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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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#R2PWeekly: 13 – 17 June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

The full report can be read here.


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

Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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


Burundi:

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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

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

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

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#R2PWeekly: 6 – 10 June 2016

Untitled

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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#R2P10: The Responsibility to Protect and Counter-terrorism

The following is the most recent submission to the ICRtoP’s RtoP at 10 blog series, which invites civil society and academic experts to examine critical country cases, international/regional perspectives, and thematic issues that have been influential in the development of the norm over the past 10 years, and that will have a lasting impact going forth into the next decade. The views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect those shared by the membership of the Coalition. Below is a piece by Kyle Matthews, Senior Deputy Director of Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), and Cédrick Mulcair, MIGS Junior Fellow.

On the 10th anniversary of the endorsement of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) by all member states at the United Nations, an important question has arisen: are we seeing a convergence between the mass atrocity prevention and counter-terrorism communities? While acts of terrorism and mass atrocity crimes are easily comparable and sometimes overlap, some human rights practitioners have demonstrated ambivalence in admitting that RtoP is more than just a humanitarian concept and touches upon national and international security.

Open Briefing by the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). Photo Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

Open Briefing by the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). Photo Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

Over the past few years, the world’s gaze has been routinely directed to atrocities committed by non-state actors in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and West Africa. There, groups such as the Islamic State, al-Shabaab and Boko Haram have been waging wars on their governments and respective civilian populations through mass casualty attacks. Yet these groups are more often condemned for acts of “terrorism”, as opposed to crimes against humanity.

Some even argue that acts committed by such groups fall outside of the scope of RtoP, and purely into that of counter-terrorism. The cause of this detrimental gap in interpretation dates to the manner in which the RtoP was initially discussed and endorsed at the 2005 World Summit. This can partly be explained by that fact much emphasis was placed on cementing the notion that national governments bear responsibility for not committing atrocity crimes against civilians in their respective jurisdictions, leaving non-state actors on the margins of the policy debate.

Ten years later, however, we are bearing witness to the truth that governments no longer hold the monopoly on the use of deadly violence against civilians. At the end of 2014 the British Broadcasting Corporation, in association with King’s College London, released a study which demonstrates just how deadly the situation on the ground has become for civilian populations where “terrorist” groups are present. The study’s data confirmed that in the month of November alone more than 5,000 people were killed in over 600 jihadist attacks across 14 countries, which averages seven casualties every hour. These statistics are not an anomaly; they represent a dangerous and increasingly worrying pattern that can be observed in three distinct corners of the globe.

Rally for the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Photo credit: UN photo.

Rally for the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Photo credit: UN photo.

In West Africa, Boko Haram, whose name can roughly be translated to “Western Education is a Sin”, has been on a bloody warpath against civilians (Christians in particular) in Nigeria since 2002 but has really escalated it mass atrocity crimes beginning in 2009. In the six years that followed the start of their insurgency, more than 13,000 civilians were killed by the group. Equally disturbing is that Boko Haram has made the decision to specifically target schools and students, while also kidnapping children where they are either forced or indoctrinated to become sex slaves, child soldiers or suicide bombers. Boko Haram has also committed atrocity crimes in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, drawing in their armies into the conflict. The problem has thus evolved to become truly regional, and in no way isolated within Nigeria’s borders.

Within the Horn of Africa, Al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab, or “the youth” continues to commit mass atrocity crimes with impunity. Operating initially out of Somalia, it has now expanded to attacking crowded population centers in surrounding countries like Kenya. The attack of April 4th 2015 on Kenya’s Garissa University which killed nearly 147 students and injured 79 more, stands as one example among many of their willingness to harm civilian populations. Al-Shabaab is also considered notorious for attacks such as the one on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in September 2013, where 67 civilians were killed. It also carried out suicide bombings against crowds watching a screening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final in Uganda, killing 74 and injuring 70.

Suspected al Shabab militants wait to be taken off for interogation during a joint night operation between the Somali security services and AMISOM forces in Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo Credit: AU UN IST PHOTO / Tobin Jones

Suspected al Shabaab militants in Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo Credit: UN PHOTO / Tobin Jones

Within Iraq and Syria, the now infamous Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) remains active and increasingly threatening. The transnational Sunni Muslim extremist group was best described by Alex Bellamy in his piece for the Canadian International Council “The Islamic State and the Case for the Responsibility to Protect”. Bellamy rightly points out that ISIS

“…as a matter of proudly held and publically proclaimed ideology, makes no distinction between soldiers and non-combatants. It makes blanket claims that peoples and individuals that fail to conform to its worldview are legitimate targets for killing. […] The IS has shot, beheaded, knifed, bludgeoned, burned and tortured its unarmed victims – every one of these instances a crime against humanity, if not an act of genocide. It stands opposed to the values that sustain the community of humanity”.

With the group expanding through affiliates in Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, the atrocity prevention community must begin formulating new strategies to protect civilians in these countries.

But most interesting is that Bellamy touches upon a central problem that RtoP advocates must begin finding the answers to. In his words:

“Others have claimed that the problems posed by IS are primarily ones of counter-terrorism, not RtoP. That view mistakes the nature of the organization’s violence. It also overlooks the reality that terrorism — understood as violence intentionally targeted against civilians — is itself often a crime against humanity. In some situations, such as that caused by the IS, counter-terrorism and RtoP are simply different ways of talking about the same problem: violent attacks on civilian populations. The fact that a crisis can be described in terms of counter-terrorism does not mean that it is not also a challenge to RtoP. IS is not unique in this regard, the same point applies to groups such as Boko Haram and al-Shabaab. More needs to be done in future to understand the contours of the relationship between RtoP and counter-terrorism.”

The positive news is that people are beginning to take note. In June 2015, the 5th annual meeting of the Global Network of RtoP Focal Points in Madrid brought this discussion to the fore. RtoP focal point, UN representatives and civil society actors held important policy discussions on terrorist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, opening the way to see countering violent extremism as an important first step towards the goal of preventing atrocities.

In the months and years ahead, those working on RtoP will need to achieve consensus on whether countering violent extremism and implementing certain counter terrorism measures are in fact a state obligation under RtoP. If a national government stops its citizens from traveling abroad to join a transnational terrorist group that is committing genocide, should that be considered a policy that advances atrocity prevention? Similarly, does cutting off domestic financing to extremist groups count as a positive policy response? Equally important, does the disruption of social media accounts that incite hatred and advocate for mass casualty attacks also fall under RtoP?

Though the topic and the questions it brings up are not easy ones to tackle, the human rights community, national governments and the United Nations have a duty to come together and discuss the convergence of mass atrocity and terrorism prevention. While the original RtoP report tabled in 2001 by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty did not contain many practical recommendations in protecting civilians from genocidal non-sate actors, it appears the time is ripe to further develop RtoP conceptually. We should not bury our heads in the sand and pretend the problem will simply disappear.

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“Convert, Pay, Flee, or Be Killed” Iraq’s Minorities Under Threat

The rapid advance of the Islamist militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that began in June of 2014 shocked the international community due to its ferocity and the sheer inability of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to stop the group’s progress. ISIS has now taken control of significant portions of north-western Iraq, declaring its goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate through Iraq and Syria.  

ISIS fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP. AP File.

Throughout the ISIS onslaught and the ISF counter-offensive, civilian populations have suffered gravely. Among the most troubling consequences are the targeting and expulsion of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as mass displacement that has affected nearly 1.2 million Iraqis. The United Nations, civil society groups, and the wider international community have expressed extreme dismay at the unfolding situation, sounding alarm bells over the commission of atrocities and the worsening humanitarian situation.

The recent announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama that he had authorized airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops, in part to protect the Yazidi minorities stranded and besieged on Mount Sinjar, is reflective of the dire situation. Many have hailed this move, as well as the offer of various forms of assistance by European governments, as necessary measures to prevent the imminent genocide of the Yazidi population, and a clear example of upholding the second pillar of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). Encouraging as this is, premature celebration would be naïve, as much work remains to solve the political impasse and humanitarian emergency that prevents the Iraqi state from upholding its primary protection obligations.

ISIS Targeting Iraq’s Minorities

Since the early days of the ISIS advance, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch has documented  the persecution of minority groups in great detail. In a statement released in July, the organization noted the “killing, kidnapping, and threatening” of religious and ethnic minorities in Mosul and the surrounding area. Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson warned that “Being a Turkman, a Shabak, a Yazidi, or a Christian in ISIS territory can cost you your livelihood, your liberty, or even your life.” She went on to state that “ISIS seems intent on wiping out all traces of minority groups from areas it now controls in Iraq.”

Violence against Iraq’s minorities is alarming for the fact that such targeting is identified as an indicator for determining the risk of genocide under the Analysis Framework released by the Office of the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide.  Indeed, ISIS has gone about destroying religious and cultural relics deemed heretical, while most of the Christian population have fled Mosul after the July 19th ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a tax, flee or be killed. This practice has spread to other Iraqi towns in recent days, as ISIS has begun to challenge the Kurdish Regions of Iraq, resulting in more devastating consequences for minority groups.

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Displaced Yazidis participate in demonstration at the Iraqi-Syrian border August 13, 2014. Reuters/Youssef Boudlal

The smoking gun that triggered a more proactive international response was the attack on the town of Sinjar that left approximately 25,000 Yazidi Iraqis trapped in the Sinjar Mountains. Before rescue efforts began, stranded Yazidis faced the very real risk of being slaughtered by ISIS as they attempted to leave, while those who remained were cut-off from adequate food and water supplies.  ISIS is believed to have killed several hundred Yazidis and threats from the Islamist group and other sympathetic Sunnis continue.

While it has been reported that many Yazidis have since been rescued, other accounts claim that those too weak to leave – namely children, the elderly, and the sick – remain immobilized on the mountain. Iraq’s Christian population faces similar dangers, as Qaraqosh – the  largest Christian town in Iraq – was recently overrun, creating 200,000 additional refugees that have faced the same ultimatum as those in and around Mosul.

UN Officials Respond to Mass Atrocities, Invoke RtoP

These worrisome developments have prompted a number of UN experts to express grave concern. The Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák has since stated that “All possible measures must be taken urgently to avoid a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours – civilians need to be protected on the ground and escorted out of situations of extreme peril.” She added that “the responsibility to protect populations at risk of atrocity crimes falls both on the Iraqi Government and the international community.”

The Special Advisers to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and The Responsibility to Protect, Adama Dieng, and Jennifer Welsh also condemned the attacks, warning that such acts “constitute grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity” Ominously, they also cautioned that “The reports we have received of acts committed by the “Islamic State” may also point to the risk of genocide.” Like other UN officials, they have called on regional and global actors to provide support to help avert further atrocity crimes.

Secretary-General meeting President elect of the Republic of Iraq. UN Photo.

Additionally, the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov drew special attention to the plight of vulnerable women, girls and boys after reporting that “Atrocious accounts on the abduction and detention of Yazidi, Christian, as well as Turkomen and Shabak women, girls and boys, and reports of savage rapes, are reaching us in an alarming manner.” The two jointly condemned these acts of sexual violence as potential war crimes and crimes against humanity, while joining other UN officials in invoking RtoP.

 

RtoP’s Second Pillar in Action

While the term ‘Responsibility to Protect’ was not used directly in authorizing airstrikes in Iraq, the action taken by the U.S. and others was requested by the Iraqi Government, and done—at least in part—with the intent of preventing an imminent genocidal threat to civilians.  For all intents and purposes, the assistance offered constitutes a second pillar response to a mass atrocity situation.

As ICRtoP’s recent publication on the matter explains, pillar two can indeed include the use of force when requested by a sovereign state; though this is usually subordinated to capacity-building measures that allow states to uphold their primary protection obligations. The latter has been pledged by the UK and Germany and includes financial and non-lethal aid to the Iraqi army, in addition to France’s offer to transfer arms to the Kurds.

Prominent RtoP scholars and advocates have confirmed the legitimacy of the U.S. intervention, lauding it as an appropriate measure to protect Iraq’s minorities.  For example, Gareth Evans wrote in an article titled “The Right Iraqi Invasion” that:

The United States’ action is completely consistent with the principles of the international responsibility to protect (R2P) people at risk of mass-atrocity crimes…The US military intervention touches all the necessary bases of legality, legitimacy and likely effectiveness in meeting its immediate objectives.

Similarly, Alex Bellamy clarified the intervention’s second pillar nature by stating:

This US action to help protect Iraq’s civilians from ISIS sits squarely under pillar two of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle, which relates to the international community’s responsibility to assist states to fulfill their responsibility to protect their populations…The use of force comes in response to a specific request for assistance from a member state—helping a state fulfill its R2P (as mentioned in paragraph 138 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome on R2P) and assisting a state under stress (paragraph 139 of the same agreement).”

Certainly, such assistance is a positive development for the Yazidi population, and a welcome example of the international community embracing its second pillar responsibilities. However, many challenges remain to permanently defeat the ISIS threat and to ensure all civilians are protected in Iraq.

 

A More Effective Pillar II Response

There is widespread acknowledgement that at the heart of the crisis is the political division between Sunni, Shia, and Kurds that has been fermented by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian form of governance, and prevented any unified response to extremism. In recognizing this reality, Obama reiterated a key tenant of the U.S. strategy when he authorized military action, stating that ultimately there can be “no military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.”

It is worth noting again that while current U.S. action falls within the second pillar of RtoP, there are also non-military protection measures that can be taken. While this includes the financial and logistical assistance provided by European countries, additional contributions can include dialogue and mediation assistance to help Iraqis overcome divisive issues obscuring the path to reconciliation. It is also important that actors assess how their assistance affects the likelihood of the further commission of atrocity crimes, and that action is taken accordingly.

In this vein, the recent Security Council resolution that extended the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) recognized the importance of dialogue and reconciliation and stressed the need for continued support to the Iraqi people, civil society and the Government in this regard.

International Crisis Group also recommends that “International recognition of Maliki’s legitimacy, or that of any successor, should be contingent on statesmanship, namely immediate and consequential movement on the reforms expected of him for years,” thus ensuring that the patterns of exclusion and repression are not repeated.

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Iraqi Yazidis receive assistance at the Newroz refugee camp. UK DFID.

RtoP’s second pillar also outlines a role for international actors to assist Internally Displace Persons when the capacity of the state to protect these groups is weak or non-existent. To this end, Amnesty International has encouraged an expanded effort to provide relief,  statingThe Iraqi central government, the Kurdish Regional Government, donor countries and international agencies must take concerted action to provide safe shelter and humanitarian assistance to men, women and children of all backgrounds forced to flee in the face of such ferocious brutality.”

The recent UN declaration that Iraq has reached a third level humanitarian emergency was made in hopes that it will “facilitate mobilization of additional resources in goods, funds and assets to ensure a more effective response to the humanitarian needs of populations affected by forced displacements.” It is now mostly up to the international community to provide this support.

Uniting to Protect Iraq’s Civilians

In Iraq, there remains a dual challenge of ensuring the immediate protection needs of threatened populations, and achieving a long-term political solution backed by a unified government, representative of all segments of society.  Maliki’s recent decision to step down after tension over the selection of Haidar Al-Abadi as his replacement is a positive sign of progress. Further pressure from the international community is needed to encourage Iraq’s leaders to set aside political and sectarian grievances and unite for the common cause of defending Iraq’s civilians from the extremist threat and averting an all out civil war. As UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres warnedThere is no way humanitarians can clean up the mess made by politicians. What they really need is peace.

For more information on the crisis in Iraq, see the country pages by ICRtoP and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

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