where the dominant rebel group, the KNU, has signed a ceasefire with the government. Despite the continued fighting, Burmese army officers have pressured Karen internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes. Over 3,800 people have been displaced due to the fighting between the Burmese army and the DKBA since 9 September.

The latest reports from the Refugee Processing Center, run by the US State Department,show that from 1 October 2015 to 15 September 2016, 11,902 Burmese nationals, including many Rohingya, have resettled in the United States, outpacing even Syrian refugee arrivals in the US.

On Wednesday, Burma’s State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, addressed the United Nations General Assembly as the first civilian leader to represent the country at the world body’s annual debate in over 50 years. She noted that the “dreams and aspirations” of the people of Burma in shaping their future with the overwhelming majority won by her National League for Democracy party in last year’s elections, “echo those that had led to the founding of the United Nations.” In discussing the interethnic issues in the country, particularly of the Rohingya population in Rakhine state, she said, “We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the state. Our Government is taking a holistic approach that makes development central to both short and long term programmes aimed at promoting understanding and trust.”


Burundi:

Independent UN investigators said on Tuesday that they have a list of suspects believed to have been involved with atrocities in Burundi. The investigators do not know the full extent of these crimes, but they have evidence of rapes, murders, disappearances, mass arrests, and torture of government opponents. Reportedly, there are likely thousands of victims. The investigators have called on international organizations to try and stop these atrocities before mass violence brings conflict to the entire region. Officials in Burundi have denied the allegations and described the report as biased.


Central African Republic:

Violence pitting the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels against rival Christian anti-Balaka militia members ignited on Friday. A spokesman for the presidency originally said on Saturday that the fighters from the former Seleka rebel coalition killed 26 villagers. However, on Monday the spokesman cut that figure to six, matching the UN’s toll. The killings took place in the village of Ndomete, not far from Kaga-Bandoro.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released an infographic detailing humanitarian access in CAR as of August 2016. It further details how humanitarian access in parts of CAR is frequently hampered by looting, fighting and, most often, attacks against aid workers and the population.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

At least 17 people have been killed in the capital city of Kinshasa following violent clashes between political protesters and police, after months of civil unrest related to the potential extension of President Joseph Kabila’s tenure as President beyond the constitutional limit. A government-led “national dialogue”, which has failed to include many of the country’s main opposition parties, is set to present its final agreement on the issue in the coming days.

The headquarters of three opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo were alsotorched in the capital city. At least two casualties have been confirmed at the office of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS). Protests are expected to continue as the government stated Monday that it will be unable to hold elections in November.

On Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized the government of the DRC for their use of excessive force following the protests. The High Commissioner also expressed shock that men in uniform had participated in some of the attacks on the headquarters of opposition political parties and that President Kabila’s government deployed the Republican Guard, a notoriously heavily armed military unit, against the protesters.

The World Food Programme has released an Emergency Dashboard infographic detailing the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo as of September 2016. The dashboard states that there are approximately 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), over 400,000 refugees, and 5.9 million individuals facing food insecurity throughout the DRC.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers killed a 16 year old Palestinian boy who tried to stab a soldier outside of Bani Na’im, a village in the occupied West Bank near the city of Hebron. This is the seventh death in the area since last Friday, resulting from an uptick of hostilities ahead of next month’s Jewish new year holiday.

On Wednesday, the Palestinian high court in Ramallah ordered the suspension of local elections in both Gaza and the West Bank previously scheduled for 8 October. This is the second time the court has frozen the elections. The first suspension, which took place earlier this month, was the result of a formal petition signed by several Palestinian lawyers and the West Bank prosecution in response to the invalidation of a Fatah list of candidates in the Gaza Strip by Hamas courts.

President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to the UN this week for protection against Israeli occupation of its territories in Gaza and the West Bank, stating that direct peace talks can only take place in an international conference such as the one proposed by France for later this year.


Iraq:

On Sunday, two Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers died in a suicide-bombing east of Mosul, as Kurdish forces continue to prepare for an assault on the city.

On Tuesday, Iraqi forces initiated an offensive to liberate the northern town of Sherqat from Islamic State (ISIL). Two days later, on Thursday, Iraqi Brigadier-General Yahya Rasoolannounced that the Iraqi military, backed by airstrikes from the US-led coalition, gained complete control of the northern town of Shirqat. The city had been under siege since 2014 when ISIL seized about a third of Iraqi territory. The retaking of Shirqat is considered a key prerequisite for the push to retake the main city of Mosul later this year.

ISIL militants reportedly fired a shell containing a mustard agent on Tuesday at an air base in Qayyara, where US and Iraqi troops are operating. No US troops were hurt as a result of the shelling. US troops tested the artillery shell after it landed and received a positive reading for the chemical agent. A second test turned up negative. Further lab testing has commenced.

The Global Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster has released an infographic detailing settlement status of internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout Iraq. The infographic shows that there are an estimated total of 3.35 million IDPs currently residing in Iraq.


Kenya:

On Monday, an International Criminal Court (ICC) trial chamber found the government of Kenya to be in noncompliance with its requirement to cooperate with the ICC, with regards to the case of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The ICC has referred Kenya’s non-cooperation to the Assembly of States Parties, the court’s membership, for further action. Following thereferral to the ASP, Kenyan Attorney General, Githy Muigai, indicated that Kenya would not accept the court’s verdict.


Libya:

On Sunday, militia members loyal to military leader Khalifa Haftar and Libya’s eastern parliament launched a successful counter-attack on two of Libya’s most crucial oil ports, Sidra and Ras Lanuf, after briefly losing them to the Petroleum Facilities Guard, loyal to the UN-backed Tripoli based government the evening before. On Monday, General Haftar went on to call on the UN to cease injecting itself into Libyan affairs, claiming that Tripoli has been overrun by armed gangs.

Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, renewed their offensive on Islamic State (ISIL) in Sirte on Sunday, with the support of US airstrikes and special forces. The forces are attempting to push into the last section of the city still under the extremist group’s control.

On Tuesday, an airstrike near the town Houn in central Libya killed at least nine civilians and wounded 20 others. The identity of the planes that carried out the strike could not be confirmed, but armed groups loyal to factions based in eastern and western Libya are known to operate in the area.


Mali:

Over the weekend, at least 10 people died in clashes between the pro-government Gatia militia and the Tuareg separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) rebel coalition. The fighting took place north of the pro-Tuareg city of Kidal, which has been jointly controlled by the two groups since February. The UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has released a statement expressing concern over the country’s fragile peace deal following the fighting over the weekend, saying such clashes, “as well as constituting repeated violations of ceasefire accords, threaten the progress achieved up until now in the implementation of the peace agreement.” MINUSMA also called on all parties to “take immediate measures to guarantee the protection of civilians and refrain from all action that could unleash a return to hostilities”.


Nigeria:

The government of Nigeria has announced that it has been negotiating with Boko Haram since July 2015 to free the over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok kidnapped by the group, with three separate rounds of negotiations having failed.

Over the weekend, American National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Maj-General Babagana Monguno, met in Washington to discuss how to better engage in dialogue with militants in the Niger River Delta and bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

On Sunday, Nigerian police liberated 14 oil workers kidnapped earlier this month in the country’s southern Niger Delta region.

The same day, eight people died in an attack by Boko Haram in Kwamjilari village in northeastern Borno state.The attack took place as villages emptied out of church from Sunday mass, with the militants also lighting maize fields and houses on fire.

On Monday, Boko Haram militants staged two attacks in the country’s northeast that left eight people dead. The separate attacks included the beheading of a village chief and his son and the killing of six civilians in a commercial convoy escorted by the Nigerian military.

The Nigerian army has claimed victory in a battle fought against Islamic extremist militants in Malam Fatori, a town near the country’s border with Niger. Earlier in the day, Islamic State’s West Africa Province, a faction of Boko Haram, released a statement claiming to have killed over 40 soldiers and wounding many more from “a convoy of the African Coalition Crusader forces” in Malam Fatori. Neither side’s claim has been independently verified. However, the battle, which took place on Tuesday, was the first Islamic State-claimed attack in Nigeria since August.

Amnesty International published a report this week which details a Nigerian police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which systematically tortures its detainees as a means of extracting confessions and lucrative bribes. This report is an extension of the larger humanitarian crisis in Nigeria, with a reported 20,000 deaths and the displacement of 2.6 million people throughout the seven years of Boko Haram insurgency.


South Sudan:

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced late last week that the number of civilians seeking refuge from the war in South Sudan has surpassed one million, with an additional 1.6 million internally displaced.

On Saturday, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, created in March by the Human Rights Council, expressed deep concern over the slow pace of the implementation of the peace plan in South Sudan and the continuation of gross human rights violations. The report comes after the Commission’s visit to South Sudan earlier in the month.

Officials in Northern Liech state have announced that they have entered into talks with senior military officials of the SPLM-IO forces allied to former First Vice President Riek Machar in hopes of their joining the current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai’s faction of the SPLM-IO.

The United Nations has received reports saying people fleeing South Sudan into Uganda are forced to pay bribes at checkpoints run by South Sudan’s government and armed groups to reach safety. There are also reports of physical and sexual assaults and forced family separations.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published an infographic on Wednesday on the humanitarian situation and response in South Sudan. The infographic shows how the operating environment is increasingly dangerous and difficult. It also shows that the response is severely underfunded, as just 54% of the US$1.3 billion required under the South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has been received. Despite the challenges, the infographic also shows that humanitarian partners were able to deliver lifesaving assistance and protection to over 3.2 million people in South Sudan in the first half of 2016.

Members of the United States Congress are pushing the Obama administration to support an arms embargo on South Sudan. In August, the UN Security Council said that if South Sudan did not accept a 4,000 strong regional peacekeeping force, it would place an arms embargo on the country. The US has been opposed to such action in the past, but has changed its view with recent developments in the country.

Sudan’s State Minister of Interior, Babiker Digna claimed on Wednesday that his country is hosting more than 400,000 South Sudanese refugees, but it is difficult to determine the exact number as the refugee influx still continues.


Sudan/Darfur:

On Saturday, Sudan’s Presidential Assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid announced that a week of negotiations over a ceasefire and humanitarian access with rebel groups has not led to a comprehensive peace deal. The African Union, which is mediating the dialogue, has temporarily suspended the negotiations between the two parties. The following day, Hamid reiterated that Sudan will reject humanitarian aid from abroad, specifically referencing a planned package from Ethiopia. The comments come amidst mounting international pressure for peace negotiations as hostilities persist between forces loyal to the Republic of Sudan and the active insurgent groups loyal to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North.

On Tuesday, the US State Department commended the recent efforts by the Sudanese government to cooperate with the US on counterterrorism operations, while also noting that that economic sanctions against Sudan will remain in place. Grave concerns regarding human rights and the management of internal conflicts, specifically in the Darfur region, which has been labelled by the US as genocide, continue to complicate the normalization of relations between Sudan and Western countries.

On Thursday, Amnesty International and ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch called for the UN Human Rights Council, currently holding a session on Sudan, to press the Sudanese government to prosecute and hold accountable those responsible for the deaths of protesters and civilians during the September 2013 civil unrest in Khartoum. The protests, which stemmed from an announcement from President Omar al-Bashir regarding cuts to fuel subsidies, left 185 people dead. According to the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, the majority of protesters were found to have been killed by gunshot wounds to the head and chest. As of today, none of the three state commissions of inquiry have been made public and only one policeman has been prosecuted.


Syria:

US Defense officials have confirmed that US Special Forces are now present alongside Turkish troops and rebels in northern Syria to take part in the Turkish-led “Operation Euphrates Shield”. Turkish forces have announced that they plan to extend the offensive to take the ISIL-held town of al-Bab, which sits on a critical juncture, with a Turkish “safe zone” possibly extending to up to 5,000 square km (1,930 square miles) of Syrian territory.

On Monday, the Homs governor postponed the planned evacuation of the last rebel-held district of the city due to “logistical obstacles”. Around 250-300 rebels are expected to be allowed to leave the city for rebel-controlled territory. However, rebels in other parts of Syria have stated that if the evacuation goes through, they would consider the ceasefire in the country to be over.

Russia announced on Wednesday that it will be sending its only aircraft carrier to waters off of Syria’s coastal region, which is likely a contingency plan for the dissolution of the present ceasefire.


Yemen:

 On Saturday, Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the internationally-recognized Yemeni government clashed on two separate fronts. Fighting broke out in the regions east of the city of Taez, which government forces are attempting to break a siege of, and east of the capital of Sanaa.

Recently released images and videos have led to claims that Saudi Arabia is using U.S.-supplied white phosphorous munitions in its military campaign in Yemen, with fears being raised over the threat that these munitions pose to civilians. US regulations dictate that white phosphorus, when sold to other countries, may only be used for signaling other troops and creating smoke screens. As of yet, it is undetermined how Saudi Arabia is using the munition in Yemen.

Recent reports have confirmed that a US-made bomb was used in an airstrike on a hospital on 15 August that killed 11 people. On Monday, Amnesty International urged that states immediately stop supplying weapons that could be used in the Yemen conflict.

On Tuesday, intensive airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition hit the headquarters of the National Security Bureau in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sanaa, causing damage to neighboring homes, which left at least one civilian dead and three others wounded. The coalition also bombed the defense ministry and a checkpoint in the suburbs, killing two rebels and wounding four.

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 20 civilians in the rebel-held Yemeni city of Hodeida late on Wednesday. The raid reportedly targeted a presidential palace used by the Houthi rebel movement, but missiles also hit neighboring houses.

The United Kingdom is set to increase the humanitarian aid it gives to Yemen, while the country is also facing criticism for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which could be used in Yemen.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 12 – 16 September 2016

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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


Burundi:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:
 

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

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


Iraq:

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

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


Libya:

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

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


Mali:

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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


What else is new?:

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

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

 

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Filed under ICRtoP Members, RtoP, Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 20 – 24 June 2016

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Secretary General Appoints New
UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect

On 23 June 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that Ivan Šimonović has been appointed as the new UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect. Mr. Šimonović will be the third individual to assume the post, following Dr. Edward Luck and Dr. Jennifer Welsh. He will take up the post on 1 October 2016.

Mr. Šimonović is currently the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, a post through which he has shown his dedication to preventing gross and systematic abuses of human rights. In his six-year tenure at the United Nations, Mr. Šimonović has underscored that RtoP is a “human rights friendly” concept, including as a panelist at the 2012 General Assembly Dialogue on RtoP, at which he stated that RtoP is “the idea that people are entitled to be protected from the worst forms of human rights violations, from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes.”

As UN Special Adviser on RtoP, Mr. Šimonović will be responsible for the conceptual, political, and institutional development of RtoP, as well as for building consensus to assist the General Assembly to continue considering the norm. Such a mandate entails, among other duties, engaging with UN actors, Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations, and civil society to implement and mainstream the norm; as well as conceptualizing the UN Secretary-General’s annual reports on RtoP.

The ICRtoP looks forward to working with Mr. Šimonović, as well as the entire Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, to continue consolidating support for RtoP and advocating for early action to prevent and respond to the threat of atrocity crimes. In this regard, the ICRtoP will continue efforts with the Office to enhance the relationship between civil society and the UN system to strengthen collaboration, cooperation, and information sharing on atrocities prevention and response.

See statement here.

See the UN News announcement here.

Read more about the mandate of the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect and the work of the Joint Office.  For more information, see the ICRtoP’s page on the Joint Office.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will make an official visit to the country from 20 June until 1 July. Ms. Lee will monitor the situation of human rights and assess the work of the new government during its first 100-days in office. A report on the visit will be presented to the UN General Assembly in October. On 20 June, following the Special Rapporteur’s meeting with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the government of Myanmar decided to no longer use the term “Rohingya” or “Bengali” to describe the Muslim community of the Rakhine state. The ethnic term has been a point of contention in the conflict between nationalist Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. The terms were also avoided in the Special Rapporteur’s meeting on 22 June with the Arakan State Chief Minister Nyi Pu.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, issued a report urging the Burmese government to take concrete action against the systematic violations of human rights of the minority groups in Myanmar. The report, released on 20 June, documented widespread human rights abuses, including denial of healthcare and education, forced labor, restrictions on freedom of movement, and more, that could possibly amount to crimes against humanity. The Rohingya Muslim community was noted to receive the worst treatment. High Commissioner Hussein acknowledged the work of the new democratic government in signing a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last year as well as establishing a Central Committee on the Implementation of Peace, Stability, and Development of Rakhine State. However, the Commissioner’s report urged for more concrete steps to be taken by the government to facilitate the transition to peace. The government has criticized the report, stating it is biased.

report by the UN Refugee Agency stated Burmese citizens made up the eighth-largest population of refugees in 2015. More than 451,000 people fled Myanmar last year as a result of ethnic violence between multiple armed groups.

Nearly 1,000 people in the Kachin State protested against the killing of a teen by a Burmese Army soldier on 21 June. The unarmed 19-year-old student was “mistakenly shot” by the soldier during a fight between two soldiers and a group of Kachin University students on the night of 20 June. The events leading up to the shooting are unclear, but they are said involve the soldiers escorting female university students claiming to be harassed by their male peers.


Burundi:

Following their second visit to Burundi last week, the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) called for concrete action to be taken to end the violence in the country. While the number of executions has decreased since last year, the UNIIB noted that mass arrests are still occurring, including the recent detainment of 11 children for defacing pictures of the President. “For Burundi to move away from violence and conflict, it needs a truly inclusive political dialogue that will address the roots of the political crises,” said one expert from the UNIIB.

Burundi is reconsidering its membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC), claiming the ICC did not take into account the principle of complementarity, which provides that the court can only investigate crimes if national courts cannot do so, when conducting preliminary investigations into post-electoral killings in Burundi.


Central African Republic:

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum, has urged the Central African Republic’s government to take robust measures to stop violence and ensure the protection for civilians. Ms. Keita Bocoum met with several government representatives and civil society members on her seventh visit to the country and she stressed the need for enhanced security and justice reform, particularly with the establishment of the Special Criminal Court. She also expressed concern over the allegations of sexual abuse within the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and will address the Human Rights Council about the issue on 28 June. Her final report on the Central African Republic will be submitted in September.

A new wave of violence in the northwest has left 10 people dead and forced thousands to flee. Armed attackers entered the city of Ngaoundaye on 16 June, shooting at residents and torching homes. The attack, carried out by Fulani herdsmen and ex-Seleka militiamen, is the worst bout of violence in the country since the political election in February. MINUSCA has strengthened security measures in response to the attacks and reaffirmed its mission to promote peace and security in the CAR.

A driver for Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) was shot and killed while driving to transport medicine and fuel from Bangui to Bangassou on 17 June. The Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic, Dr. Michel Yao, strongly condemned the attack and reminded all parties that “ violence against humanitarian workers and humanitarian assets is a violation of International Humanitarian Law and must stop.” Dr. Yao also called for the attack to be investigated and for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

On 19 June, ex-Seleka rebels abducted six policeman in the capital city of Bangui. Security Minister Jean Serge Bokassa stated, “We demand the liberation of the officers who were taken hostage. The government will do everything possible to free them.”


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The field-based office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, located in Seoul, has begun stepping up its investigation into the country’s human rights violations ahead of the one year anniversary of the office’s establishment on 23 June. The UN opened the office in line with recommendations from the UN Commission of Inquiry report on the human rights record and has been conducting interviews with defectors.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Clashes between former rebels in a camp for demobilized militia groups and government soldiers preventing them from leaving the camp resulted in nine deaths, including six of the former rebels and three soldiers. A government official admitted the clashes took place, but denied that soldiers had killed anyone. A former rebel claimed that soldiers had killed 10 of his fellow ex-fighters and claimed that their protests demanding to be returned home were peaceful. The former rebels held in the camp are ex-M23 fighters belonging to the minority Tutsi group in Rwanda.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli troops shot two Palestinians on 21 June, leaving a 15-year-old Palestinian boy dead when the car he was in came under gunfire by the Israeli army after several Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli cars on a highway in the West Bank.

The West Bank is in “full crisis mode” due to Israel’s water cuts reducing the water supply to Palestinians in the northern West Bank. Residents have been receiving 30 to 40 percent of their normal water allowance. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Palestinians in the West Bank have access to just 73 litres of water a day, compared to the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum of 100 litres. The water crisis has left some Palestinians without water for almost a week.


Iraq:

On 17 June, Iraqi forces surged into the ISIL-held city of Fallujah. Several hours later, Prime Minister Al-Abadi declared victory over ISIL in Fallujah. This comes after several months of tightening the knot on the city, which has led to tens of thousands of civilians being trapped in an ever growing humanitarian crisis. However, declarations of complete victory have been premature, as a week later Iraqi forces still have only gained control of roughly 80% of the city. When Iraqi forces began their assault, ISIL forces retreated to the edges of the city, forming “a defensive belt” which the Iraqi armed forces continued to pick apart throughout the week.

ISIL fighters have killed fifteen members of the local security forces in an assault on several villages east of the town of Tuz Khurmatu. The town is 160 kilometers north of Baghdad and, while technically falling under the purview of the central government, has recently been under the control of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who claim it as part of Kurdistan. The following day, a car bomb, planted by ISIL, killed four people in Tuz Khurmatu.

On 20 June, attacks across Iraq left nine people dead. Three soldiers died in a suicide bombing in Ramadi, while six civilians died in several separate attacks in Baghdad.The next day, a suicide-bombing killed five Shia militia members and wounded over 35 in the northern town of Al-Dor.

An Iraqi tribal leader has accused a Shia militia of recently executing fifty Sunni prisoners in northern Iraq. The massacre allegedly took place at the Amerlin prison in Saladin province as revenge for the killing of a senior police officer in the fighting with ISIL near Amerli the previous week.

In order to provide aid to the thousands of people fleeing the fighting in Fallujah, the UN had to withdraw $15 million from its emergency fund this week. In one month, more than 85,000 people have been driven out of the city by fighting. The UN has warned that its supplies are nearly empty, as the emergency fund to provide aid to vulnerable Iraqis has not received two-thirds of its needed funding and projects have been shuttered. In light of this, the US State Department has released $20 million in aid to the Iraqi government. The UNHCR released a statement detailing the needs of the UN in aiding those Iraqis displaced from Fallujah.

Senior Pentagon officials are preparing to give approval to submit a request for a larger US military presence in Iraq to President Obama. Currently, the US has 4,100 troops in Iraq, including 217 that were recently deployed in April. At that time, it was stated that the military would request more if the current number of troops failed to aid the Iraqis in retaking Mosul.


Kenya:

Early this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a brief reporting that police gunfire killed at least five people and wounded 60 others as Kenyan police used live ammunition and excessive force to attempt to break up two recent protests on 23 May and 6 June. The brief includes allegations that police used unnecessary lethal force and even shot or seriously injured uninvolved bystanders and passersby, including students. According to HRW, one witness also claimed to have seen police shoot a man leaving a bank and then take his money. HRW has called for Kenyan authorities to investigate these actions, which appear to violate both Kenyan law and international protocols for law enforcement officers’ use of force.

One person died on Monday after an ambulance hit a landmine while en route to pick up a patient in northeastern Kenya. The incident, which also seriously injured two others, took place in Garissa county, which has recently been the target of attacks by suspected al-Shabaab militants. The same day in nearby Mandera county, suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a convoy, killing five Kenyan police officers escorting a passenger bus.


Libya:

blast at an ammunition depot in the Libyan city of Garabulli left 30 people dead and 30 more wounded on 21 June. It is not clear what triggered the explosion, but a dispute between locals and protestors from an armed group occurred beforehand. Meanwhile, east of Garabulli in the former ISIL-stronghold of Sirte, fighting between ISIL and government-backed Libyan fighters also left 30 people dead, resulting in a total of 60 people killed in just one day. The fighting also wounded around 140 militants.


Mali:

At a UN Security Council meeting discussing the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Malian Prime Minister Modibo Keita, called on the Council to strengthen the peacekeeping mission in the country and to impose sanctions against those impeding the peace deal. The head of MINUSMA and UN envoy for Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, presenting the UN Secretary-General’s report on the developments in the country since March, also called for better training and better equipment for peacekeepers and said “losses could have been avoided” if these had been provided earlier. He also added that, despite the slow process and the skepticism surrounding the Agreement, the situation has improved since 2012 and noted that the successful establishment of eight cantonment sites allowed for the disarmament process to begin.

On the one year anniversary of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement commending Malian President Ibrahim Boubakar Keïta and the government for their commitment to peace. Mr. Ban also welcomed the signing of the new Protocole d’Entente on the interim authorities and other arrangements by the government and other signatory parties. He called this and the government’s appointment of Mr. Mahamadou Diagouraga as the High Representative tasked with following up on the Agreement “important steps forward”.


Nigeria:

Late last week Boko Haram fighters shot and killed at least 18 women and may have captured others who were attending a funeral in the village of Kuda in Nigeria’s restive northeast. According to witnesses, the militants rampaged through the village shooting randomly at will and setting houses on fire. Witnesses counted 18 women’s bodies after the attack, but some women are currently still missing.

The Nigeria Air Force (NAF) recently launched “Operation Gama-Aiki”, under which the NAF completed its first major air campaign, killing 15 Boko Haram militants in Borno state.

On 21 June, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) visited the town of Bama in Borno state for the first time since its liberation from Boko Haram’s control by the army in March 2015. MSF found 24,000 people living in a camp on a hospital compound in the town, including 15,000 children (of which 4,500 are under five years old). According to MSF, over 1,200 people have starved to death or died of illness at the camp and of the 800 children examined, around one in five were acutely malnourished. The group also reported that they had found around 1,233 graves dug in the last year near the camp and at least 188 people have died in the camp since 23 May – amounting to almost six people each day.

In the southeastern Niger Delta Region, Nigerian officials reported late last week that the government has reached a 30-day truce with militants, including the Niger Delta Avengers, who have carried out devastating attacks on oil pipelines and facilities in the region in recent months. Another official added that although a truce had been reached, talks working towards a final resolution are still on-going. However, the Niger Delta Avengers issued a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, stating that they had never agreed to a ceasefire with the government. A security expert based in Nigeria has said that he believes that the government may have been holding talks with the wrong people.


South Sudan:

On Tuesday, the UN completed an investigation into violence that occurred at a UN compound housing 50,000 civilians in Malakal. Over the course of 16-18 February, fighting between ethnic groups killed 30 civilians and 130 others. On 18 February, armed men, including members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), burst into the camp and began shooting civilians and burning down housing complexes. Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers, mandated to use force to protect civilians, stood by, taking over 16 hours to react to the incursion into the compound. The report, obtained by several news agencies, but unlikely to be made public, details how the UN responsewas one beset by confusion, with peacekeepers fleeing their posts. Some, like Human Rights Watch, have pressured the UN to release the findings to the public, follow the investigation’s recommendations, and hold those responsible to account. In response, the UN has announced that it will be sending home peacekeepers that were found to have not appropriately responded during the situation. Meanwhile, a report by Doctors without Borders noted that, in addition to the UN failing in its duty to protect civilians, UN security rules interfered with efforts by humanitarian actors to respond to the needs of those affected by the crisis.

UNICEF has released a report highlighting the continuing use of child soldiers in South Sudan. The report, aided by the work of the UN mission in South Sudan, states that there are still over 16,000 child soldiers in South Sudan. This figure is in spite of the government’s 2008 South Sudan Child Act, which sets a minimum age of 18 for any conscription or voluntary recruitment into armed forces or groups. Furthermore, the release of all child soldiers is a stipulation of the peace agreement in South Sudan.

On 20 June, fighting erupted once again in the South Sudanese town of Raja, which saw clashes last week when armed men stormed and temporarily seized the town. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the fighting,with the International Committee of the Red Cross sending in two planes to evacuate the wounded.


Sri Lanka:

Newly uncovered evidence seems to confirm reports that the Sri Lankan armed forces may have used cluster munitions against civilians in the end stages of the country’s 26-year civil war. Testimonies from de-mining groups working in Sri Lanka have also claimed that they have discovered munitions in government-declared “no fire zones”, where authorities had told around 300,000 people during the war to gather for safety until the war’s resolution.

According to a former asylum seeker now living permanently in Australia, the group of 44 stranded Tamil asylum seekers in Indonesia, who arrived by boat on the island of Aceh on their way to Australia, were previously tortured in Sri Lanka and would certainly be persecuted once again if they return. Their compatriot in Australia identified several of the asylum seekers in Indonesia from photos as those who were allegedly tortured alongside him during his time in prison in Sri Lanka.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 17 June, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a 4-month ceasefire in the Blue Nile and South Kordufan areas, which went into effect over the weekend. Rebel fighters with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and government forces have been engaged in fighting that has left both sides in a perpetual stalemate since 2011. The SPLM-N is the northern counterpart of the movement that brought South Sudan forward into independence and they have been fighting against their region’s continued inclusion in Sudan. Fighting has recently intensified in the area as a truce, negotiated at the end of 2015, has broken down. The SPLM-N has conditionally agreed to the ceasefire and is calling for negotiations to immediately start in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. This is the third ceasefire declaration by the Sudanese government in the past year.

After a three-day meeting in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, Sudan Call (the umbrella representation of the Sudanese opposition) stated on Sunday that they will propose a supplemental document to the Roadmap Agreement for peace in Sudan. As of yet, only the Sudanese government has signed the Roadmap crafted by the African Union High level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). The opposition has declined, stating the document only deals with a ceasefire and humanitarian access. The supplemental document, they allege, would ensure the Roadmap leads to fruitful political dialogue. The opposition currently recognizes the government-controlled dialogue process as a basis for the national constitutional dialogue and claims it lacks trust-building measures.

On 19 June, Sudan requested a meeting with Martin Uhomoibh, the head of the international peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), after the UN recommended a one-year extension of the mission’s mandate in the region. The joint AU-UN mission currently has 20,000 troops and policemen in the region. The report, presented to the UNSC last week, stated their presence is still needed due to an overall lack of progress in the peace process and continued violence, which the Sudanese government has publicly contended and disagreed with.

On 20-21 June, attacks in central Darfur killed and injured 18 people. Eyewitness reports allege that the attacks were carried out by members of the government-sponsored Janjaweed militia, which has already made several attacks looting the area’s major market and torching a multitude of shops and homes.

The following day, six student activists were released by the Sudanese security forces after being detained for a month without charges. The arrest and detention of the students, who were arrested for leading protests against government policy, sparked a wave of demonstrations and clashes with security forces.


Syria:

Developments in the fighting

On 18 June, Turkish border guards allegedly killed 11 Syrian refugees as they fled across the border into Turkey. The incident is alleged to have taken place near the village of Khirbet al-Joz in Idlib province. This is not the first time accusations of Turkish soldiers shooting fleeing Syrians have appeared, with HRW releasing a scathing report earlier this year.

On 20 June, an ISIL suicide-bomber killed three people in Qamishli. The bomber was attempting to sneak into a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Armenian genocide.

Despite earlier gains against ISIL this week, the extremist group has managed to force Syrian government troops into retreat from Raqqa, ISIL’s de-facto capital. The Syrian government had advanced as close as six miles to the town of al-Tabqa, which lies to the west of Raqqa, but has now been pushed back over 40 kilometers from Tabqa.

On 21 June, the SDF entered the ISIL-held city of Manjib in northern Aleppo after having successfully repelled an attempt by ISIL to break the siege earlier in the week. This has allowed the first humanitarian corridor into the city to be opened, allowing hundreds to flee.

Later the same day, a car-bomb killed six Jordanian soldiers near a Syrian refugee camp on the northeastern Syrian-Jordanian border. The attack is the first of its kind since the start of the Syrian civil war. More than 50,000 Syrians are living in the refugee camp there in deplorable conditions, with Jordan citing security concerns for not allowing them out the camps. Jordan has responded by announcing that there will be no new refugee camps built in the country.

On 22 June, 25 civilians are reported to have been killed in air raids in Raqqa. The strikes also injured dozens more, with the death toll expected to rise. As of yet, no party has claimed responsibility.

Delivering Aid

The UN was able to deliver deliver aid into the besieged areas of Ein Tarma, Hamouria, Hazeh, Beit Sawa and Eftreis in rural Damascus on Monday for the first time since April. This brings the total number of besieged areas reached up to 16 out of the 18 the UN has requested. However, the UN is still facing difficulties as the Syrian government continues to deny unfettered access and, in many cases, the amount of aid delivered has been restricted.

International Developments

On 16 June, the New York Times received a draft version of an internal dissent memo from the US State Department, signed by fifty-one individuals, that called for US airstrikes against the Assad regime. The memo is exceptionally critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in Syria, particularly detailing the continued use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime in a campaign that is both in violation of the ceasefire and mainly targeting civilians. According to the memo, continued military pressure by the United States is the only way to stop the gross injustices being committed in Syria and force Assad to the negotiating table.

Late last week, Russia’s state-run RT network accidentally ran a segment on the Russian campaign in Syria that showed Russian planes in Syria armed with cluster bombs. While Russia has not signed the international treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, they have consistently denied using such indiscriminate bombs in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry has denied accusations that it bombed the US-backed New Syrian Army rebel group in southern Syria. US and Russian officials held a video-conference over the weekend to discuss the airstrikes, which are believed to include cluster munitions and which killed several rebels near Jordanian border.

On 21 June, several countries debated the issue of prosecuting alleged perpetrators of serious crimes in Syria as a UN panel, called First Cracks in the Syria Impunity Wall. The panel discussed whether or not third party countries should prosecute persons accused of committing atrocities in Syria. The push for prosecution is being made by several European countries, particularly Germany, France, Sweden and Finland. The panel follows the vetoing, by Russia and China, of a UNSC resolution that would have referred Syria to the ICC.

Norway’s parliament gave approval for the deployment of Norwegian troops to Syria on Wednesday, including the nation’s special forces. The troops will join the forces from the US and other members of the anti-ISIL coalition on the ground in training the Syrian Democratic Forces.


Yemen:

Developments in the fighting

On 18 June, reversing reports of the United Arab Emirates pulling out of the war in Yemen, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, stated that remarks to that end have been taken out of context and that the UAE will continue to take part in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

The U.S. military has announced that it is planning on continuing its ongoing mission in Yemen against al-Qaeda.  The U.S. now plans on keeping a small, twelve-man, Special-Operations team in Yemen to assist Gulf State forces on the ground. The team was originally sent in April for a limited operation. The U.S. had previously established such a team in Yemen but withdrew it in 2014 in light of the deteriorating situation.

On 21 June, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen claimed to have intercepted a ballistic missile fired at the city of Marib, which is controlled by the coalition. Seperately, a coalition airstrike in the mountainous area of Lahj province is said to have killed eight civilians. The airstrike is alleged to have taken place during a three-day battle for the mountain range that overlooks Yemen’s largest airbase, which has apparently left 45 dead and the Houthi rebels in control and overlooking the base.

On 22 June, 13 people died in renewed clashes, in the central city of Taiz, between the Houthi rebels and Yemeni government forces. Both civilians and fighters have been counted amongst the dead in the fighting, which has continued despite an agreed upon by ceasefire by both sides. The next day Houthi rebels allegedly killed seven civilians while in pursuit of a pro-government militia leader. The Houthi’s have claimed that the raid, which took place in central Yemen, was in pursuit of a “terrorist cell” and that they had killed eight members of al- Qaeda. While reports have been increasing of al- Qaeda militants fighting alongside the Yemeni government in central Yemen, the Houthis commonly characterize all the militias that oppose them as al-Qaeda. On the same day, local residents in the south of the country reportedthe return of  al-Qaeda to their towns after an absence of a month. Al-Qaeda had previously retreated from many major population centers in the area following tribal negotiations.

Developments in the peace process

On 18-19 June, the largest prisoner swap yet in the conflict in Yemen took place, with 224 prisoners being exchanged by the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government in the city of Taez.

Highlighting
 the contention at the peace talks in Kuwait, the Houthi delegation announced on 22 June that they would refuse to sign onto any peace agreement which did not include an agreement on a consensus President to lead Yemen through its transition period. Concurrently, the Yemeni delegation has demanded that the Houthis withdraw from all  territory captured since 2014 and give over control of political institutions to the Yemeni government before negotiations. The demands are in light of the submission of a Roadmap for Peace for Yemen by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.


What else is new?

Responding to worrying developments such as the revocation of citizenship for over 250 individuals since July 2014, including most recently Sheikh Issa Qassem, among other human rights violations, the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, released a statement on 22 June expressing concern for the situation and calling in the government to recommit to national dialogue. See full statement here.

Monday, 20 June marked World Refugee Day, with a report released by the UN Refugee Agency entitled Global Trends showing that a record high of 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes due to conflict and violence in 2015. The Global Trends report shared staggering findings, including that 1 in every 113 people in the world is an asylum-seeker, internally displaced person, or refugee, with 24 people displaced per minute in 2015. To put the vast numbers of displaced persons in perspective, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect has produced a new infographic showing what displacement in countries experiencing atrocity crimes means in other terms.View the infographic here.

On Sunday 19 June, the first International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the time of impunity for the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war is over. He cited several landmark court rulings convicting and sentencing former political and military leaders for their involvement in conflict-related sexual violence, including in the convictions of two former Guatemalan military officers in a national court in Guatemala, the International Criminal Court’s first sexual and gender-based crimes conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba, and the conviction of former Chadian President Hissène Habré in the Senegalese judicial system for rape and sexual slavery earlier this year. The latter is the first time in history that a former Head of State has been convicted and held personally accountable for the commission of rape as an international crime. The ICC also sentenced Bemba on 21 June to 18 years in prison for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape. A summary of the ICC’s decision in the Bemba case can be read here.

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#R2PWeekly: 6 – 10 June 2016

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Crimes against Humanity Occurring in Eritrea

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


 South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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


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

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#R2P Weekly: 23 November – 4 December

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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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#R2P Weekly: 16 – 20 November 2015

Untitled

14th Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court

weeklyphoto20        The International Criminal Court, often referred to as “the legal arm” of the Responsibility to Protect, is holding its 14th Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in The Hague. As stated by the Coalition for the ICC’s Amielle del Rosario, RtoP and the ICC can be viewed as part of a ‘justice continuum’, as both require a spectrum of action, from preventive measures to timely and decisive response to addressing the risks of recurrence. Indeed, accountability for the perpetrators of atrocity crimes serves as a vital element of upholding the Responsibility to Protect, 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.

Amnesty International, in a call that was echoed by the Coalition for the ICC, advocated for states to strengthen the ICC, rather than accept proposals by the governments of Kenya and South Africa that could undermine the Court’s independence. Such proposals, according to Amnesty, would “hit at the heart of the ability of the ICC to tackle breaches of international law.” The Coalition for the ICC further called for States Parties to the Rome Statute to express their commitment to gender justice, including by noting that sexual and gender-based crimes result from pre-existing gender inequalities that target those most vulnerable in society on the basis of their gender. FIDH, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and ICRtoP member African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, meanwhile, encouraged States Parties to, inter alia, support a strong Trust Fund for Victims, ensure the effective participation of victims in ICC proceedings, and to create a strong field presence to supply outreach to victims and affected communities.

Find more civil society recommendations to the ASP here. The Coalition for the ICC is providing daily summaries of proceedings at the ASP. You can also follow #ASP14 on Twitter for live updates.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

 

The Burmese Army has increased their attacks in the Shan State, with reports of ground and air offensives from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N). Last week, the Burmese Army reportedlyattacked a high school housing 1,500 internally displaced civilians (IDPs) in Kesi Township.

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and the National League for Democracy (NLD) accused  Dr. Sai Mauk Kham, the current Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) Vice President, of rigging votes.

The UN Human Rights Council completed the second Universal Periodic Review for Burma on 10 November, which outlines 281 recommendations from foreign governments, rights groups and civil society organizations. President Thein Sein has agreed to less than half of the recommendations from the review, breaking a commitment to political reform made at the beginning of his term. Civil society urged the newly elected Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party to accept the core UPR recommendations that have been rejected.

A joint statement between Amnesty International and FIDH called on “all UN member states to recognize the continued need for a resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.”


Burundi:

Various UN independent experts expressed outrage at the deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi after the United Nations Security Council adopted a new resolution condemning the violence. A group of seven Special Rapporteurs urged for the text to be followed by “concrete responses fitting the magnitude of the risks at stake.” Despite additional UN pleas for an end to violence, at least four people have been killed in separate shootings and explosions in Burundi’s capital of Bujumbura on Sunday, including targeted attacks on police and the residence of the mayor of Bujumbura.

UNICEF reported that child rights violations have multiplied since the beginning of the violent crisis in Burundi. UNICEF also raised attention to the lack of essential medicine and supplies for children and mothers.

The International Organization of Migration reported that over half of the thousands of displaced people are children, many of whom suffer from malaria and malnutrition. The International Monetary Fund expects the economy of Burundi to shrink by 7.2% this year, consequently reversing a decade of growth experienced by the country.


Central African Republic:

Suspected former Seleka rebels attacked two camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), killing nine individuals, including a UN peacekeeper. Later this week, raids assumed to be orchestrated by the ex-Seleka killed at least 22 people, with multiple people reported missing from the villages of Ndassima and Mala.

After talks with the Democratic Republic of Congo concerning its future involvement in the UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the United Nations hasdetermined that the DRC troops have not been adequately vetted and therefore do not pass a pre-deployment assessment.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The director of the UN’s Joint Human Rights Office for the DRC, Jose Maria Aranaz, confirmed that government soldiers raped 14 women over a three-day period in September in South Kivu.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli military forces raided Qalandiya refugee camp in the West Bank before dawn on Monday, killing two Palestinian men and wounding several others. Residents said up to 1,000 soldiers entered the camp to destroy the home of the family of Muhammad Abu Shaheen, a resident who is charged with killing an Israeli civilian in June. The military reported three shootings and attacks from hundreds of Palestinians with fire bombs, improvised explosive devices, and rocks during the raids.
Palestinian attackers killed at least three Israelis in two attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank, according to police forces. In the first attack, a Palestinian man stabbed two Israelis to death at the entrance of a shop that serves as a synagogue in Tel Aviv. Later on Thursday, attackers opened fire and rammed a car into pedestrians near the Gush Etzion settlement; one person was killed and five others wounded, according to the Israeli police.


Iraq:

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released a report on crimes against humanity committed by ISIL against several minority groups in northern Iraq, as well as on the possible genocide of the Yezidi people.

An ISIL suicide bombing killed 21 and wounded at least 46 when a bomber targeted a Shia memorial service in the Baghdad suburb of Hay al-Amala. An ISIL roadside bomb detonated at a Shia shrine in Sadr City killed at least five people and wounded 15.

Kurdish forces discovered a mass grave believed to contain the remains of 70 Iraqi Yazidis in Sinjar after the Kurdish forces retook the town from ISIL. The mayor of Sinjar, Mahma Xelil, said the grave would be left undisturbed so experts could analyze the remains and collect evidence for a case to recognize the atrocities as genocide.


Libya:

A Joint Report of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was released on 16 November,  stating “all parties in Libya appear to be committing violations of international humanitarian law, including those that may amount to war crimes as well as gross violations or abuses of international human rights law.” The International Criminal Court is investigating the claims.

Martin Kobler, who formally took over from Spaniard Bernardino Leon on Tuesday as the U.N. Libya envoy, announced that he will restart the unity government talks and prioritize security-related issues.


Mali:

Military sources announced that its army had arrested Alaye Bocari, a financial supporter of the Islamist radical group Massina Liberation Front (MLF). The MLF has been responsible for many deadly attacks in Mali.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen reported that Berlin planned to increase its military presence in Mali; Northern Ireland also expressed its willingness to send more peacekeepers to Mali.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the progress that has been made at the political level for Mali is not reflected within communities where fighting continues and people are forced from their homes. Aid efforts have also been affected by attacks on aid workers and their facilities.


Nigeria:

According to Nigerian top officials and international security experts, Boko Haram has lost much of its ground in northern Nigeria. Nevertheless, on Thursday an explosion believed to be the work of Boko Haram killed more than 30 people and injured about 80 in Yola.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the arrest of Sambo Dasuki, a key adviser to former President Goodluck in 2011, as well as other former high ranking officials who issued fraudulent arms contracts amounting to $5.4 billion, denying Nigerian forces weapons needed to fight Boko Haram.

The Institute of Economics and Peace released the “Global Terrorism Index” which determined Boko Haram to be responsible for more deaths last year than any other terrorist group. Boko Haram is reported to have killed 6,664 people, while the deaths of 6,073 were attributed to ISIL in 2014.


South Sudan:

The European Union vocalized its support for a continental network of African judiciaries under the African Union to establish a hybrid court. The AU Commission of Inquiry, alongside others, has recommended the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to further investigate rights abuses.

Both the South Sudanese rebels and the government have accused the other of further violating August’s peace deal with increased attacks or raids in Unity State, just ahead of their meeting at a regional peace conference in Juba on Nov. 23.

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir stated that his country has struggled to resettle thousands of refugees and IDPs during the last two years of war, emphasizing that low world oil prices have depleted government coffers.


Sri Lanka:

The main Tamil party (TNA) and civil society organizations organized the complete shutdown in Sri Lanka’s North and Eastern provinces of public transportation, schools, offices, and businesses over the government’s failure to uphold its pledge to release all political prisoners by November 7 and repeal the terrorism law.

UN working group experts, Bernard Duhaime, Tae-Ung Baik, and Ariel Dulitzky, said they had “found a secret underground detention center at a Sri Lankan navy base where many post-civil war detainees were believed to have been interrogated and tortured.” However, the Sri Lankan navy denies these allegations.


Sudan/Darfur:

OCHA released a statement on Monday that as many as 166,000 people have been forced to flee the country this year, in addition to 286,000 people last year. The head of OCHA’s Sudan office also raised his concerns over the 2.5 million IDPs in the region.

The Sudanese government chief negotiator expressed the readiness of his government to sign a humanitarian agreement with the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) ahead of a new round of dialogue on Thursday.

The UK-based charity Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO) released a report by its network of human rights monitors, which verified 71 incidents of human rights abuses throughout four of the five states of Darfur. The Government of Sudan is deemed responsible for 32 of the incidents, with militias such as Janjaweed responsible for 34. Meanwhile, the SPLM-N has reportedly committed two of the abuses, with the remaining four conducted by unknown assailants. The abuses documented include targeted murder of civilians, destruction of villages, rape of women and minors, barrel bombing of civilian targets and situations of torture.


Syria:

Foreign ministers of nearly 20 nations devised an “ambitious yet incomplete plan” on ending the conflict in Syria in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. The plan sets a 1 January deadline to start the negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition groups. The Syrian government has reportedly already nominated representatives, and UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will begin immediate work to determine who will represent the opposition.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement instructing the United Nations Secretariat to accelerate planning on “modalities” to support the implementation of a political process in Syria and a nationwide ceasefire for further exploration with relevant parties. The statement also expressed the Secretary-General’s hope that this Saturday’s meeting in Vienna will make progress in ensuring humanitarian access throughout Syria, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.

France bombed the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa on Sunday night, following the terrorist attacks in Paris. American forces launched attacks on 116 ISIL trucks carrying oil near Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria. The group has been selling oil as one of its main revenue sources and the US has increased strikes against infrastructure that allows ISIL to pump oil in Syria. Until Monday’s strikes, the US has refrained from striking the fleet of oil tankers out of concerns for causing civilian casualties. Following Monday’s strikes, an American official reported that there were no immediate reports of civilian casualties.


Yemen:

A bomb explosion on Friday during midday prayers at a Houthi-frequented mosque in Shibam killed several worshippers and wounded others.

Yemeni and Saudi-led coalition forces attacked Houthi rebels in Taez province on Monday in an attempt to retake the territory.

The UNHCR reported that thousands of Yemenis are fleeing to Djibouti across the Gulf of Aden.

Following the US state department’s announcement on Monday to sell $1.3bn worth of bombs to Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International reported that three types of bombs that the US proposes selling have previously been used in unlawful strikes in Yemen, which violated international humanitarian law. The US Congress now has 30 days in which to block the sale.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released evidence of the use of banned antipersonnel landmines by Houthis in Yemen, which have caused multiple new civilian casualties. HRW advocated for the UN Human Rights Council to create an independent international Commission of Inquiry to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law by all warring parties in Yemen.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Johannes Van der Klaauw announced that the ongoing war has caused over 32,000 casualties and 5,700 deaths, including 830 women and children. He also reported a dramatic rise in human rights violations, with an average of 43 violations occurring every day.


What else is new?

Jennifer Trahan, an Associate Clinical Professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, published an op/ed on the proposed “Code of Conduct” for Security Council action in the face of mass atrocities, calling on the United States to join.

During Geneva Peace Week, the Permanent Missions of Australia, Ghana, Hungary, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uruguay, with the support of the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Graduate Institute, held an event entitled “10th anniversary of Responsibility to Protect: A Focus on Prevention.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights delivered a statement on the implementation of RtoP, concluding with the notion that no discussion in the world today is more important than “our common responsibility, as human beings, to protect other people” – a strong affirmation of the core values behind RtoP.


Above photo: Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 18 November 2015, ASP 2015

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All eyes on upcoming elections as Kenya works to prevent the recurrence of atrocities

The people of Kenya are just days away from casting their ballots on 4 March in the country’s first election since the 2007 presidential race which resulted in unprecedented ethnic violence, leaving over 1000 people dead and 600,000 more displaced.  A country with over 70 distinct ethnic groups – the five largest being Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kalenjin, and Kamba – Kenya’s past elections have largely witnessed voting along ethnic lines. This year, eight candidates are running, among them Uhuru Kenyatta and his running-mate, William Ruto, both of whom have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged role in the commission of crimes against humanity following the 2007 elections. While the Kenyan government has undertaken a range of measures to prevent a repeat of 2007’s deadly crisis, including the adoption of a new constitution to redistribute political power, the training of police and civil society to identify and monitor  hate speech, and educating the Kenyan population on the newly established electoral process , civil society organizations have raised alarm to the sizeable risk of violence that remains.  As several NGOs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have reported,  Kenya has already experienced election-related inter-communal attacks that left over 400 dead and upwards of 118,000 displaced during 2012 and early 2013.  This election, which is expected to be extremely close and require a second round, known as a “run off” (scheduled for 11 April), will prove a great test for the Kenyan government as it works to uphold its responsibility to protect its population from the recurrence of mass atrocities, as well as ensure a free, fair and transparent presidential race.

Kenya’s 2007 disputed election: a political and humanitarian crisis

SG Meeting

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre, head table), flanked by Kofi Annan (left, head table), former United Nations Secretary-General, and Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, participate in a meeting to end the two-week old deadly violence sparked by recent disputed results of the presidential elections, with the major parties to the conflict.
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The presidential election of December 2007 swept Kenya into a wave of ethnically charged violence following the contested announcement of incumbent Mwai Kibaki as president over the predicted favorite to win, Raila Odinga. The declaration of Kibaki as president, followed by the swiftness of his inauguration a handful of hours later, triggered widespread and systematic violence characterized by ethnically targeted killings, which evidence later showed to be largely pre-meditated by politicians and community leaders. Crimes committed included crimes against humanity – one of the four crimes and violations that all governments, including Kenya, committed to preventing and halting when endorsing the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P). The international community acted rapidly to keep the volatile situation from deteriorating by deploying former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to serve as international mediator and head of the African Union Panel of Eminent Personalities.  The outcome of the Panel’s efforts was a power-sharing government that committed to address the long term issues and root causes of the conflict.

Pre-election preparation and reform: enough to prevent a repeat of 2007?

A range of preventive actions have been taken by the government, UN agencies, and civil society to prevent a repeat of the tragic violence that plagued Kenya five years ago.  Civil society and media representatives convened a forum organized by the Nairobi Peace Initiative – Africa and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, in Nairobi in early February 2013 to share their work to ensure peaceful elections, and discuss the concerns surrounding the poll with the goal of generating a collective voice and strategy for civil society and media.  At the national level, Kenyan authorities have trained hundreds of police and peace organization representatives in monitoring media and speech to bring attention to hateful language that can incite violence.  With the support of translators the monitors can identify hate speech in a range of dialects and, through partnerships with phone service providers, track phone messages too.

Monitoring will be crucial to determine the election results so organizations like the Carter Center, the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, and the Elections Observation Group, as well as the East African Community and the African Union, have dispatched teams to oversee the upcoming poll.

UN officials and agencies have been vocal and active as well, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling on all leaders to “abide by legal mechanisms and to send a clear message to supporters that violence of any kind would be unacceptable.”  The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, was in Nairobi in early February where he recalled the responsibility of the Kenyan authorities to protect and noted the need to ensure a swift response by the international community to prevent a repeat of 2007.  His office was there to work with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to support Kenya’s National Committee on the Prevention of Genocide, which included holding a five-day workshop on RtoP and the prevention of inter-communal violence. To ensure that all preparations are underway in the event of displacement, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, created a humanitarian contingency, with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons calling on the government and international community to do everything possible to prevent massive displacement.

The government itself has adopted numerous reforms to create the environment needed for peaceful and fair elections and to address the country’s deep seeded grievances.  While these actions should be commended, remaining challenges and incomplete reforms have left many NGOs questioning if the government’s response will be enough.

Constitutional reform

Following a 2010 referendum, Kenya adopted a new constitution to prevent ethnically charged politics and check the power of the executive.  This has been done by giving greater power and resources to local political leaders through the creation of what International Crisis Group (ICG) calls a “new level of governance”– the establishment of 47 districts each with their own governor, senator and assembly. The government has also adopted measures to ensure full geographic (and therefore ethnic) support for the president-elect by creating new voting rules that require the winning candidate to receive more than half of all votes and at least 25% in 24 of the newly established counties.  While these new rules will serve to spread power and responsibility to a range of politicians, the majority of Kenyans have not received the information needed to understand the new Constitution and voting rules, as the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC) found in its report entitled Countdown to the March 2013 General Elections.  Through conducting polls and interviews throughout the country, KHRC’s research indicated that increased and continuous civic education is crucial “to secure an informed public for future elections.”

The devolution of presidential power is also meant to keep the nation from erupting into large scale violence; however the new counties and positions could very well create the likelihood for localized conflict.  This is in part due to the increased influence that local politicians will hold, which may lead “many local leaders seek to preserve the system of ethnic patronage that devolution was intended to remove.  As a result, the mobilization of ethnic grievances to garner political support remains rampant,” as the Global Centre for R2P (GCR2P) points out. These findings were echoed in ICG’s report entitled Kenya’s 2013 Elections, where the organization elaborates on how the constitutional changes can lead to risk of violence, stating that “although the new level of governance should give communities, including minorities, a greater say (…), it could also transfer political competition, violence and corruption down and create new minorities and new patterns of marginalization.”

Strengthening the security sector

Efforts were also undertaken to address the failures of the police to protect in the aftermath of the last elections. During the violent crisis, the government responded with excessive force, with Amnesty International (AI) recalling the role of police in “killing and injuring protestors and raping and sexually assaulting women and girls, particularly in opposition areas.”  The government subsequently established an ambitious framework which, as the International Center for Policy and Conflict in Africa noted, was meant to “establish and elaborate an effective system of democratic regulation and oversight of security services;” however, as AI points out, the framework has not been implemented to the fullest, and the capacity of security personnel remains an inherent problem, placing civilians at risk of violence yet again.

Little has been done practically to bring to justice those responsible for violent crimes committed following the previous election, and AI has stated that steps have actually been taken to cover up and politically manipulate cases against security personnel.  As a result, while conducting on the ground research, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has heard from countless Kenyans that “they view the police as ineffective and corrupt.” As the elections approach, police also remain understaffed and ill-equipped, with the Council on Foreign Relations reporting that the Kenyan force has about 70,000 police, “or roughly 160 per 100,000 residents, which is less than three-quarters of the 220 per 100,000 recommended by the United Nations.”  These forces will be stretched to their limits when tasked with patrolling the polling stations, which could exceed 40,000 nationwide.

Ending impunity

Upholding accountability for crimes committed during the 2007 election remains a critical challenge for Kenya, and one that has already had an impact on the elections.  HRW also pointed out that little has been done nationwide to arrest and prosecute civilians responsible for attacks on people and property, leaving those responsible for 2007 election-related violence free to repeat their actions.

At the government level, impunity has been stated to be at the heart of the 2007 crisis, with the final report of the Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence calling for the creation of a domestic special tribunal.  After two failed government attempts to establish the tribunal, Kofi Annan sent to the ICC the names of a dozen suspects deemed most responsible, leading to the opening of an investigation by the Court’s then-Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.  From this investigation, six of the suspects, referred to in the media as the “Ocampo six”, were summoned to appear before the Court, ultimately resulting in the confirmation of charges for four of the “Ocampo Six”, including candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto.  The ICC indictments have influenced the presidential campaigns with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reporting that some are describing the polls as “a referendum against or for the ICC”.  The indictments have also resulted in an unexpected political alliance with the formation of the Kenyatta-Ruto ticket, as the two men are Kikuyu and Kalenjin respectively, two ethnic groups which violently targeted the other in 2007. Civil society organizations, including the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya (ICJ-Kenya), the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC), and the International Center for Policy and Conflict, fought to keep Kenyatta and Ruto from running, arguing that their candidacy violated the integrity clause of the new Constitution.  The Kenyan High Court, however, disagreed, ruling that it would not intervene, ultimately giving the two men the green light to participate.  This ruling has led many to wonder about the practicality of a Kenyatta/Ruto presidency, with ICJ-Kenya noting in their report entitled If Uhuru Kenyatta or William Ruto is Elected President or Deputy President, that such a presidency would cripple the government because the country would be left with leaders who are unable to carry out their vast domestic duties due to repeated trips to the Hague.  As of 27 February, the trial dates remained up in the air as the Chief Prosecutor for the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, indicated that she would accept a postponement of the trials to August.  Kenyatta and Ruto had been slated to begin their trials on 10 and 11 April respectively, with 11 April being election run-off date.

What do these risks mean for the elections and the people of Kenya?

As FIDH notes, the pre-election environment has been “marked by political parties and alliances’ mobilization of the population along ethnic lines, the re-activation or creation of illegal gangs and militia groups (…), cases of civilians arming themselves as a preventive measures, the use of hate speech or inflammatory coded language by politicians, vernacular radio stations as well as through social media: in other words, all the ingredients that led to the 2007/2008 violence.”  But 2013 does not need to be a repeat of the cycle of violence that has plagued the country.  As put by ICG, “the people deserve better.  (…) they deserve the change to vote without fear and elect leaders committed to reform and ready to serve society as a whole rather than the narrow interests of elites.”

While the Kenyan government should be commended for the steps taken, more can certainly be done at the domestic and international levels to ensure free and fair elections and uphold the state’s responsibility to protect from mass atrocity crimes.  This can include publicly committing to respect election rules and, as KHRC’s research found, providing civic education about the electoral process.  As HRW recommends, the government can take direct measures through the deployment of police “in adequate numbers to areas of potential conflict and ensure that they perform their duties impartially and with full respect of the law”.  This point was echoed by the GCR2P, who also noted that state authorities should “warn all Kenyans (…) that they will be held responsible for inciting, aiding or perpetrating mass atrocity crimes.”  For actors at the regional and international levels, ICG has called on leaders to send messages urging against “political interference with the elections and especially against the use of or incitement to violence”.  These are just some of the many steps the government of Kenya and the international community can take to prevent the spread of post-election violence.  These preventive efforts drive at the very heart of RtoP, which not only calls for states to halt mass atrocities, but to protect from genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing happening again.  The people of Kenya deserve the opportunity to elect a new president without the fear of mass atrocities; the time for preventive action is now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CICC’s release goes on to state:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Civil Society Reflections on the Lubanga Trial

The International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered its first ever verdict on 14 March in the case of the Prosecutor vs. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, marking an historic day for the international legal body and the fight against impunity for the gravest breaches of international law. The decision was also an important milestone for the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), as the ICC is an important tool under the norm’s preventive framework. The verdict sent a clear message to perpetrators of war crimes that such acts would not go unpunished.

The Court found Lubanga, the former President of the Union des patriotes Congolese (Union of Congolese Patriots or UPC) and Commander-in-Chief and political leader of UPC’s military wing, the Force patriotique pour la libération du Congo (Patriotic Force for the Liberation of the Congo) (FPLC), guilty of committing war crimes – in particular of conscripting, enlisting, and actively using children as soldiers – in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between September 2002 and August 2003.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, found guilty by the International Criminal Court for actively using children under the age of 15 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ICC/CPI/Evert-Jan Daniel/ANP)

Today, impunity ends for Thomas Lubanga and those who recruit and use children in armed conflict,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.In this age of global media, today’s verdict will reach warlords and commanders across the world and serves as a strong deterrent.”

Civil society organizations, including ICRtoP members Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), Human Rights Network Uganda (HURINET), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), as well as the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), Amnesty International, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) lauded the Lubanga verdict as an important step for the ICC in deterring and preventing egregious violations of international law.

CGS CEO Don Kraus remarked on the importance of the Lubanga verdict for the ICC and the rule of law:

“Lubanga’s guilty verdict is a landmark moment in the short history of the Court…“During the past decade we witnessed the Court mature from a fledgling institution, to one that delivers results, holds mass killers accountable, and helps bring justice to their victims. The precedents set in this case will affect how the ICC administers justice for the rest of this century, if not beyond.”

On the message the decision sends to would-be perpetrators, Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, stated:

The verdict against Lubanga is a victory for the thousands of children forced to fight in Congo’s brutal wars. Military commanders in Congo and elsewhere should take notice of the ICC’s powerful message: using children as a weapon of war is a serious crime that can lead them to the dock.”

A press release by ICRtoP Member HURINET and the Uganda Coalition for the ICC (UCICC) echoed both of these points, applauding the “sure and steady” process, which included victims in the proceedings, and the condemnation of the use of child soldiers in armed conflict, which, “deprive and rob children of their childhood, innocence and future.”

The verdict was also an opportunity to reflect on the processes of the Lubanga trial itself and the impact of the ICC’s intervention for the people in the Ituri region of the DRC, where Lubanga’s forces were most active.

While the decision was an historic moment for international justice, it was a long time coming: Lubanga was detained on 17 March 2006, but, according to the CICC, “two successive suspensions of the proceedings contributed to significant delays in the trial.” See HRW’s Q&A on the Lubanga trial, including why the proceedings were so delayed.

Concerns were also raised in the final judgment by the Court, which were echoed by HURINET and the UCICC, HRW, and the CICC in their respective statements, regarding the role of intermediaries in the Lubanga trial. It was found that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) should not have relied on local individuals and/or organizations in the DRC to establish contact with witnesses in the case, as the evidence provided by a number of witnesses was deemed unreliable.

As such, both HRW and HURINET and the UCICC called for improved field investigations conducted directly by the OTP, and for greater regulation and supervision of the role intermediaries play in the Court’s processes.

HRW also expressed the urgent need to bring Lubanga’s co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, to justice, with HURINET and the UCICC calling on all states to execute all remaining arrest warrants in the DRC.

Ntanganda was indicted by the ICC on 22 August 2006 for the same charges as Lubanga, but remains at large, and, according to the ICC, is allegedly still active as the Chief of Staff of the Congrès national pour la défense du people (CNDP) in North Kivu in the DRC.

This touched on a more general concern raised by HRW, who stated that the scope of the ICC’s involvement in the DRC was not deep enough. The human rights organization contends that the charges brought against Lubanga were too narrow, and do not adequately reflect other atrocities committed by him and his militia in the DRC. Also, HRW stated:

The ICC’s docket in relation to the DRC – currently limited to one other trial involving two leaders of an armed group that opposed the UPC in Ituri – fails to address the causes and extent of horrific crimes endured by civilians throughout eastern Congo.”

HRW called for a broader investigation into a fuller range of serious crimes, “in particular against those who armed, financed, and directed armed groups in eastern Congo.”

Reflecting on the importance of the trial for the people in Ituri, IRRI and the Association pour la promotion et la défense de la dignité des victims (Association for the Promotion and the Defence of the Dignity of Victims) (APRODIVI) took stock of the Court’s intervention in the DRC in order to better understand its impact on one of the most war-affected regions of the country.

Steps Towards Justice, Frustrated Hopes: Reflecting on the Impact of the ICC in Ituri chronicles how after years of devastating internal warfare, much was expected of the ICC’s involvement in securing peace and justice in the region by its people, including in preventing further atrocities. Years later, despite a “degree of appreciation for the Court’s work” and the Lubanga verdict, the report details from first hand accounts with individuals and organizations on the ground in Ituri that action is still needed from many actors – from the Congolese government to the ICC to the international community of states – to improve accountability for crimes committed in the region.

While the ICC’s first conviction is being celebrated, it remains unknown whether Lubanga and his lawyers will exercise the right to appeal the decision, what the sentence for his crimes will be, and the manner in which providing reparations for victims will proceed.

The reflections of civil society organizations highlight the crucial importance of learning from the trial. And if learned and implemented, as William Pace, Executive Director of the World-Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, Convenor of the CICC, and Co-Founder and Steering Committee member of ICRtoP stated, “the difficulties encountered during the course of this trial will serve to improve the expediency of those to follow and will someday bring about an end to the era of impunity.”  

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