Tag Archives: Kenya

#R2PWeekly: 14 August – 18 August 2017

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Thousands of refugees forced back to uncertain security situation in Syria
The militant group Hezebollah escorted 3,000 Syrian refugees and rebels from Lebanon to Syria’s Qalamoun region on Monday, 14 August. The escort followed an evacuation operation also directed by Hezbollah about a month ago, which sent approximately 7,000 Syrians to the Idlib province in Syria. The UN has warned of the uncertain security situation facing the returnees and has indicated that many of them have been forced to move to satisfy political demands.

More than 1 million Syrian refugees have been registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut, and approximately 500,000 others are believed to be in other parts of the country. There are increasing concerns among Syrian refugees in Beirut that the Lebanese government is trying to push them back to Syria. “The pressure to leave is mounting, they want us to pretend that everything is OK [in Syria], that we are more vulnerable here than we would be there. The Lebanese don’t want us. It’s an uncomfortable time,” said Nabil al-Homsi, a long-term refugee in Lebanon. Bassam Khawaja, a Lebanon researcher for ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, said: “We’re very concerned about the lack of safeguards or any process in place to ensure that these returns are completely voluntary. Any forced or coerced returns would be a violation of Lebanon’s obligations under international law.”

Furthermore, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq stated on Monday that over 50,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, are stranded at the border of Syria and Jordan, an area where airstrikes are common these days. Haq added that there are scarce supply of food and healthcare, and around 4,000 people are living solely on water and flour. “The UN calls on all parties to the conflict to take the necessary steps to prevent further harm to the frightened and highly vulnerable individuals stranded at the border,” said Haq.


 

Catch up on developments in…

CAR
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Central African Republic:

30 civilians, including six Red Cross personnel, were killed in Gambo last week after clashes between state militia and a rebel group. The clashes took place just 47 miles from Bangassou, a town witness to heavy bloodshed. President of the Central African Red Cross Antoine Mbao-Bogo condemned the attacks and urged peace, calling “on all parties to take steps to spare the civilian population, and to respect all humanitarian workers.” The dramatic increase in violence has made the Central African Republic one of the worst places to be a child, according the United Nations International Children’s’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF). During a press briefing in Geneva, UNICEF spokesperson Donaig Le Du noted that the number of internally displaced people has increased from 444,000 to 600,000. Le Du added that the ongoing violence is the prime factor for such a huge number of displaced civilians.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Numerous reports released by UN agencies has underscored the severe food depravity currently engulfing the region. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), the number of those suffering from pre-famine level food shortages and in need of immediate humanitarian assistance has risen from 5.9 million in June 2016 to 7.7 million in June 2017. Furthermore, the UNFAO report underlined that persistent conflict in the Kasai region has deterred possibility for harvesting. In addition, the conflict has reportedly displaced approximately 3.7 million people nationwide.


Iraq:

Thousands of civilians have fled Tal Afar after airstrikes launched by Iraqi warplanes struck the Islamic State (ISIL) controlled town in preparation for an upcoming ground assault. The Iraqi army, federal police, and special forces units are expected to participate in the operation to recapture Tal Afar. The Shia armed group known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces is also expected to join the operation. Shia militants did not participate to a large extent during the fight in Mosul, a Sunni majority city, but they have vowed to take on a bigger role in the operation to recapture Tal Afar, a mostly Shia town prior to the conflict. Turkish officials have raised concerns of further sectarian conflict, as once the territories are liberated, Shia or Kurdish forces might push out Sunni Arabs from the area.

Civilians who have escaped Tal Afar have described severed shortages of food and water inside the town. “Most people drink water that’s not clean. The majority are surviving on that and a bit of bread,” said Alia Imad, a mother of three that paid $300 to a smuggler to help them escape. Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, said that humanitarian conditions in the town are “very tough” and added “thousands of people are leaving, seeking safety and assistance. Families escaping northeast are trekking 10 and up to 20 hours to reach mustering points. They are exhausted and many are dehydrated when they finally arrive.”


Kenya:

Violence broke out almost immediately after incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was named victor of the general elections by election authorities last week, claiming at least 24 lives. In response to the violence following Kenya’s elections, the UN urged calm, calling on opposition leader Raila Odinga to send a message of peace to his followers. Odinga, however, has challenged the results of the election, alleging the results have been distorted by the technology used to count votes, and has pledged to take the case to the Supreme Court.


Libya:

On Wednesday, 16 August, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that recently obtained video footage allegedly shows forces linked to the Libyan National Army (LNA) in eastern Libya performing summary executions of seven captives and desecrating their bodies. The executioners in the videos are likely to be members of forces led by Mahmoud al-Werfalli, who is now wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for murder as a war crime. Al-Werfalli is wanted for allegedly killing 33 people in and around Benghazi from June 2016 to July 2017. “The ICC warrant for al-Werfalli is a wake-up call to other abusive commanders in Libya that one day their serious crimes could land them in a prison cell in The Hague,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at HRW.

Meanwhile, three international aid groups, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres), Save the Children, and Germany’s Sea Eye, have suspended migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean, due to constant threats from Libyan coastguards. Boats of Libyan coastguards have continuously clashed with aid NGO vessels and sometimes even opened fire. The coast guard claims that the open fire was to assure control over the rescue operation. “In general, we do not reject [NGO] presence, but we demand from them more cooperation with the state of Libya … they should show more respect to the Libyan sovereignty,” said coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem on Sunday. NGO ships have played an increasing role in migrant rescues, saving more than a third of migrants in 2017 compared to less than one percent in 2014.


Mali:

Two separate attacks on the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have killed at least eight this week. The first attack took place in Timbuktu, where five MINUSMA personnel, one civilian and one police officer were killed. The second attack occurred 130 miles south of Timbuktu in Douenza, where a police guard and peacekeeper were killed. No one has claimed responsibility. The UN Secretary General’s office released a statement noting “attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law.”


Nigeria:

Early Friday morning, the Nigerian military raided a UN camp in Maiduguri, a region that is often the site of violence due to the presence of Boko Haram. According to a military statement, it had raided the area because of its violent inclinations and did not have a particular target. The raid at the UN camp lasted three hours as the military searched the premise. The raid comes after the military accidentally killed 90 civilians during an offensive on Boko Haram in January.

Boko Haram’s offensive continues to wage on, with another attack on two villages reported on Tuesday. This is the fifth attack in the past two weeks. To date, there is no official statement on how many have been killed in the most recent attack. In addition, at least 30 were killed and another 80 injured in a suicide attack in the Konduga district, a region that often witnesses suicide attacks by Boko Haram. Three women are suspected to have been the perpetrators of the attack.

President Muhammadu Buharu’s extended absence from the country has frustrated Nigerians, who have now called on him through protests to either return to the country or resign as President. Protestors were met with tear gas and bullets, and while there has been no report of injury, authorities say they are still investigating the incident. The now called “Resume or Resign” movement has been in place since 7 August, and crowds will gather on Wednesday to mark the President’s 100 day absence.


South Sudan:

In an attempt to appease the raging civil war, President Salva Kiir has released 30 political prisoners after he first declared their amnesty in May. Most of the former political prisoners were detained for their support of the opposition leader Riek Machar. President Kiir hopes that the release will alleviate the opposition in a civil war that has displaced nearly 25 percent of the 12 million residents.

Just a week after the government captured the rebel stronghold of Pagak, opposition forces have taken the town back. Civilians of Pagak describe the government’s “terrorizing” of the region, despite the government’s claims that it is liberating the region from rebel rule. The government’s offensive on Pagak had received criticism because of its violation of the ceasefire that had been in place since May. Opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel says that the taking back of Pagak from the government is a sign of strength.


Syria:

On 12 August, a group of armed people killed seven members of The Syrian Civil Defence group, also known as the White Helmets, in Idlib, which is mostly controlled by the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front. The victims were all shot in the head with pistols equipped with silencers, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an anonymous activist. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the attack might be “aimed to harm the image of the Nusra Front and to show that Idlib is not safe.” The activist speculated that Islamic State (ISIL) fighters carried out the attack as ISIL sleeper cells have been discovered in the area recently. Members of the White Helmets, mostly civilian volunteers, are well known for rescuing civilians in dangerous rebel-held areas since 2013, and were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. The US said in a statement that it was “saddened and horrified” by the attack. “These cowardly acts of masked men took the lives of civilian volunteers who work tirelessly as first responders in order to save lives in incredibly dangerous environments,” said the US state department. The French Foreign Ministry and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also condemned the attack.

Regarding accountability for war crimes in Syria, Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said on Sunday that the Commission has gathered enough evidence to convict President Bashar al-Assad of war crimes. Last week, del Ponte resignedfrom her role as she believes the Commission “is not backed by any political will.” When asked if there was enough evidence for Assad to be convicted of war crimes, she replied that there was, but added that blockage in the Security Council through the use of vetoes has rendered special prosecutors unable to bring the perpetrators to justice.


Yemen:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of suspected cases of cholera in Yemen has exceeded 500,000, with at least 1,975 deaths since late April. WHO said that although the overall caseload has declined since July, there are still approximately 5,000 people infected per day. Yemen’s health system is struggling to cope with the currently largest cholera crisis in the world, with over half of the medical facilities closed due to the two-year civil war between government forces and the rebel Houthi movement.

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#R2PWeekly: 24 July – 28 July 2017

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Preventing and addressing armed conflict:
The role of women in the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect

The international community continues not only to be challenged by its failure to prevent armed conflicts before they occur, but also in addressing them in a timely and effective manner. The ongoing crises in Burundi, Syria and Yemen, to highlight a few, emphasize the need for renewed leadership and engagement in putting prevention up front.

A wide range of treaties and norms are available to address the root causes of armed conflict and prevent its recurrence. In 2015 the United Nations carried out high-level reviews of its Peacebuilding Architecture, UN Peace Operations and the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The subsequent synthesis of these three reports provides a basis for renewed efforts in preventing armed conflicts, including the prevention of mass atrocity crimes.

The reviews drew linkages between the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect norm, the inclusion of women in peacebuilding and peacekeeping, and the ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court as tools and mechanisms for the prevention of armed conflict and ensuring lasting peace. They also underscored that systematic violations of human rights, in particular of women’s rights, and prevailing impunity for mass atrocity crimes, are among the root causes of armed conflicts and their recurrence. Further, they reminded us that participation of women constitutes a crucial dimension of broadening inclusion for sustaining peace and that peace negotiations and accords that are truly locally owned and inclusive of civil society and women have at least a 50% greater chance to succeed than those that do not.

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm offers a range of measures to reinforce national sovereignty and prevent the commission of mass atrocity crimes. RtoP is now widely understood to include three pillars of responsibility: (1) the responsibility of states to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing); (2) the wider international community’s responsibility to encourage and assist individual states in meeting that objective; and (3) If a state is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take appropriate collective action, in a timely and decisive manner and in accordance with the UN Charter.

Implementing RtoP is needed now more than ever if the international community is determined to prevent mass atrocities once and for all. Ensuring that the scope of the Responsibility to Protect norm includes a gender and accountability lens will further address the root causes of mass atrocity crimes, hence enhancing the RtoP preventive efforts. Through preventing discrimination and the violation of women’s rights, national stakeholders support the long-term prevention of atrocity crimes and their recurrence.

Furthermore, linking RtoP with the UN’s Women, Peace and Security agenda reinforces the international community’s ability to assist states to fulfill their responsibility to protect, under pillar two of the norm. United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325, which gave rise to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, was a landmark decision in addressing the gender gap in the peace and security arena. It recognized not only that women and girls are disproportionally affected by armed conflicts, but also that women are poorly represented in formal peacebuilding and peacemaking processes.

This excerpt is from an article written by Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy Executive Director of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, featured in the latest edition of the Liberal International Human Rights Bulletin. 

Please click here to read the full article.


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen


 

Burundi:

Last week, in an effort to prove that Burundi is now peaceful and safe, President Pierre Nkuruniza urged the more than 250,000 Burundi refugees currently in Tanzania to return to Burundi. The message came during a meeting with Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who also stated that he desires for Burundian refugees “to voluntarily return home.” The UN and local human rights groups have said the violence has continued, despite the joint statement of the leaders.

Michael Kafando, the UN Special Envoy to Burundi, urged inclusive dialogue during a meeting on 26 July in light of the political conflict that continues to pervade Burundi. As a “prerequisite” to any peaceful solution, Kafando emphasized the need for inclusive dialogue at the request of both domestic actors and neighboring countries that share concern for exiled opposition parties. Mr. Kafando noted with urgency the Burundi government’s need to comply with the needs of opposition factions.


Central African Republic:

A Moroccan peacekeeper from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) was killed in an attack allegedly carried out by the Christian-majority anti-Balaka militia. The attack occurred in the city of Bangassou, which has been notorious for its rising levels of violence in the past several months, and may be retaliatory in nature. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has condemned the attack and called for an investigation.


Cote d’Ivoire:

Recent military uprisings have ignited concern in local authorities regarding the security and stability levels in Cote d’Ivoire. The government effectively disabled the UN mission in Cote d’Ivoire on 30 June, and the mission itself expressed confidence that the country would be able to capitalize on the stability. Despite this confidence, military uprisings have reportedly been regular occurrences, with troops formerly associated with the rebel group Forces Nouvelles allegedly being responsible. Human rights groups are watching the potentially deteriorating situation with caution.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed met with President Joseph Kabila on Tuesday in a coordinated effort to “support and encourage” inclusive elections and development. The meeting occurred amid a report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in Congo (UNJHRO) accusing the DRC government of creating mass graves in the Kasai region, which has been beset with violence. The report detailed: “As of June 30, 2017, UNJHRO had identified a total of 42 mass graves in these three provinces [of Kasai], most of which would have been dug by [Congolese army] elements following clashes with proposed militia members.” Additionally, UNJHRO announced in early July that it had discovered what appears to be more mass graves, bringing the total found to around 80.

The DRC government has maintained that it has no connection to the mass graves, instead insisting that the rebel militias are responsible. Despite this, fears of a widespread ethnic conflict reminiscent of the country’s civil war have begun to resurface. The UN Human Rights Council will be forming a team in the coming weeks to probe the region’s human rights record.


Gaza/West Bank:

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, warnedon Tuesday that ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem is at “grave risk” of escalating into a religious conflict that would ultimately engulf the rest of the region. Mladenov urged Israel to fulfill its responsibility of upholding international human rights law and humanitarian law, reiterating that settlements in Jerusalem run against international law and norms, while also urging Palestinian leaders to avoid provocative statements that would aggravate the situation. Additionally, power struggles between the two Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas have further deteriorated the human rights situation in Gaza, with Mladenov insisting that, “Whatever the political differences between the Palestinian factions, it is not the people of Gaza who should pay the price.”


Iraq:

Geert Cappelaere, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, called on 22 July for the “immediate care and protection” of children in-war torn Mosul, which has been recently liberated from the Islamic State (ISIL). Cappelaere stated that while the worst of the violence may be over, many children in the city and surrounding region continue to suffer, as children in shock continue to be found in debris or hidden tunnels in Mosul and many have lost their families while fleeing. “Many children have been forced to fight and some to carry out acts of extreme violence,” Cappelaere stated.

Meanwhile, the 16th Division, a US-trained Iraqi army division, has allegedly executed dozens of men during the final phase of its battle with ISIL in Mosul, according to ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 27 July. HRW has called the executions a war crime and urged the US government to suspend all support for the 16th division. “Given the widespread abuses by Iraqi forces and the government’s abysmal record on accountability, the US should take a hard look at its involvement with Iraqi forces,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.


Kenya:

According to polls conducted this week, neither candidate in Kenya’s upcoming presidential election has enough voter support to secure a first-round win. The vote will decide whether incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is seeking a second term and has previously been accused of crimes against humanity after the 2007-2008 election crisis, will remain in power, or whether Raila Odinga, leader of the opposition and a former prime minister, will become the new Kenyan president. According to experts, the increased likelihood of a second round of votes has decreased voter confidence in the election’s stability.


Libya:

Libya’s UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, and the rival opposition leader, military commander General Khalifa Haftar, committed to a ceasefire and agreed to hold elections after a French-led peace negotiation on 25 July. The agreement included a commitment to “refrain from any use of armed force for any purpose that does not strictly constitute counter-terrorism,” according to a joint statement by the two parties. Also included in the statement was a commitment to “building the rule of law” in the country, as numerous armed groups have risen and taken advantage of Libya’s political chaos since longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi stepped down in 2011. The Islamic State (ISIL) has been among one of the armed groups taking advantage of Libya’s power vacuum when the group occupied the city of Sirte in 2015, but ISIL was then defeated by forces allied with the UN-backed Libyan government. Recently, forces from the nearby city of Misrata have increased patrol levels as troops have observed movements by ISIL in the south of Sirte, namely regrouping efforts and threats of attacks.


Nigeria:

Nigeria’s military has blamed an unexpected gathering of homeless civilians for a botched airstrike that killed 112 people. According to one military official, Major General John Enenche, the military forces responsible for the airstrike did not expect to group to congregate in the area, which is being used as a camp for internally displaced persons fleeing from Boko Haram. Enenche claimed that the military believed the mass of people to be Boko Haram insurgents; however, according to Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), the camp was registered and run by the military and therefore it is unclear why forces would have mistaken the people to be insurgents, rather than displaced persons.

Two internally displaced people (IDP) camps in Maiduguri were attacked on 24 July 2017 by suicide bombers working with Boko Haram. At least eight civilians were killed in the attacks, with another 15 being injured. In its increasing use of female suicide bombers, the terrorist group has been successful in its attack campaign in the region. These specific attacks occurred only a few days after Nigeria’s army Chief of Staff issued a 40-day deadline for Nigerian troops to locate Boko Haram’s leader and effectively eliminate the group.


South Sudan:

Riek Machar, exiled leader of the opposition group in South Sudan, has refused to agree to a ceasefire and instead called for new peace negotiations to take place outside of the country’s borders. The ceasefire was an effort to alleviate South Sudan’s current civil war, which first erupted in 2013 after President Kiir relieved Machar of his duties and armed factions began forming around ethnic lines. Machar is currently being held in South Africa to avoid further exacerbating tensions in South Sudan, which has been looked at closely during the ongoing war by the UN and other rights groups for a possible genocide. The South Sudanese government has also been blamed for using money to bolster troops rather than alleviate the famine affecting the country.


Syria:

After the US announced its decision to halt support to rebel groups, the Syrian government said Monday that this could be a start towards ending the six-year civil war. Syria’s national reconciliation minister Ali Haidar said the government planned to reach more “reconciliation agreements” with rebels in the de-escalation zones established by Russia. Haidar further indicated that the Syrian government sees the US move to halt support as more an admission of failure than a policy shift.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have successfully suppressed insurgents in western Syria, and rebels and civilians were given choices to either evacuate or comply with government ruling. The Syrian government describes such deals as a “workable model” to bring the country closer to peace. However, the opposition said the deal is simply a tactic of forcibly displacing people who oppose Assad. In response to critics, Haidar said many people have returned to their homes after local deals ended the fighting.
Furthermore, the defence ministry of Russia said military police forces have been sent to de-escalation zones in Eastern Ghouta, on the edge of the Syrian capital Damascus, and to an area in the southwest of the country. This is the first time foreign police forces have been despatched to help establish the de-escalation zones.

In the fight with the Islamic State (ISIL), on Saturday, 22 July, Syrian government forces and their allies have recaptured territory from ISIL southeast of the group’s stronghold Raqqa, which is a rare advance for Syrian government forces in that area since it is close to the area controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). SDF has continued to advance into Raqqa, and the US-led coalition is increasing assistance to the Raqqa Civilian Council, which was formed by SDF in order to govern Raqqa after its liberation from ISIL. After meeting with members of the council on 23 July, the US-led coalition said it is prepared to work with the council to secure gains made in Raqqa and that the council is doing “great work” in assisting displaced residents. Still, the council said it needed more assistance to address the challenges in the city.


Yemen:

On 24 July, the executive directors of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP) visited cities held by both the government and Houthi rebels in Yemen, where war, cholera, and famine have claimed thousands of people’s lives and displaced millions. The war between the Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed rebels has resulted in the blockading of ports along Yemen’s coastline, so that millions have been cut off from access to food and medicine, and less than half of Yemen’s medical facilities are functional. With the cholera outbreak being solely responsible for 1,800 deaths and 370,000 infected, the need for these medical facilities is stronger than ever. The UN organizations estimated that 10 million civilians are in acute need of life-saving aid due to the outbreak and looming famine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#R2PWeekly: 17 July – 21 July 2017

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Syria peace talks come to a close with “no breakthrough”
as battle for Raqqa continues
The seventh round of Syria peace talks held in Geneva ended in a stand-still, with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura describing the process as having “no breakthrough, no breakdown.” He added that the Syrian government is still unwilling to discuss political transition, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s representatives continuing their focus on the “fight against terrorism.” Syria’s main opposition group, which believes that the end of “terrorism” would not be possible without stability in Syria, has failed to put the peace talks’ spotlight on political transition in Syria.

At the same time, France has asked major powers involved in the Syrian crisis to join a contact group that would make proposals to warring parties in order to break a deadlock in political negotiations, the French foreign minister said. France’s policy on Syria has changed recently, as President Emmanuel Macron no longer sees Bashar al-Assad’s step down as a precondition for talks, despite other French officials insisting he cannot be involved in the Syrian government long-term. “Mr. Macron knows well that Bashar al-Assad is the enemy of the Syrian people, but he at the same time is also the enemy of humanity. We cannot ignore a criminal like Assad who used chemical weapons on civilians,” said Nasser al-Hariri, the lead opposition negotiator.

Furthermore, in a move suspected to appease the Russian government, President Trump has ended the CIA’s covert program assisting and arming anti-Assad rebels, a program installed under the Obama Administration. The decision was made with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security advisor HR McMaster under an administration whose decision has been interpreted as a concession to the Russian government to some US officials. While the Obama Administration had considered this option, it chose to remain in the region out of strategic positioning. Now that it has been pulled by the Trump administration, experts believe radical groups may be encouraged by this news. Some have argued that this decision also risks other countries meddling in Syria to provide arms to dangerous groups.

Meanwhile, fierce fighting between US-backed forces and the Islamic State (ISIL) has continued in Raqqa this past week, as ISIL has continued defending its stronghold in the city. According to the Syrian Observatory Observatory for Human Rights, an estimated 35 percent of Raqqa is now under the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) control. Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman stated that a steady stream of civilians have been fleeing ISIL-held districts, adding that “whenever there is a lull in the fighting, they leave towards areas held by the SDF.” For its part, the SDF said on its social media accounts that its forces “managed to free about 500 civilians who were trapped inside the Al-Daraiya and Al-Tayar neighborhoods, as well as 150 others from the Old City.” The UN estimates that up to 50,000 civilians remain trapped inside the city, down from around 100,000 people estimated at the end of June.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Syria
Yemen


 

Burma/Myanmar:

According to a report from The World Food Program (WFP) released on Monday, 17 July, 80,500 Rohingya children living in Rakhine are “wasting” — a condition of rapid weight loss that can become fatal — and will need treatment for acute malnutrition. Rakhine state has been under a military lockdown since October 2016, while the security forces have allegedly been conducting mass killing, raping, and torture against Rohingya Muslims.

Around 75,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine to Bangladesh since the beginning of the military’s operation, according to UN estimates. The United Nations Human Rights Council has planned to send a fact-finding mission to Burma, but the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has refused to issue visas to the UN team. The refusal amounts to “a slap in the face to victims who suffered grave human rights violations by Myanmar’s state security forces,” said John Fisher, an ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch representative in Geneva. Fisher further implied that “it would be a travesty” for Burma to block independent international investigators.


Burundi:

The UN Special Envoy to Burundi, Michael Kafando, has completed his consultations between the government and civil society and is expected to present the results to the Secretary-General on 26 July. The Burundi government has stated that it welcomes these efforts, and hopes that it will represent the “real situation” in Burundi.

Local human rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the human rights violations that have rattled the region since President Nkurunziza’s announcement to seek the presidential office for a third term. The Burundi government, however, withdrew from the ICC after it believed the ICC to be threatening to its sovereignty. In addition, Burundi has also suspended its collaborative efforts with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights after a report released accused the Burundi government of human rights violations.


Central African Republic:

The Security Council has stated its concern that ongoing clashes between warring factions in CAR, as well as continuing violence against UN peacekeepers there, may violate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Members of the Council have agreed that the violence “continues to destabilize the country [and] cause many civilian casualties and large displacements of the population.” The violence is rooted between the Muslim Seleka and anti-Balaka factions, whose fighting has affected the country since 2012. According to Eric Batanon, County Director for the Norwegian Council, “The number of families displaced from their homes has increased to a level we have not witnessed since the peak of the conflict in 2014.”


Cote d’Ivoire:

On 15 July, Cote D’Ivoire held bilateral meetings with Liberia in order to enhance the effectiveness of their collaboration in sustaining peace and security. Both countries also discussed the continued maintenance of roads, which are imperative for transporting goods between the two countries. The countries agreed to work constructively to assist one another in sustaining growth in both regions.


Iraq:

On Monday, 17 July, the UN envoy for Iraq Jan Kubis expressed concerns about the rise of revenge attacks in Mosul against civilians who are believed to be linked to Islamic State (ISIL) militants. After the liberation of the city, civilians who are seen as having ties to ISIL are increasingly being subjected to “evictions, confiscations of homes, and other retribution and revenge measures,” said Kubis, adding that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should take “urgent steps” to stop the attacks, as actions taken against civilians without sufficient evidence violate Iraq’s constitution and international law. Kubis also warned the Security Council that the future in Mosul is “extremely challenging” and stressed that securing the rule of law and promoting development will be crucial in turning victory into stabilization of the just liberated City. ISIL still controls some territory outside Mosul and some bigger areas in neighboring Syria.


Kenya:

Ahead of the August elections, Kenya has stated that it has begun taking measures aimed at ensuring safe and fair elections. Security officials have imported equipment meant to maintain crowd control, such as guns and teargas, in anticipation of violence. While Kenya is not expected to shut down the internet, social media may be closed off to the public “if necessary” due to concerns of users who may mislead the public about election results. To ensure the security and safety of the election, neighboring countries Burundi, Uganda and Ethiopia are expected to shut down internet access. Furthermore, Kenya has installed cyber security systems in case of election fraud, which leading opposition candidate Raila Odinga expressed concern for.


Libya:

The UN called on Tuesday for the Libyan National Army (LNA) to investigate alleged torture and summary executions of prisoners by the Special Forces, a unit aligned with the LNA. The LNA effectively controls the eastern part of the country and is expanding into central and southern Libya while fighting with forces linked to the UN-backed government in Tripoli. Last March, the LNA announced that it would conduct investigations into alleged war crimes but has not shared any information since then, according to UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell. “We urge the LNA to ensure there is a full, impartial investigation into these allegations,” Throssell said. Furthermore, Throssell called on the group to suspend Special Forces field commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli, as videos have circulated on social media that allegedly showed al-Werfalli shooting bound prisoners and overseeing torture and summary executions. In response, the LNA has declined comment on the videos.


Nigeria:

Eight people are dead and 15 others injured after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb outside of a mosque in northeastern Nigeria on 17 July. This comes after an increased number of attacks committed by women sent by Boko Haram. The Nigerian government declared it had defeated Boko Haram several months ago, but coordinated attacks have persisted. The World Food Programme has estimated that as a result of Boko Haram’s attacks, 4.5 million people are in need of emergency food aid.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed visited Nigeria to urge the government to further invest in advancing women’s rights in addition to promoting peace. Ms. Mohammed met with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and has expressed confidence that the development of women will contribute to peace-sustaining efforts in the region.


South Sudan:

On 16 July, South Sudan’s government acknowledged that its forces had used offensive campaigns to reclaim Pagak, a stronghold of the rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), which aligns with former Vice President Riek Machar. According to the presidential adviser of military affairs, the act was provoked by the rebels’ failure to observe the ceasefire, though some disagree and state that the ceasefire does not include the Pagak region. 5,000 civilians have already been forced out of their homes in the region and have fled to neighboring Ethiopia, exacerbating the refugee crisis.


Sri Lanka:

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, Ben Emmerson, criticized Sri Lanka for its slow progress in bringing perpetrators of war crimes and other human rights abuses to justice. The Sri Lankan military allegedly killed thousands of civilians, mostly Tamils, during the last weeks of the civil war with Tamil separatists, which ended in 2009. Sri Lanka has previously promised an impartial investigation into human rights violations in the country, but President Maithripala Sirisena then indicated that he would not allow foreign judges to take part in the investigation. Emmerson said if Sri Lanka failed to meet its previous commitment, it could face a range of measures, such as a referral to the UN Security Council. The Sri Lankan government has responded that it needs more time to tackle the abuse charges cited by Emmerson. Sri Lankan Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa defended the slow process by explaining that, as a democracy, Sri Lanka’s government could not “make laws immediately.”


Syria:

The European Union has continued to support transitional justice initiatives and international justice mechanisms in Syria. Recently, the EU funded €1.5 million to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in Syria.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Lebanese government to conduct an independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into the deaths of Syrians in military custody and allegations of torture and ill-treatment. On June 30, the Lebanese army raided two unofficial refugee camps in Arsal and encountered suicide bombers, a bomb, and a grenade, resulting in the injury of seven soldiers. The army detained 356 people following the raids and referred 56 for prosecution. On July 4, the Lebanese military said four Syrians who “suffered from chronic health issues that were aggravated due to the climate condition” died in its custody, however, the pictures of the bodies showed signs of physical torture, according to HRW. Moreover, former detainees told HRW that army personnel beat and ill-treated them. A military officer told HRW that the army is investigating the deaths and would publish its findings.

Obstacles have mounted for international aid groups to deliver aid to stranded Syrian refugees near the border with Jordan. In 2016, UN agencies agreed to a controversial aid system that critics say gave much of the control over aid distribution to Jordan’s military and armed forces on the Syrian side. The system has failed repeatedly and only sporadic aid shipments have reached the refugee camps, while rival groups accused each other of diverting aid. Critics say the struggle to provide aid reflects the international community’s wider failure in responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. Around 5 million Syrians have fled their home since the civil war, but countless others are still trapped in the country after neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey largely closed their borders. “Syria is locked in, and I think this is an issue which is not at all in the public debate or being raised by the aid agencies,” said Kilian Kleinschmidt, a former Jordan-based UN refugee agency official. Countering criticism, Jordan defended itself and indicated that it has absorbed far more refugees than wealthier Western countries, and Islamic militants on the border pose a security threat.


Yemen:

A Saudi-led coalition air attack allegedly killed at least 20 civilians in southwest Yemen on 18 July, according to the United Nations and witnesses. Those killed are believed to have been in their homes when the attack took place and the majority of the victims are likely to be from the same family. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked and saddened” at reports of casualties in the aerial attack and added that the civilians had fled fighting in the nearby Mokha district. “This latest incident once again demonstrates the extreme dangers facing civilians in Yemen, particularly those attempting to flee violence, as they disproportionately bear the brunt of conflict,” a representative for UNHCR said in a statement on Tuesday. Yemen’s human rights minister, Mohammed Askar, described the attack as an “unfortunate incident” and called for a government investigation, while Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam condemned the attack as a “monstrous crime.” The coalition has allegedly bombed civilian gatherings, markets, hospitals, and residential areas across Yemen. The allegations assert that the coalition is responsible for over 8,160 civilian deaths since the beginning of its campaign against Houthi rebels in 2015. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has reiterated it does not target civilian neighborhoods, despite the accusations by human rights groups.

Moreover, the Saudi-led coalition prevented a UN flight carrying staff from an international aid agency from flying to Houthi-controlled areas, according to UN officials. Aviation sources said the flight was blocked because there were 3 BBC journalists on board, and the coalition has advised the journalists to travel on commercial planes since they could not guarantee their safety in rebel held areas, according to Ahmed Ben Lassoued, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen. “It’s unfortunate and partially explains why Yemen, which is one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, is not getting enough attention in international media,” Lassoued added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#RtoPWeekly 1-5 May

Human rights issues to be reviewed at UN Human Rights Council

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a new report this week calling on all UN Member States to denounce the Philippines’ deadly “war on drugs”, which has resulted in the killing of over 7,000 people in less than a year. Since President Rodrigo Duterte took power in June 2016, numerous nongovernmental organizations, including HRW, as well as various UN and media sources have reported cases of extrajudicial killings, which, as HRW has argued, may amount to crimes against humanity. In light of these reports, as well as those of cases of torture, enforced disappearances, and violations of children’s and reproductive health rights, among other issues, HRW has called on all UN Member States to “urge the Philippines to support an international investigation into the killings, given the Philippine government’s own failure to impartially investigate or prosecute those responsible.”

Estimates have shown that the number of deaths related to the “war on drugs” may have reached 8,000. However, Philippine police have disputed those totals, as well as the alleged extrajudicial killings. In addition, Ramon Apolinario, the Philippine’s Police Deputy Director General, has declared that the killings are also a result of infighting between drug dealing groups. However, Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, has argued that “[T]he recent discovery of a secret detention cell, where drug suspects were being detained without charge, in conditions which may amount to cruel and inhuman treatment, suggests that further violations by police may be occurring, which have not yet been uncovered.”

Next week, on Monday, 8 May, the Philippines will be one of 14 countries to be examined under the latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Among the issues that will be discussed during the review is the large number of alleged extrajudicial killings in the country. Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, has stated that, “The UN review of the Philippines is critical because of the sheer magnitude of the human rights calamity since President Duterte took office last year,” adding that “Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has been nothing less than a murderous war on the poor.” UPRs are conducted on all 193 UN Member States and the Philippines’ last UPRs were carried out in 2008 and 2012. However, this will be the country’s first UPR since Duterte has taken office.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ignored calls for a government investigation into the extrajudicial killings and has declared that he shall not be “intimidated” by a possible referral to the International Criminal Court. In April, Jude Sabio, a lawyer from the Philippines, filed a 77-page complaint to the International Criminal Court against President Duterte and other government officials accusing them of repeated extrajudicial killings that may amount to crimes against humanity.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
DRC
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:
During a press conference in Brussels on 2 May with the European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi rejected the Commission of Inquiry dispatched by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the state’s alleged crimes against the Rohingya people, which may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Aung San Suu Kyi argued that the suggested resolution is “not keeping with what is happening on the ground,” further adding that “those recommendations which will divide further the two communities in Rakhine we will not accept, because it will not help to resolve the problems that are arising all the time.”

Burundi:

According to the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), a convoy of food aid that had been blocked from entering Burundi on 3 May has been returned to Rwanda. Burundi authorities had prevented the shipment from entering due to “security issues.” The aid would have supplied enough food for about 112,000 people.


Central African Republic:

This week, ICRtoP member Human Right Watch reported that armed groups fighting for control of a central Ouaka province in the Central African Republic (CAR) have targeted civilians in several attacks over the past three months. These attacks, which are apparently retaliation-driven, have left at least 45 people dead and at least 11,000 displaced. The clashes are between the ethnic Fulani Union for Peace in the CAR (UPC) and the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the CAR (FPRC), both of which are seeking to become the dominant power in the region.

Recent resurging violence in the CAR has left full villages emptied and destroyed, with Medecins Sans Frontieres emphasizing that civilians are being attacked in the country at “levels not seen in years.” Despite the increasing needs, humanitarian funding for the year for the country is at only 10 percent. UN officials say the “disastrous” lack of support hurts the possibility of peace.

The US and its African allies have officially terminated their search for Joseph Kony, the infamous leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army and director of over 100,000 murders and atrocities in central Africa over the past few decades, as many analysts claim that Kony’s influence has now been drastically reduced. Kony was one of the first people the International Criminal Court had indicted for crimes against humanity but he still has yet to be caught, and therefore many experts worry that the removal of troops will leave many people in the CAR at risk.


Cote d’Ivoire:

On 1 May, the UN announced its intention to complete its peacekeeping engagement with Côte d’Ivoire, concluding a 13-year effort. According to the UN, the efforts of the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) have culminated in the restoration of peace and stability in the country, which had been particularly fragile after the post-2010 election crisis. UNOCI is in the process of ensuring the sustainability of the peacekeeping successes achieved thus far and will close the doors of its mission permanently on 30 June.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, became the first UN official for Human Rights to have visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday, May 3. Special Rapporteur Aguilar met with the Foreign Ministry Ambassador for Human Rights Ri Hung Sik in Pyongyang and is arranged to have more meetings with government officials in an effort to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in the country.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On 1 May, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) indefinitely postponed voter registration in two provinces of the central Kasai region after the brutal killing of Philippe Iyidimbe, an Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) official, on 3 April. The state has accused the Kamwina Nsapu rebel militia of carrying out the murder. The UN has previously accused the Nsapu militia of using child soldiers and committing several other atrocities in the country.


Kenya:

Kenya’s government has continuously shown harsh hostility to human rights activists in the country, according to a report by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). The government allegedly has blamed rights groups in the country for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s former International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment for crimes against humanity, which have since been dropped. The same report alleged that violence, kidnapping, murder, and torture are amongst the methods used by the state in retribution against the activists it has deemed responsible.


Libya:

During a joint press conference on 1 May with his Libyan counterpart, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurs stated that Libya can only resolve its problem of “illegal immigration” into Europe in a climate of political and economic stability, adding that refugees saved from perilous situations during their travels should not be guaranteed entry to European countries. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch issued an open letter to Kurs on 3 May, declaring his statements as feeding the “misinformed and xenophobic narratives in Europe” and that they will only result in worse conditions for Libyan refugees.

In a “diplomatic breakthrough” on 2 May, the head of Libya’s UN-backed government, Fayez al Sarraj, met with General Khalifa Haftar, the head of the rival faction supported by the country’s Parliament, in an effort to outline an agreement and resolve tensions. This most recent meeting marks the second its kind since Sarraj was named the designated Prime Minister in late 2015. No official statement was made after the meeting, but it is expected that new elections will be held in the upcoming several months.


Mali:

According to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, at least one person was killed and nine wounded in an attack on its camp near the city of Timbuktu on 4 May. There was no direct claim of responsibility, but al Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups have conducted attacks in the past against the Malian government and its allies, so these groups are being looked at as possible culprits.


Nigeria:

Amnesty International denounced on 3 May the increasing arrests and intimidation of bloggers and demonstrators across Nigeria. While underscoring the authorities’ determination to suppress the right of freedom of expression, it urged the government to respect international human rights law in protecting this right.


South Sudan:

An advance party of peacekeepers, specially mandated to use force to protect civilians, arrived in Juba on 1 May. The 13-member group will provide support for engineering operations and help to prepare camp sites for the rest of the peacekeepers. The group’s enhanced mandate was given by the UN Security Council after last year’s violent clashes in Juba escalated the country’s civil war and resulted in hundreds of deaths. The group will be reinforced in the upcoming months.

On 30 April, the African Union (AU) voiced its “deep concerns” over the increased violence in South Sudan and called on the warring parties to abstain from escalating tensions. The AU representative declared that these groups, including the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, are endangering civilians despite declaring they seek to defend them. Further, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) called on the South Sudanese army to immediately cease attacks in the Upper Nile region, saying the state army is responsible for the violence that displaced 25,000 civilians.

On 29 April, the UN urged the government of South Sudan, as well as the other warring parties in the war-torn nation, to cease hostilities and uphold their responsibilities to protect civilians in the face of the recent government offensives in various parts of the country.


Syria:

According to a report released on Monday by ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, the sarin gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun is a part of a series of “widespread and systematic” chemical attacks since December 2016 by the Syrian forces. According to investigations, the Syrian forces continue to attack civilian targets, such as hospitals and medical workers. These alleged crimes may amount to war crimes. During April alone, there have been 10 such alleged government attacks on hospitals and similar facilities.


Yemen:

On Tuesday, 2 May, a group of United States congressmen urged US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the government administration to reconsider their support for a Saudi-led coalition attack on Hodeidah, the Houthi-controlled port in Yemen, due to the devastating humanitarian consequences such an attack would create. A similar letter was issued by 55 members of the US Congress on 10 April by 55, which urged President Trump’s administration to obtain the US Congress’s authorization for any military action in Yemen.

On Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned of the repercussions that such an attack would have on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region, including a severe increase in the loss of civilian lives.

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#RtoPWeekly: 24 – 28 April 2017

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ICRtoP releases new infographic on the situation in Burundi

Burundi Infografic

The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) continues to mark Genocide Awareness Month with a series of infographics and blog posts with updates on current crisis situations from around the world.

This week, the ICRtoP has released a new infographic on the situation in Burundi. This document provides an overview of the country’s past conflicts and the impacts that history, ethnic tensions, and key actors within the country and throughout the international community have on the situation. With this infographic and all of ICRtoP’s educational tools, the ICRtoP seeks to contribute to the goal of strengthening awareness of and action on atrocity prevention.

To view the latest infographic on the situation in Burundi, please click here.

To view all of ICRtoP’s educational tools, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:
On 24 April, the Burmese government and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) sought to agree on a venue for a national-level political dialogue in Shan State. Public political dialogue is a mandatory step of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), which seeks to end the ethnic-based conflict in the state. As of now, the groups have been unable to come to an agreement.

Burundi:

Civil society organizations within Burundi have urged all of the country’s exiled citizens to organize protests from 26 April onward against egregious human rights violations occurring in the country, including an increasing amount of extra-judicial executions and forced disappearances. Organizers of the protests have stated that citizens within Burundi cannot take part for fear of being killed or tortured.


Central African Republic:

On 20 and 21 April, the government of the Central African Republic held talks with representatives of 14 armed groups in an effort to speed up disarmament. The move is unprecedented for the country, as CAR has been plagued by violence for years. According to the head of the disarmament process for the UN peacekeeping mission in Central Africa (MINUSCA), progress has been substantial and the National Plan for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) has been outlined in detail.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report released on 21 April, children in the Greater Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are being severely impacted by the extreme violence occurring there. More than 1.5 million children are at risk of death or injury, with about 600,000 already displaced from their homes. According to the UNICEF representative in the DRC, hundreds of children have already been targeted, with several reports of the detention, raping, and execution of underage civilians.

The DRC’s government has released a video to reporters that shows members of the Kamuina Nsapu militant group executing the two UN investigators whose bodies were found in Kasai-Central province last month. US citizen Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zaida Catalan were investigating reported mass graves in the DRC and were explicitly told in the video that they would be led to the graves, yet were executed by the militant group instead. The UN has stated that it is “utterly horrified” by the video.


Iraq:

On Sunday 23 April, Islamic State (ISIL) fighters attacked a police base in Hamam al-Ali, 30km from Mosul, killing at least three policemen. Reporters from a local television channel said that at least two suicide attackers entered the facility before detonating their payloads.

Meanwhile, civilians are finally returning home in Mosul, as Iraqi forces retake neighborhoods from ISIL in the western part of the city. However, water shortages continue to plague those portions of the city, and UN humanitarian partners have begun to truck water in during the past few days. Emergency food and hygiene supplies have been distributed to families close to the front lines, but the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq is currently only 17% funded out of its $958 million goal, and therefore more financial help is needed in order to reach civilians.

On Tuesday 25 April, the Turkish government launched airstrikes against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in northern Iraq and northeast Syria, killing at least 24 people. The attack was launched in order to prevent the group from sending “terrorists, arms, ammunition, and explosives to Turkey,” according to a government statement. Fighters from the PKK, Rojava Defence Units (YPG), and Peshmerga group were all killed in the attack.


Kenya:

Kenya’s ruling Jubilee Party will again seek to formally select candidates for elections in August. Last week’s primaries were plagued by conflict, violent protests, and accusations of ballot rigging, resulting in the party postponing the elections. The government of Kenya has promised to take “decisive action” in order to halt the increased violence over the primaries, but did not specify what that action would entail.


Libya:

Italy has brokered a diplomatic breakthrough in regards to finally putting an end to the political violence in Libya. The meeting, overseen by the Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, has for the first time brought together the presidents of the Libyan House of Representatives, Ageela Saleh, and the Libyan State Council, Abdulrahman Sewehli.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has unsealed an arrest warrant for Libya’s former security chief, Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled. The ICC is accusing him of carrying out war crimes and crimes against humanity against opposition forces fighting the country’s former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011. The Court’s prosecutor said that prisoners across Libya were subjected to beatings, electrocution, and acts of sexual violence and rape, which the prosecutor stated were consistent with a policy designed by the state to quash the political opposition. Khaled, the court stressed, had the authority to implement Gaddafi’s orders.


Mali:

On 24 April, the ICRtoP member International Crisis Group drafted an open letter to the UN Security Council regarding the security situation in Mali and the upcoming renewal of the UN’s mandate there. International Crisis Group includes several recommendations on how the Council can best adapt the current UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to the evolving situation on the ground, including increasing the capacity of the civil and political divisions.


Nigeria:

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has accused Cameroonian authorities of forcefully repatriating Nigerian refugees, an action that violates international refugee laws and potentially puts the group at great physical risk. MSF insisted that Boko Haram insurgents were still active in the southeastern bordering regions of Nigeria to which the refugees had been forcefully relocated.

Meanwhile in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has been blamed for two attacks on 24 April resulting in eight deaths. The suicide bombers comprised most of the casualties.


South Sudan:

Governors from 14 states in South Sudan, along with other government officials, held a peace and security forum aiming to strengthen security, enhance information sharing, and deploy joint security forces along “volatile… hotspot zones.” Andrea Mayar Acho, the governor of South Sudan’s Wau state, announced that the government is now taking drastic measures against the deteriorating security within Wau town.

The World Bank and the African Development Bank agreed to give South Sudan $106 million to pay for food imports in an effort to fight starvation in the country. Additionally, another food assistance package has been dispatched from Sudan to the needy population in South Sudan, including about 807 tons of food.

On 23 April, the human rights director for the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) stated that no one has been detained in connection to the recent violence in Wau town, where at least 16 civilians were killed and more than 23,000 have been displaced. The UNMISS human rights director also spoke out against the lack of accountability for crimes perpetrated during the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, stating that it remains one of the major challenges the country currently faces.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch expressed its concern about the lack of news on the fate of two South Sudanese activists who disappeared from Nairobi three months ago.

On 25 April, the US urged the Security Council to impose additional sanctions and an arms embargo on South Sudan. During the proposal, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stated, “We must not wait for more deaths, more displacement, and more destruction before we have the courage to act,” suggesting an embargo would pressure South Sudanese authorities to end the civil war. Russia and China have opposed this embargo.


Sudan:

A report released by the Small Arms Survey earlier this month on the role of paramilitaries and militias in Sudan estimated that 46% of conflict incidents involved the targeting of civilians by political militias, with the greatest frequency involving pro-government groups.

New clashes between government militias and the Sudan Liberation Movement headed by Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW) fighters broke out in Jebel Marra over last weekend. SLM-AW claims the fighting was the result of an offensive launched by government forces. Government planes allegedly bombed at least 15 villages, resulting in countless houses catching fire. Civilian casualties are as of yet unknown. A spokesman with the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association called on the UN and associated humanitarian groups to immediately take action and pressure Khartoum to halt its aerial bombardment of villages in Darfur.

A former Janjaweed militia commander, who had been arrested by Sweden’s War Crimes Unit for crimes against humanity in early April, has reportedly provided testimony implicating the government in aiding and abetting the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur carried out by the militias. In a piece released on Friday, Eric Reeves, a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, called Darfur the most “successful” genocide in the past century, due in part to the continued problem of impunity for those committing the crime.

This past week, the Governor of South Darfur gave an ultimatum to the displaced persons residing in camps around the town of Gireida: accept annexation into the town or return to their previous home territories. Either option would end the residents entitlement to much needed humanitarian aid. Residents have rejected the ultimatum for legal reasons, arguing the annexation is tantamount to a land-grab by the government and its militias, as well for security reasons, noting that continued insecurity in their places of origin prevent their return.

On 24 April, the joint UN – African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) celebrated the completion of a nine year effort to clear Forobaranga locality in West Darfur of explosive remnants of war (ERW), which remain a significant risk faced by civilian populations, in particular children, even decades after the conflict for which they were used.


Syria:

On 21 April, the first phase of a civilian population transfer deal concluded after a two-day halt, with an added agreement to release hundreds of government detainees also completed, according to government news media and rebel representatives. A total of 8,000 civilians from the villages of Foua and Kefraya and almost 3,000 residents from the rebel-held areas of Zabadani and Madaya have been formally evacuated. The deal aims to transfer about 30,000 people from conflict-prone areas over a period of 60 days.

On Sunday, the Syrian army, boosted by Russian airstrikes and Iranian-backed militias, recaptured territories seized by rebels last year, including the town of Halfaya and other nearby villages. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that government troops began advancing into those areas when rebel groups withdrew following intense battles and airstrikes.

On Monday 24 April, the United States imposed sanctions on 271 employees of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center whom authorities deemed responsible for producing the chemical weapons used during the attack in Khan Sheikhoun earlier this month. Steven Mnuchin, the United States Secretary of the Treasury, said the sanctions will send a strong message that the US will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor, and that it intends to hold the Assad regime accountable for such “unacceptable behavior.”

On Tuesday, 25 April, a suspected US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) airstrike killed at least 11 people, including seven children, as they were trying to flee Syria’s northern Raqqa province, which was taken by the Islamic State (ISIL) in January 2014. Two days later on 27 April, an alleged Russian and Syrian airstrike was launched on several districts in Idlib province, killing at least 19 people, the Syrian Civil Defense group said.


Yemen:

ICRtoP member Oxfam International has called on donor states to increase the humanitarian funding being provided to Yemen in light of the burgeoning humanitarian crisis in the country. The agency also added its voice to the call against any escalation of conflict by either side, specifically a possible Saudi-led coalition military assault on the critical port city of Hodeidah. On Tuesday, a group of protesters reached the city after completing an over 200-kilometer and several-week march. The protest called for unrestricted aid delivery to Yemen and the protection of the port city as a humanitarian zone.

Numerous organizations have expressed great concern over the potential assault on Hodeidah, which may occur as early as the end of May, as it may very well trigger a famine in the surrounding provinces by cutting off a key point of entry for food and other aid. The Small Arms Survey has also reported that part of the Saudi-led coalition’s ground forces possibly taking part in the operation is comprised of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces, which has been implicated in numerous atrocities in Sudan. The group’s rumored involvement has led to concerns that the deployment of these “shock troops” will result in immediate harm and abuses of civilians in the city.

It is not confirmed with certainty when or how the assault on Hodeidah will occur, but anonymous sources inside the military reportedly told media that the assault would most likely begin with a heavy aerial bombardment to clear the way for ground forces. Both the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition have made numerous statements indicating their intent to retake the city through force. The Yemeni government claimed on Wednesday that it had advised the UN to assume monitoring and supervision of the port, which would ensure weapons would not be smuggled into the country through the city, but government authorities reportedly received no clear answer from the UN regarding this tactic. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, reportedly told media on 26 April that negotiations are currently underway to shelter the port from attack and that the UN is hopeful to restart talks before the end of May.

Ahead of the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Response in Yemen held in Geneva on Tuesday, the UN Development Plan (UNDP) called for “strong support from international partners to ease the suffering of the people of Yemen.” The UN convened the conference, co-hosted by Switzerland and Sweden, to address the urgent need of millions of Yemenis who are on the imminent brink of famine. In what Secretary-General Guterres called a “very encouraging signal,” the conference managed to solicit roughly half of the $2.1 billion needed from donor states when it drew $1.1 billion in pledges.

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#RtoPWeekly: 3-7 April 2017

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ICRtoP marks Genocide Awareness Month, continuing infographic series with updates on crisis situations from around the world

S Sudan Infografic image

Many of these country-specific situations, including those previously mentioned, are monitored by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) due to their nature as potential atrocity crime scenarios and consequently their relevance to the responsibility to protect. As part of its monitoring effort, ICRtoP has produced updated crises summaries for each of the 15 country-specific situations in infographic format. In observance of Genocide Awareness Month, ICRtoP will be releasing several of these new summaries, beginning with South Sudan on 7 April, alongside ICRtoP’s regular weekly news update, the R2PWeekly. By drawing attention to and spreading knowledge of these crises before they devolve into occurrences of atrocity crimes, and by enabling civil society to effectively advocate for RtoP normalization and adherence, ICRtoP hopes to ensure that political actors will never again fail to protect populations from genocide or other atrocity crimes due to a lack of political will.

The above is an excerpt from a recent ICRtoP blog post. To read the full post, please click here.

To view ICRtoP’s latest infographic on the situation in South Sudan, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq

Kenya
Libya
Mali
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

The Muslim insurgency group operating under the name Harakah al-Yaqin (Arabic for “faith movement”), founded by Rohingyas residing in Saudi Arabia, has been held responsible for attacks against alleged government informers. The insurgents were originally supported by much of the Rohingya population in Burma, but such support was eventually lost as the violence resulting from recent attacks has dramatically increased. The group has been linked with “terrorist organisations from the Middle East,” according to a government spokesperson.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s head of government, denied in a recent interview with BBC that ethnic cleansing is taking place against the Rohingya Muslim population in the country, stating the phrase “ethnic cleansing” was “too strong an expression to use” for the human rights situation occurring in the country.

On 3 April, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Burma. According to the report, “4,000 people remain internally displaced in northern Rakhine,” while humanitarian access “remains severely restricted.”


Burundi:

Amizero y’Abarundi (Hope of Burundians), a political alliance within Burundi, has reported that 60 people were arbitrarily arrested in the country from 20 to 26 March. The group accused the National Intelligence Service (SNR) and state police officers of carrying out these human rights violations and others, such as state mandated torturing of Amizero y’Abarundi’s own members.


Central African Republic:

The UN Security Council voiced its support for Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera’s efforts to restore State authority, as well as for the African Union-led mediation initiative to find a political solution to the ongoing conflict  in the country. The Interim Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR, Michel Yao, expressed his great concern about the protection of civilians and the systematic targeting of vulnerable communities at the hands all parties to the conflict: “This dangerous trend blurs the nature of the conflict and is highly reprehensible under international law.”


DPRK:

A UNICEF report published in March 2017 regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea revealed that the country is in the “midst of a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation”, where “around 18 million people, or 70 percent of the population, including 1.3 million under-five children depend on the Public Distribution System (PDS) for rations of cereal and potatoes.” The report discusses the lack of “access to basic health services”, and other “crucial unmet food, nutrition, health, and water, sanitation and hygiene needs” the people have. These basic human needs are not being provided for by the DPRK government.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The UN Security Council renewed and extended the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) until 31 March 2018, which included reducing the operation’s troop ceiling by about 3,600 military personnel.

It was reported that 13 mass graves have been found since early March, all within the central Kasai province, increasing the number of mass graves found since August to 23. The UN is not allowed to investigate these graves by declaration of the DRC government. However, Fatou Bensouda, a prosecutor of the ICC, holds that the recent brutal killing of a UN expert team and other violence in the DRC could be war crimes under her court’s jurisdiction.

Residents in key DRC cities joined a general strike called by the group of opposition parties known as Rassemblement (Rally). The strike was organized in an effort to force President Joseph Kabila to finally adopt a three-month old power sharing deal and permit elections in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa, the capital. President Kabila announced that an election will occur and the opposition leader will be announced quickly. He further warned against foreign aid involvement by asserting, “This process is the work of the Congolese, financed by the Congolese people themselves, without any foreign interference.”


Gaza/West Bank:

On 30 March, the Israeli government authorized a new settlement to be built in the West Bank, which will consist of approximately 220 acres of land in the center of the region. This authorization is the first of its kind to occur in the region in more than two decades, and has laid the groundwork for further expansion in the future. Many consider such settlements in the area to be in violation of international law.

On 6 April, Hamas convicted and executed three Palestinians, accusing them for collaboration with Israel. Human Rights Watch condemned the hangings and called for “respect for international norms and the rule of law”.

On 2 April, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a new report arguing that the Israeli military’s recent blocking of access to and from the Gaza Strip of human rights workers calls into question the efficacy and validity behind the investigation into the alleged human rights abuses going on in the territory. HRW has called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take note of such restrictions within its preliminary examination of the situation, when determining the integrity of the Israeli investigations.


Iraq:

In Mosul, an increasing number of children have been left with life-changing injuries during the battle to retake the city from the Islamic State (ISIL). Hospitals in northern Iraq are struggling to cope with the number and scale of these casualties.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the international community to better coordinate their efforts to help those in Mosul who have “suffered enormously and go on suffering.” According to UN estimates, 11 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance in the country, with more than 285,000 of those individuals displaced purely due to the military operations in Mosul. For this reason, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called for $76.3 million in its IOM-Iraq 2017 Funding Appeal, of which about $28.8 million will be allocated to the Mosul Crisis Response for 2017.

The Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Ján Kubiš, condemned the multiple suicide attacks carried out by ISIL on Tuesday in the Sunni heartland of Tikrit. At least 31 civilians were killed and dozens were wounded in the bombings.


Kenya:

In eastern Kenya, authorities arrested seven Somali men that have been suspected of operating a human trafficking ring. The men were caught smuggling refugees from Dadaab to Nairobi. Police were given permission to hold the men for ten days to complete investigations. The Dadaab refugee camp has been criticized for becoming training grounds for al-Shabab militants of Somalia.

Kenyan activists welcomed a High Court ruling that gives parliament 60 days to ensure a third of its members are women, following a lengthy struggle to increase women’s political representation in the largely patriarchal society.


Libya:

Arjan Hehenkamp, the General Director of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and head of the group’s Libya mission, said on Monday that the agreement between Italy and Libya to fight the smuggling of people in the north African country will enable migrants to be returned to camps where they are held against their will, extorted, and presumably abused. He further stressed that seven of the camps around Tripoli can be described as detention centers, which are controlled by militias and ruled by violence and abuse.


Mali:

In what is believed to be their second operation since their merger into a single group, the Jihadist forces now comprising the “Group to Support Islam and Muslims” (GSIM) attacked a gendarmerie post, killing three security personnel and seizing weapons and munitions. An attack that killed 11 soldiers in the same area in the beginning of March is also believed to have been committed by GSIM.

Opposition parties have made tentative progress towards ending their boycott of the peace process discussions. At the national peace summit that ended earlier this week, representatives agreed to a resolution calling for negotiations with leaders of the Islamist groups in the country. The Jihadist groups originating in the country’s north were the only factions not to sign the 2015 peace deal, and while negotiating with the groups may provoke international criticism, many hope it will also prove a valuable step forward in bringing all actors on board with the beleaguered peace process.


South Sudan:

Norway, the UK, and the US have issued a statement supporting the combined efforts of the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the UN to end the conflict in South Sudan and for President Kiir to declare a unilateral ceasefire. President Kiir called on all ethnic groups to join his administration and work for peace without discrimination, underlining that the dialogue process is open for the armed groups if they renounce violence.

More than 3,000 South Sudanese fled into neighboring Uganda after government soldiers attacked the border town of Pajok, killing men, women, and children indiscriminately, refugees said. The UN refugee agency says that the Ugandan Bidi Bidi refugee camp currently hosts more than 270,000 refugees purely from South Sudan.


Sudan:

Two independent journalists, Phil Cox and Daoud Hari, have recounted their harrowing story of the six weeks they spent as captives of Darfuri militia groups and the Sudanese government. Their capture was prompted by their attempts to investigate the situation in the Jebel Marra and the allegations of the government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Amnesty International first reported on evidence showing the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Marra and has argued that the abusive treatment of the two journalists is further proof of government misconduct in the region.

EU ambassadors have praised officials in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum for their opening of a new humanitarian corridor into South Sudan through Sudanese territory. The first ground convoy of UN relief transports reportedly used the new corridor to deliver aid on 30 March. Khartoum has also reportedly said it has not ruled out opening additional aid corridors to deliver much needed relief in the upcoming months of the rainy season.

President Omar al-Bashir, the subject of two outstanding arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, heavily criticized the court as a tool of western influence and advocated for the establishment of a regional African court of justice. Bashir has eluded arrest and trial on several occasions when ICC member states have failed to arrest him while he was inside their borders. The most recent failure of Jordan to arrest Bashir last week evoked sharp criticism from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who emphasized the failure to act as both a violation of Jordan’s commitments and a “weakening [of] the global struggle against impunity, and for justice.”


Syria:

On Tuesday, 4 April, what is now known to be the worst chemical gas attack in the Syrian civil war was carried out in the rebel-held town of Idlib in north-western Syria. The attack resulted in the deaths of scores of civilians, including at least 11 children. A Syrian military source insisted the government did not use any such weapons, and the Russian defense ministry denied it carried out any air strikes in the vicinity. However, it remains unlikely that any other party had access to chemical weapons or would have any reason to conduct the attack.

On 5 April, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States presented a draft resolution aimed at holding the perpetrators accountable, and calling for an investigation. However, fellow UN Security Council member Russia has already denied that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was to blame for these attacks, and consequently objected to the Resolution. That same day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, calling on the international community to increase support for the victims of the conflict. Donors eventually pledged a combined $6 billion for critical humanitarian programs in 2017 and another $3.7 billion for 2018 in support of Syrian people. Financial support remains critical for the survival of those in Syria, UN agencies have insisted.

On 7 April, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated the chemical attacks in Syria made it clear that Assad was unfit to govern the country any longer, and as such, the Pentagon is currently discussing possible military action against the Syrian forces. Explicit action by the US has not been taken as of writing.


Yemen:

Fighting remains tense throughout Yemen as the Saudi-led coalition increased the number of airstrikes on rebel positions and supply depots over the weekend. The potential impact of these strikes on non-combatants is unknown at this time. Additionally, the government forces and its allies are believed to be preparing for a major ground offensive on the currently Houthi-held city of Hodeidah. Two government brigades have reportedly been positioned to the north and the south of the city, raising concerns of an impending assault. Meanwhile, the UN has continued its calls on all parties to the conflict to safeguard Hodeidah, as it is a critical port city that has historically been the entry point for roughly 80% of food imports into Yemen. Hodeidah is also a densely populated urban area with several thousands of civilians residing in the area, meaning any military action within its vicinity has a high likelihood of causing significant civilian harm.

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

#RtoPWeekly: 6 – 10 March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


DPRK:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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


Sri Lanka:

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


Sudan:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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#RtoPWeekly: 6 – 10 February 2017

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UN Special Adviser condemns human rights violations against Rohingya population by state security forces

On 6 February, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, issued a statement condemning the alarming human rights violations committed against the Muslim Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State by Burmese security forces. The statement follows the recent release of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) latest report on the situation, which documents the testimonies of over 220 Rohingya refugees, interviewed between 12 and 21 January in Bangladesh. On Thursday, two senior United Nations officials also stated that more than 1,000 Rohingya civilians were killed during the army crackdown, of which the humanitarian consequences have been greatly underestimated by the country’s presidential spokesman, Zaw Htay.

The latest OHCHR report includes testimonies of grave human rights violations, including mass gang-rape, killings of babies, and forced disappearances, while the UN Special Adviser called on the government to fulfill its responsibility to protect the population against these “atrocious and punishable acts”. Mr. Dieng also expressed his disappointment about the recent investigation conducted by the Government Commission over these crimes, which stated to have found nothing to substantiate the claims.

Defining the Commission as a non-credible option to further undertake new investigations, the Special Adviser also called for a “totally independent and impartial body” staffed with international observers, to be allowed access to report on and document the whole range of “long-standing discriminatory practices and policies against the Rohingya Muslims,” in order to put in place conditions that would “support peaceful coexistence among different communities in Rakhine State.”

On 8 February, Pope Francis also spoke in defense of the right of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims to “live their faith” and condemned the country’s government for its campaign of persecution, which is forcing them to flee. Charu Lata Hogg, an associate fellow with the Asia Programme at Chatham House, has said that “Pope Francis’ comments should serve as a wakeup call to the international community.”

Source for above photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq 
Kenya
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

Burundi:

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned that conditions in camps for Burundian refugees in countries of asylum are deteriorating and more land is urgently needed to accommodate the growing number of new refugee arrivals. The UNHCR stated that the number of Burundians fleeing political violence is expected to reach 500,000 this year as the UN seeks out more land for refugee camps in neighboring countries. Some UN human rights experts also reported over 60 cases of enforced disappearances in Burundi from November to December 2016.


Central African Republic:

A senior United Nations humanitarian official called for the protection of civilians and unhindered relief access to the town of Bocaranga after an outbreak of violence between two armed groups in the area this week. The violence has killed and injured civilians as well as displaced some 9,000 people.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Opposition groups in the DRC are expecting talks with the government to begin next week despite the death of the group’s leader, Etienne Tshisekedi. Opposition supporters expressed concern that Tshisekedi’s death could endanger the transition agreement recently signed with the government. This agreement would allow President Kabila to lead a transitional government for a year, after which new elections would be held.


Gaza/West Bank:

Al Mezen Center for Human Rights has reported that Israeli forces have launched airstrikes and intensified artillery bombardments on the Gaza strip. On Thursday, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza allegedly killed two civilians and wounded five others after rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula and intercepted mid-flight by Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ missile defence system. Attacks have allegedly hit civilian farms and affected other nearby civilian properties and spread panic among the population due to the reminiscent quality of the current intensification to that of the prelude to the last major Israeli offensive on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Israeli ministers have expressed their views of the situation on the border with Gaza in escalatory rhetoric. Education Minister Naftali Bennett expressed on Tuesday that open conflict is, in his view, inevitable.

UN Secretary-General Guterres has criticized the bill passed by the Israeli parliament retroactively legalizing 4,000 settlement homes previously erected on Palestinian land as a violation of international law. In addition to the UN, the European Union, League of Arab States, and Israeli allies, notably Germany, have also criticized the bill as a violation of international law.


Iraq:

On Wednesday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the Islamic State’s (ISIL) continued occupation of hospitals in Mosul, including the al-Salam hospital, is further endangering civilians’ lives in the battle against Iraqi-led forces trying to retake the city.


Kenya:

Kenya’s High Court has blocked the government from shutting down Dadaab refugee camp and forcibly repatriating 260,000 Somali refugees. The government has claimed that the camp has “lost its humanitarian nature” and is now a hub for terrorism and crime. The government has also stated that the decision to close the camp was made in order to protect Kenyans from such threats.


Libya:

On Sunday, Libya’s coast guard said it has intercepted 1,131 migrants near the city of Sabratha since January 27. Migrants include people from Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Palestinian territories.

The outcomes of the Valletta Summit, held on Friday, show the shortcomings of the European Union’s (EU) attempt to curb the refugee flows coming from Libya, aid groups said, underlining that the EU is completely abandoning humanitarian values and misrepresenting the situation in the African country. Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) also said that the summit proved EU leaders were “delusional” about Libya.

On Tuesday, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, called on Libya and on the international community to protect migrants from sexual violence. She reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation, which specifies that sexual violence is a form of persecution that warrants refugee status.


Mali:

Defense intelligence analysts have reported that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and affiliated groups may be moving to escalate violence against UN, French, national military and large civilian targets in order to impede the peace process in northern Mali. This perspective takes into account the attack on a shared military base in Gao last month that appeared to target the preparations for a tripartite joint military patrol that is part of the northern Mali peace agreement.

Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad and Niger have agreed to joint operations to combat terrorism and violent extremist groups in the Sahel region. The group plans to await UN Security Council approval and a UN resolution before establishing the force.


Nigeria:

A confrontation between soldiers and two female suicide bombers on Tuesday resulted in the death of one bomber and the surrender of the other. The incident is a continuation of a disturbing trend of the use of women and young girls as suicide bombers by Boko Haram, raising concerns that the terrorist group is forcing kidnapped civilians to become living weapons. UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs  Jeffrey Feltman has said recently that Boko Haram remains a threat, but has been significantly weakened by internal feuding and a loss of funding.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has released the regional report on Nigeria for January 2017. UNHCR reported over 1.7 million Nigerians have become displaced as a result of the conflict, and an additional 200,000 have fled to neighboring countries. The report also noted that UNHCR operations in Nigeria are currently facing a 99% funding gap in 2017 at the point of publication. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization also predicted in a report that 120,000 of the 11 million Nigerians facing food shortages will suffer catastrophic famine-like conditions as a result of the conflict with Boko Haram.


South Sudan:

South Sudan’s government has announced a plan to stem the violence across the country by 2020 through President Kiir’s call for national dialogue in the country. However, Mr. Kiir has also instructed the country’s defense minister to execute soldiers who commit human right abuses and atrocities, resulting in further violence within the country.

More than 52,000 people fled to Uganda from South Sudan in January amid fighting that the UN special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, warned could amount to mass atrocities as violence continues. Mr. Dieng has also called for action before the impact of the violence in the young country becomes irreversible. Reportings of killings of civilians, destruction of homes, rape, and many other crimes has lead critics to question President Salva Kiir’s promise to end violence and bring back peace. The chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) is also dismayed about the continuous violence. In a statement, he stressed the importance of unity amongst the government, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the international community.


Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, said on Tuesday that the country needs more time to properly investigate war crimes allegations from the nation’s previous civil war, which resulted in the deaths of up to 100,000 people.


Sudan:

The leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the group that has been fighting the government in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions for years, stated that they are still willing to discuss the delivery of US humanitarian aid to the region, but have rejected the role of the government in controlling the distribution. US diplomats have been leading an effort to establish a plan for humanitarian access in the region with consent from both the government and the rebel group.

The Government of South Kordofan has established a committee for the deployment of humanitarian aid within the state as part of the engagement plan between Khartoum and Washington to work towards lifting the sanctions against Sudan. Civil society commentators have criticized the decision by the US to back-off on sanctions against Sudan, arguing that they are still needed in order to bring about meaningful political change to the government structure in the country.


Syria:

Despite US President Trump’s commitment for more safe zones in Syria, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi stated on Wednesday that he does not see the proper conditions in the country for the implementation of such zones and called instead for investing on peace talks.

On Monday, Syrian government forces from the south and Turkish-backed rebels from the north encircled the Islamic State-held city of al-Bab. This advance is likely to trigger a confrontation between the two factions, the first since Turkey launched its “Euphrates Shield” operation in August 2016.

On the same day, representatives from Russia, Turkey, and Iran began a technical meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, to discuss the implementation of a ceasefire, ahead of the UN-sponsored Geneva peace talks to be held on 20 February. However, deep divisions between Moscow and Tehran about the possible participation of the United States are likely to hamper the talks. Moreover, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said that, as long as Islamic State (ISIL), al-Nusra, and other terrorist groups are present on the ground, a political solution for Syria will be not achievable.
On Thursday, Russian airstrikes accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others during an operation against ISIL in northern Syria. The unintended clash promptly urged the Russian President Vladimir Putin to express its condolences to the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, blaming the misdirected strikes on poor coordination between Moscow and Ankara.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International issued a report revealing torture and mass killings carried out in Syria’s Saydnaya prison. Witness testimonies claim that 13,000 civilians have been secretly tortured and hanged between 2011 and 2015.

Airstrikes in Idlib on Tuesday killed 23 people, including civilians. It is unclear if those airstrikes were carried out by the Russian or Syrian government forces or by the US-led coalition.


Yemen:

This week, the government of Yemen has requested a reassessment of US commando operations in the country, including the botched operation last month that killed numerous civilians, including children, and for closer cooperation with the US government in future operations. Human rights monitor Reprieve has reported the civilian death toll of the aforementioned US operation to be 23,  according to witnesses.

Yemeni forces also announced on Wednesday that they had fully seized the coastal city of Mocha and cleared it of Houthi forces and have shifted priority to landmine clearance and restoring peace and security in the neighborhoods.

The British High Court is expected to make a ruling within the next few weeks on the domestic legality of the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. The London-based Campaign Against the Arm Trade (CAAT) has brought a legal case against the government of the UK to halt the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. British-made armaments are allegedly being used in the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, according to CAAT, that has regularly resulted in civilian casualties with some sources claiming one out of every three airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition have struck civilian targets.

On Wednesday, Oxfam stated that the complicity of foreign governments, including of the United Kingdom, in the conflict in Yemen has accelerated the country’s approach to severe famine. The condemnation came the same day that the UN released a new humanitarian plan for Yemen in Geneva and appealed to world governments for $2.1 billion USD for emergency lifesaving relief in Yemen. The UN has called the situation in Yemen “catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating,” with 3.3 million people acutely malnourished as a result of the conflict.

The security situation in Yemen has also led to UN fears for the safety of refugees in the country. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a campaign Tuesday to dissuade migrants and refugees, primarily from Somalia and Ethiopia, from travelling to or through Yemen due to the high levels of criminal abuse and violations faced by refugees in the conflict-afflicted country. UNHCR has expressed that, while Yemen is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the ongoing state of war and insecurity in the country does not provide an environment conducive for asylum. UNHCR also stated that the lack of security for both UNHCR and partner personnel, as well as refugees, has made it particularly difficult to fulfill its mandate in Yemen.


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#R2PWeekly: 24 – 28 October 2016

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Informal UNGA meeting calls for emergency session on Syria, urges international community to uphold responsibility to protect civilians

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The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), at the request of over 70 Member States, gathered for an informal meeting on 20 October to discuss the ongoing conflict and deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened his remarks at the meeting by noting his grave concern over the UN Security Council’s failure to take timely action to promote peace and security in Syria, allowing regional rivalries to take priority over the needs of the Syrian people. The Secretary-General also noted that several parties involved in the conflict have committed violations of human rights and international law that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

During the meeting, at least six Member States, including Canada, Botswana, and Switzerland, directly echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal for Syria and the international community to uphold their responsibility to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, and several Member States noted that while the recent humanitarian pause in Russian and Syrian military action in Aleppo is a step in the right direction, it falls short of the actions necessary to allow for both the creation of evacuation corridors and unimpeded access to deliver humanitarian and medical aid to civilians.

Many Member States argued that only a political solution can end the nearly six-year-long conflict and an emergency session of the UNGA should be called in order to implement a peaceful cessation of hostilities and initiate a political transition in Syria. The General Assembly has only convened 10 emergency sessions in the history of the United Nations, the last of which took place in 2009 regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The conflict has killed nearly 500 civilians, more than a quarter of which were children, and injured an additional 2,000, since the Syrian government, in conjunction with Russia and Iran, began renewed efforts to retake territory from opposition forces last month. On Wednesday alone, a purported Russian or Syrian airstrike killed at least 14 children and seven teachers and injured at least 75 others when it struck a school complex near the city of Idlib. Despite international efforts, including calls for a renewed cessation of hostilities in Aleppo and the issuance of facilitation papers to allow access to UN aid trucks, Russia has announced it is not planning any more humanitarian pauses in the country.

Source for above photo of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the informal meeting of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly on the situation in Syria: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

On 22 October, Burmese armed forces demanded that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) withdraw its forces from any areas under the administration of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) in and around the town of Mongla in eastern Shan State. Residents have already begun to flee the area in light of the Army’s 24 October ultimatum date having passed.

On 24 October, the repatriation of refugees from Thailand to Burma began with the voluntary return of 68 people from camps along the Thai-Burma border. For the past 30 years, Thailand has hosted over 100,000 refugees from Burma who fled their homes to escape the civil war in the country, with many of the refugees belonging to the Karen, Mon and Shan minority ethnic groups. The UNHCR has hailed the start of repatriation as a milestone in one of the world’s most protracted displacement situations.

The following day, the UN called for an investigation as allegations continue to be brought forward that state security forces, operating in Rakhine State, are continuing in a campaign of violence and repression against the stateless Rohingya minority. Up to 15,000 people have been displaced by the actions of security forces in the wake of the 9 October attack on border outposts in the region. Burmese officials have stated that they have killed 30 “attackers”, while rights groups claim that the majority of the dead have been civilians, who are also subjected to the burning of villages and arbitrary arrests. Human Rights Watch has called upon the Burmese government to allow aid to reach the region and those displaced, claiming that the government is currently blocking all aid to the area.


Burundi:

On Wednesday, Burundi officially informed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the country’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Some African politicians welcomed the Burundian withdrawal from the ICC, including the president of Sudan who encouraged other African countries to do the same. Just days later, South Africaannounced its decision to follow the example set by Burundi. The ICC has asked Burundi and South Africa to reconsider their withdrawals from the institution and has urged them to work together with the Court to end impunity and protect human rights. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Botswana released a statement  reaffirming its support for the ICC and expressing “regret” over South Africa’s decision to withdraw. However, Gambia also announced its intended withdrawal from the Court on Wednesday.

On Monday, it was discovered that the Interior Ministry of Burundi issued an order to withdraw permits and ban activities of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country after accusing the organizations of taking sides and working to evoke hostility towards the government. The general secretary of FOCODE, one of the recently banned NGOs, said that the ban is a “threat to civil freedom and a threat to freedom of association”.

Several NGOs, including ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, published an open letter on Wednesday to the Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives of Member States of the United Nations in Geneva and New York regarding the situation in Burundi. The letter encourages a suspension of Burundi from the UN Human Rights Council if it fails to cooperate with the UN Commission of Inquiry in the country, as allegations of severe violations of human rights need to be investigated and the government has refused to cooperate with the UN system.


Central African Republic:

On Monday, hundreds of people gathered to protest against MINUSCA, the UN mission in the country, accusing the mission of not doing enough to protect civilians. The protesters alsoclaimed that MINUSCA is supporting the rebels. People threw stones and shouted at the troops who, according to a witness, responded with warning shots. Eventually armed groups and peacekeepers exchanged fire, resulting in at least three dead protesters and several injured, including four peacekeepers. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence the following day and welcomed action taken by the government to ensure accountability for the perpetrators.


Cote d’Ivoire:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the government of Côte d’Ivoire to respect the rights of those opposed to the newly drafted constitution, stating that civilians have the right to express dissenting opinions on the document. This follows actions by security forces to disperse protests and gatherings against the constitution, including the detainment of dissenters and opposition leaders; however, some protests occurred without incident.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The World Food Programme has released an Emergency Dashboard for October 2016, indicating that there are approximately 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 429,613 refugees currently within the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Gaza/West Bank:

The European Commission has released a Fact Sheet for October 2016, which indicates that there are approximately 1.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and parts of Area C; of those in need, approximately 60,000 people were displaced from the 2014 Gaza Strip conflict.


Iraq:

Islamic State (ISIL) allegedly executed 284 men and boys on Thursday and Friday of last week in the city of Mosul. The deceased were allegedly from the approximately 550 families that ISIL forcibly moved from villages into Mosul to be used as human shields. The extremist group then used a bulldozer to bury the bodies in a mass grave near Mosul’s defunct College of Agriculture.

Nearly 1,000 civilians living near the city of Mosul have sought medical treatment citing breathing problems linked to toxic gases from a sulphur plant that ISIL allegedly set on fire. No deaths have been reported so far as a result of the incident. The fire is thought to be aimed at deterring advancing Iraqi and US-led coalition forces.

New evidence has emerged that ISIL killed 50 former police officers on Sunday who were being held captive in a building in Mosul. Bodies of an additional 70 civilians were found in their homes in a village just outside the city, while another 15 civilians were killed and thrown into a river. The perpetration of these latest atrocities is reportedly an attempt to continue the spread of terror as Iraqi and US-led coalition forces begin to converge on the city.

Hundreds of ISIL fighters, deemed “suicide squads”, have arrived in Mosul from their Syrian stronghold in Raqqa to defend the city against the Iraqi army and US-led coalition. The foreign fighters have been seen wearing explosive belts, arming bridges with bombs, and are said to have prepared several vehicles with suicide bombs.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has provided over 1,000 reproductive health consultations to women fleeing Mosul since the Iraqi and US-led coalition offensive began earlier this month. UNFPA has postured 25 reproductive health teams and 20 maternal health facilities as part of its humanitarian response in Mosul.

More than 1,000 civilians living in the Tob Zawa village near the city of Mosul have been safelymoved by Iraqi special forces to nearby refugee camps this week. At least 9,000 people have been displaced since the operation began on 17 October.


Kenya:

On 24 October, members of the extremist group, al Shabaab, attacked a hotel located in the town of Mandera in northeast Kenya, killing 12 people.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for a probe into police killings in Kenya as about 1,200 deaths have been blamed on security forces in the last five years. The organization also reported that around 34 people have been forcibly disappeared by security forces in counter-terrorism operations in the last two years, noting that, so far, only one police officer has been held accountable.


Libya:

Late last week, Italian Coast Guard forces reported seeing a speedboat labelled “Libyan Coast Guard” attack a boat overcrowded with refugees off the coast of Libya, using sticks as weapons. At least four refugees fell into the water and drowned and up to 25 people are missing. The European Union has previously initiated a plan to train Libyan forces to manage their own sea rescue operations. Following the report on this incident, a German aid group has urged the EU to rethink the decision in order to protect refugees.


Mali:

Germany has agreed to assist the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) with military helicopters if no other country decides to help, as the Netherlands and Indonesia are withdrawing their military transportation support. The German Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the reason for their pledge is their conviction on the importance of stabilizing Mali.


Nigeria:

On 23 October, the Nigerian military confirmed that at least 83 Nigerian soldiers are missing following an attack by Boko Haram in the northeastern part of the country. Superior firepower by the extremist group forced many of the soldiers to flee on foot into the Niger River where many are feared to have drowned.

This week, the Nigerian government announced that on 31 October it will meet with community leaders from the Niger Delta region as well as representatives of several of the armed groups fighting in the area in the hopes of ending the fighting in the region. However, on 25 October, the same day as the aforementioned announcement, the Niger Delta Avengers, one of such armed groups in the Niger River Delta, announced that they had attacked an oil pipeline in the region.


South Sudan:

The head of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has announced that she will step down at the end of November after serving as the UN Special Representative to South Sudan for two years. On Monday, she said that the road ahead for South Sudan would be difficult, but she is hopeful that peace will come to the war-torn country.

Amnesty International released a report on Monday, examining the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law carried out by government forces during the breakout of violence in Juba in July. The report is based on over 90 interviews conducted over three months following the re-ignition of the conflict in the country. The witnesses describe ethnic-based killings, rapes, and abuse.

According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 67 aid workers have been killed since the conflict in South Sudan broke out in 2013. OCHA also reported that more than 640 incidents where humanitarian aid access was blocked were reported in the first nine months of this year. The humanitarian agency condemned the violence and called for a quick response to hold the guilty accountable for their actions.

Over the last several weeks, there has been an increase of ethnic hate speech and threats of violence, mutilation, and murder in South Sudan. On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a warning that if these incitements of violence are allowed to continue there’s a high risk of mass atrocities erupting in the country. He urged the community and top political leaders in the country to take decisive action to ensure no horrendous crimes will be committed.

On Wednesday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced in a statement the release of about 145 child soldiers who had been recruited by the Cobra Faction and the SPLA-IO, two armed rebel groups fighting the South Sudanese government. In the statement, UNICEF also noted that approximately 16,000 children are still being held as soldiers in armed groups and called on the parties to cease the recruiting of children to their armies.


Sudan/Darfur:

Sudan Call, the opposition to Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), has threatenedto initiate a large-scale protest in the coming year with the goal of overthrowing the existing government. The threat follows the opposition’s boycott of a National Dialogue agreement amongst the ruling party and its allies that set the groundwork for a future constitution of Sudan. The two parties have been unable to reach an agreement leading to a humanitarian truce and the implementation of requisite confidence building measures.


Syria:

Security developments
A three-day “humanitarian” ceasefire between regime and rebel forces has broken down as clashes in Aleppo continued over the weekend. The unilateral agreement was announced by the Syrian government and Russia to allow for both residents and rebels to leave the city. However, the agreement did not last long enough for aid agencies to obtain the requisite security agreements necessary to evacuate injured civilians and rebels refused to give up their positions.

The United Kingdom’s Minister of Defense announced on Tuesday that an additional 20 security personnel will be deployed to Syria in an effort to reboot a program to train moderate opposition forces for an upcoming offensive to retake territory from the Islamic State (ISIL). It is suspected that an operation to retake the city of Raqqa will become the focus pending the outcome of the operation to retake Mosul in Iraq.

US-led coalition strikes in Syria have killed at least 300 civilians since 2014 according to a new report released by Amnesty International on Tuesday. The organization publicly investigated available information such as news reports, satellite imagery, and photo and video evidence related to 11 aerial attacks that have been carried out since September 2014. The US State Department has not yet responded to Amnesty’s inquiry regarding the report.

An airstrike on a school complex in Aleppo killed at least 35 civilians, including 22 children and 6 teachers, on Wednesday. The attack was a part of a series of strikes conducted by either Russian or Syrian war planes in the city of Idlib. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed outrage over the attack, noting that, if deliberate, the attack should be treated as a war crime.

The humanitarian situation
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinatorstated this week that at least 400 civilians, including many children, have been killed in Aleppo in the last month. The statement, delivered to the UN Security Council at a briefing on the crisis in Syria, noted that the UN was unable to deliver humanitarian assistance and coordinate civilian evacuations due to objections from two armed opposition groups.

Political developments
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN joint investigative mechanism, also called the Jim, released a report on Friday confirming that the Syrian government is responsible for an attack in Idlib province in March 2015, which involved the use of chemical weapons. The attack allegedly used a device dropped from a high altitude which released a deadly agent into the air, likely chlorine. Russia has thus far thwarted attempts in the Security Council by the US, France, and the UK to impose sanctions on Syria for the use of chemical weapons in the ongoing crisis.


Yemen:

The Saudi-led coalition released a statement last week, which said that the Houthi rebels repeatedly violated the 72-hour ceasefire launched at midnight the day before. The truce was supposed to last for three days, but, according to the statement, it had already been breached more than 40 times by the rebels, leading the Saudi-led coalition to respond by launching missiles on Yemen. Attacks from both sides killed at least 11 people on the first day of the truce, including at least three civilians. A government source said he was grateful for the efforts of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN envoy, as he tried to broker peace between the rebels and the government, but he also confirmed that the attempt was unsuccessful as the rebels violated the truce several times. On Saturday, the UN envoy urged all parties to extend the truce, but the call was not heeded; the ceasefire ended after 72 hours without renewal.

On Tuesday, the UN special envoy to Yemen handed an outline for a peace plan to the Houthi rebels, who currently hold control in the capital on the country. According to a politician affiliated with the rebels, the plan included relieving the president of his duties and instead implementing a transitional period of one or two years before introducing presidential elections. According to a copy of the proposal seen by media, the information given by the politician is accurate as the main idea of the proposal seems to be the establishing of a new government containing less divisive people. The day after the delivery of the peace plan the Yemeni army attacked areas held by the rebels.

The UN food relief agency (WFP) has expressed concerns regarding the deteriorating situation in Yemen as food security is running low and child malnutrition is rising. The regional director of the WFP said that hunger is increasing and “people have exhausted all their survival strategies”. Women and children are the most vulnerable, especially as some areas of the country are difficult to reach for food distribution.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a Humanitarian Snapshot this week, showing the impact of the conflict in Yemen. The Snapshot reveals a devastating toll on the population as food insecurity is worsening, health facilities are reaching their limits, and those engaged in the conflict continually breach the rules of international law when it comes to the protection of civilians.


What else is new?

The Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) has published the latest issue of its premier journal on RtoP, Global Responsibility to Protect. This issue, Volume 8, Issue 4, features articles discussing challenges and recommendations for the next UN Secretary-General, the connections between RtoP, refugees, and IDPs, and other important topics on the norm. To read the latest issue please click here.

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#R2PWeekly: 10 – 14 October 2016

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Yemen
: Over 140 Killed in Airstrikes on Funeral Ceremony

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in

Burma/Myanmar

Burundi

CAR

DRC

Gaza/West Bank

Iraq

Kenya

Libya

Mali

Nigeria

South Sudan

Sudan/Darfur

Syria

Yemen

Other


Burma/Myanmar:

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


Burundi:

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

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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


Iraq:

Political developments

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

Security developments

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

Political developments

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

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

Humanitarian developments

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


Syria:

Political developments

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

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

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

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

The humanitarian situation

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

Security developments

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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