Tag Archives: Libya

#RtoPWeekly: 13 – 17 November 2017

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Catch up on developments in…

Burma
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria 
Philippines
South Sudan
Syria 
Venezuela 


Burma/Myanmar

According to Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Burma, did not refer to the Rohingya people by name while addressing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on 13 November. Aung San Suu Kyi stated that her country was working to implement suggestions from the UN Commission led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and reparations for the displaced would “begin within three weeks” after Burmese and Bangladeshi governments signed an agreement on 24 October.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the situation in Rakhine State “looks like ethnic cleansing.” The Foreign Minister of Britain, Mark Field, also expressed his concern over the situation in Burma, stating that the military is to blame for the crisis. The British government suspended their military training program with Burmese forces earlier this year as a result of the Rohingya crisis.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis. He told the Southeast Asian heads of states that he will ask his special envoy to find diplomatic efforts in which Canada can help resolve the issue. For the time being, Trudeau plans to continue his country’s support to humanitarian and political efforts to allow for the eventual return of Rohingya refugees who have fled the country.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US cannot agree with the UN’s findings that the situation in Rakhine State is ethnic cleansing until more evidence and information is collected. He called for an investigation into the violence against the Rohingya, and said there are a number of “characteristics of crimes against humanity” in Rakhine State. Tillerson also advocated against sanctions, and announced that the US will donate another $47 million in humanitarian aid for refugees.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the Burmese military denied reports of ethnic cleansing and abuse claims in the Rakhine State, despite alleged significant evidence to the contrary. The Burmese report found no deaths of innocent civilians; all those who were killed were terrorists. Activists are calling for an independent international investigation in order to find those responsible for the crimes, despite the findings of the Burmese report.

Human Rights Watch released a further report focusing on the alleged systematic sexual violence carried out by military forces in Burma. HRW interviewed 52 Rohingya women and girls whose accounts all alleged that they were raped by uniformed members of the Burmese military and that the sexual violence is far more widespread and systematic than originally believed.

Experts from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as from the South Asian human rights organization, Fortify Rights, have reported that the situation in Rakhine State could be considered a genocide. The groups reached this conclusion based on over 200 interviews conducted within the past year. Cameron Hudson, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, said that the Rohingya people have “suffered attacks and systematic violations for decades.”


Burundi:

On 9 November, International Criminal Court (ICC) judges authorized the Chief Prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity that occurred in the country from April 2015 to October 2016. The decision was issued under seal on 25 October, two days before Burundi withdrew its membership from the ICC, to protect victims and potential witnesses. Allegedly, the crimes were committed by state agents and, since Burundi was a State Party to the Rome Statute during the time when the crimes occurred, the country has the duty to cooperate with the Court on the investigation even after their withdrawal.

However, Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana said that Burundi was not notified of the ICC’s decision to open an investigation before their departure. Kanyana has also criticized that the decision was announced through the media and has said that the decision violates the Rome Statute. As a consequence, the Minister said that Burundi will not cooperate with the Court. The presidents of Tanzania and Uganda also criticized the ICC’s decision to open the investigation.

Around 400,000 Burundian refugees who fled the country fear for their security if they return. Most relocated in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, and both the presidents of Burundi and Tanzania have asked refugees to return home, claiming that security conditions have improved. Amnesty International, however, disagrees. Amnesty reported in September that refugees who return to Burundi are at risk of death or violence from security forces and the Imbonerakure, a youth political wing, that allegedly commit human rights violations against those believed to be opponents. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also stated the conditions in Burundi continue to provoke increasing refugee flows to neighboring countries.


Central African Republic:

Najat Rochdi, Deputy Special Representative for MINUSCA, denounced the humanitarian crisis in the CAR and said that only 39 percent of the 500 million USD plan for 2017 is funded. She also said the deterioration of the conflict since May 2017 has made humanitarian assistance difficult to reach those who need it.

On 11 November, a grenade killed seven and injured twenty at a concert in Bangui. The concert was organized to foster social cohesion and reconciliation. As retaliation, heavy gunfire erupted after the attack in the PK5 neighborhood, a Muslim enclave in the mostly Christian city. Prime Minister Simplice Mathieu Sarandji called on the population to not slide back into violence following the attacks.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Ahead of anti-government demonstrations called by the opposition, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) called on the government to respect the freedom of demonstration and of assembly that are enshrined in the constitution of the country. MONUSCO also said security forces should respect the principles of proportionality, necessity, and legality, and called on demonstrators to refrain from the use of violence.


Iraq:  

Iraqi security forces found mass graves which could contain almost 400 bodies in an area they recently retook from the Islamic State (ISIL) near the town of Hawija. A local shepherd reported that ISIL allegedly took captives to the area to shoot them or to light them on fire.


Libya:

Security forces found 28 bodies west of Tripoli on 11 November. The corpses allegedly showed signs of torture. The area of Wershiffana has seen a spike in violence in recent weeks between pro-government forces and armed militant groups who tend to remain loyal to Gaddafi. The bodies of those killed have yet to be returned to their families.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Ibn Al Hussein, reported on the large number of migrants held in horrendous conditions in detention facilities. In his press release, Zeid mentioned the EU intercepting and returning migrants to the Libyan Coast Guard is exacerbating the issue. He also called upon the Libyan government to take concrete steps to try to address the human rights violations that take place in those centers. Italy and Germany have disagreed with the UN’s statement, and have defended the practice of returning migrants to Libyan authorities, saying it “has saved lives.”

Human rights lawyers presented evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that identified Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter and his forces as responsible for murder, torture, and persecution. There is already an investigation of one of Hifter’s subordinates in process. There is also an arrest warrant out for another subordinate who allegedly killed 33 captives “in cold blood.”


Nigeria:

Amnesty International called upon Nigerian authorities to cease the demolition and forced eviction of the Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin communities in Lagos State. The evictions left 30,000 individuals homeless, 17 missing, and 11 dead. The evictions since March 2016 have allegedly occurred without compensation, notice, or consultation.


 Philippines:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with President Rodrigo Duterte about the human rights concerns in the Philippines. He mentioned the importance of the rule of law and how alleged extrajudicial killings in the country are one of Canada’s greatest concerns.

US President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte allegedly did not discuss human rights violations, extrajudicial killings, and Duterte’s strict anti-drug campaign within the country when they met this week. Trump said the two have a “great relationship.”


South Sudan:

President Salva Kiir said that he will allow free passage in the country to humanitarian organizations. The move comes after months of international demands and a warning from the United States that South Sudan would lose its financial and diplomatic support if the government did not permit passage.


Syria:

Russia and the United States said in a joint statement they will continue their efforts to fight the Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria, but there is no military solution to the conflict. They also said they support the de-escalation zones in Syria, and called on UN Member States to increase humanitarian contributions for victims.

Amnesty International accused the Syrian government of imposing sieges on densely populated civilian areas since the beginning of the conflict. It said that the government uses starvation as a warfare method, by blocking or arbitrarily restricting access to basic goods, including food, medicine, water, electricity and fuel. Amnesty says the Syrian government also blocks humanitarian organizations from entering those besieged areas. As a consequence, many civilians are at the brink of starvation or die from causes that could be treated with the adequate equipment. Amnesty called on States to support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that was recently established by the UN in order to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible.

Airstrikes in a market of the rebel-held town of Atareb, in northern Syria, killed at least 53. The perpetrators of the strikes are currently unknown, but are alleged to have been carried out by Russian or Syrian government planes. Located in the Aleppo province, the town is part of the “de-escalation” zone established by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, but the constant clashes continue and humanitarian assistance is limited. The airstrikes destroyed the market completely and many children are among the victims. The town is also home to thousands of internally displaced people from the conflict.


Venezuela:

On 13 November, the UN Security Council held an Arria Formula meeting on the situation in Venezuela. Many Member States argued the crisis in the country poses a threat to international peace and security and that the Council must hold a meeting on the situation. Many also called on the government of Venezuela to release political prisoners, to investigate alleged human rights violations committed by national security forces in protests between April and July of 2017, and to prosecute those responsible. Russia, China, Bolivia, and Egypt, boycotted the meeting and said the issue should be resolved without foreign interference.

On the same day, the European Union said the gubernatorial elections of last month showed irregularities, and approved economic sanctions and an arms embargo to the country.

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#R2PWeekly: 16 – 20 October 2017

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Concern grows over impact of security situation on
civilians in the DRC as elections pushed to 2019

Several non-governmental organizations, including ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW), have pushed for increased sanctions by the European Union (EU) and the United States on President Kabila’s financial associates and family members. The sanctions are reportedly aimed at showing Kabila that his “unconstitutional abuse of power” has real consequences. The International Contact Group for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, which includes the UN, the EU and the US, will meet on 12 October in The Hague to discuss the humanitarian crisis.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for MONUSCO, Maman Sambo Sidikou, has briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the country. He warned the Council about the rising political uncertainty brought by the fact that elections will most likely not be held before the end of 2017. Sidikou also noted that the conditions necessary to hold elections are the “implementation of confidence-building measures, the opening of political space, and the full respect of human rights.” The UN has also warned that civil society activists, journalists, and political opponents are subjected to intimidation, violence, and harassment for their opinions regarding the political process. Sidikou also highlighted the impact of the security situation on civilians, with 8.5 million people in need of assistance and almost 4 million internally displaced.

The electoral commission has said that elections cannot be held until at least April 2019. In a recent statement, the commission argued that it needs around seventeen months to pass a new law “drawing elected representatives’ constituencies, obtaining voting materials and recruiting personnel”. The delay undermines the 31 December 2016 agreement made between President Kabila and the opposition parties, in which the opposition agreed that Kabila could stay in power with the condition that new elections would be scheduled before the end of 2017.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Kenya 
Libya
Mali

Philippines
Nigeria
South Sudan 
Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen

 


Burma/Myanmar

The UN Human Rights (OHCHR) office released a report on 11 October that outlined interviews conducted with Rohingya migrants who fled the violence in Rakhine State. The OHCHR reported that the alleged violence perpetrated by the Burmese military and Rakhine Buddhist militants against the Rohingya is “coordinated and systematic”. The witness accounts described a number of alleged human rights violations against the Muslim minority, including extrajudicial killings, ethnic cleansing, gender violence, and torture. The report also indicated that the violence may have been coordinated in an attempt to prevent migrants from returning to their homes after fleeing Rakhine by allegedly destroying crops, livestock, and other property. Furthermore, the report outlined reports of Burmese forces targeting Rohingya leaders in education, religion, and culture in the region. The OHCHR remains “gravely concerned” about the situation in Burma.

The government of Bangladesh announced on 11 October the formation of the “Citizen’s Commission for Investigating Genocide and Terrorism in Burma”. The group of 35 Bangladeshi citizens will investigate the credibility of reports of genocide in Rakhine State. Their report is expected to be released in early February.

Bangladesh announced its plan to build a refugee camp that will house more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees. The arrival of more than half a million Rohingya Muslims since 25 August has put an immense strain on the existing camps where there are growing fears of a disease outbreak. Bangladesh authorities want to expand the refugee camp in Kutupalong.

Aerial footage taken of a Bangladesh refugee camp in Cox Bazar shows the growing spread of shacks and makeshift tents as more Rohingya refugees continue to pour across the border seeking refuge.


Burundi:

Amnesty International has warned that Burundian refugees in Tanzania are being threatened with forced repatriation if they do not voluntarily apply to return to Burundi. Authorities have claimed that the security situation in Burundi has improved and that there is no reason for refugees not to return to their country of origin. Tanzanian officials have also reportedly been coercing refugees to return, while cuts in the UN Refugee Agency’s funds have left refugee camps short of assistance, leaving most refugees no option but to return.

Burundian Catholic bishops have called for inclusive dialogue to find a solution to the crisis in the country. Joachim Ntahondereye, the chief of the episcopal conference in Burundi, has said that dialogue is in the interest of all parties to the conflict and that war must be avoided. Burundian bishops have opposed President Nkurunziza since his controversial re-election for a third term, who described the move as illegal and as a threat to the fragile stability of the country. Burundi’s population is 62 percent Catholic and some protesters against the president have carried religious Catholic crosses in the demonstrations.


Central African Republic:

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in the CAR has calledfor increased funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan to avoid an escalation of the crisis that could threaten the stability of the whole region. The plan, which is aimed at protecting civilians who are targeted by armed groups, has only been funded by 30 percent of its original budget, compromising the assistance for half of the 2.4 million Central Africans that need it.

Thousands of refugees have fled the renewed violence in the CAR to neighboring Cameroon as UN aid agencies struggle to meet their needs. Gado refugee camp, where most Central Africans are seeking refuge, is currently sheltering 25,000 refugees, compared to the 1,000 that it sheltered in January. Moreover, health workers in the camp warn that children arriving at the camp show signs of severe malnutrition or are badly wounded by fighters when leaving the CAR for Cameroon.

UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng has raised an alarm on the escalation of the violence in a recent visit to the country. Dieng emphasized the importance of holding the perpetrators of crimes accountable to ensure the non-recurrence of crimes, and stated that the UN’s goal is to “explore ways to reduce inter-community tensions and ensure the protection of civilian populations.”

Stéphane Dujarric, UN Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, has said that new allegations of sexual abuse by the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) have surfaced. The abuse is reported to have happened in the town of Bambari against a minor by UN peacekeepers. The alleged victim has received psychological and medical assistance and the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services has started an inquiry that will be referred to the CAR for further investigation.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

An attack on a UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) base in North Kivu this past Monday morning has killed two UN peacekeepers and injured several others. The Allied Democratic Forces are suspected to have carried out the attack and MONUSCO has deployed a new brigade in order to reinforce its presence and protect the population. This attack comes a month after another attack killed a UN peacekeeper in Mamundioma. The UN has created a board of inquiry to investigate the incident and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has noted that the attacks might constitute war crimes. Guterres has also urged armed groups to drop their weapons and Congolese authorities to carry out a proper investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable.


Iraq:

Since 2014, more than 5 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes due to the conflict with the Islamic State (ISIL) in the country, according to the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, on Wednesday. As fighting to recapture territory from ISIL has intensified during recent months, the numbers of displaced civilians within Iraq has risen significantly. More than half a million people fled Mosul during the recapture of the city late last year.


Kenya:

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has pulled out of the 26 October election rerun. According to Odinga, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has refused to discuss the reforms proposed in order for the elections to be fair and free. The withdrawal left a situation of uncertainty in the country since the constitution says that no election can take place with only one candidate.

Kenya’s High Court ruled on Wednesday that a minor candidate could run in October’s presidential election after the withdrawal of Odinga’s candidacy. Besides Kenyatta and Odinga, none of the candidates who ran in the past election received more than one percent of the vote. The Supreme Court, however, had earlier ruled that the petitioner and the responder are the only ones who can stand in a rerun in the case of a challenging electoral outcome.

On Wednesday, more protests erupted after the parliament, which is dominated by the Jubilee party, passed a law stating if a candidate withdraws from the election, the other automatically wins the presidency.

A day after, the government banned protests in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu following weeks of demonstrations. Fred Matiangi, the security minister, said that the decision comes to protect the lives and properties of Kenyans as it identifies the demonstrations as a danger to public safety. The National Super Alliance had called for daily protests beginning next week in an effort to put pressure on electoral officials.


 Libya:

Early this week, it was reported that the recent wave of violent clashes in Sabratha rose the death toll to 43 and wounded as many as 340. Additionally, the city’s hospital was damaged in the fighting and is reportedly only partially functioning. The Ministry of Health reported in September that the wounded were being treated either at private clinics or at hospitals abroad.

On Tuesday, the UNSC delivered a presidential statement reopening a Libyan-led political process, as submitted by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The initiative is a Libyan-led peace process that includes the establishment of a unity government and an action plan that, among other things, includes preparations for the creation of a constitution.


Mali:

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has called on all parties to implement essential provisions from the peace agreement between the Malian government and the Plateforme and Coordination armed groups. The UNSC noted that the continuous delays have raised concerns over the security situation in Mali that could give rise to potential threats to terrorism and transnational organized crime throughout the Sahel.

Due to continuous violence and displacement in Mali, 165,000 children are expected to suffer from severe malnutrition within the next year, with an estimated 142,000 children already affected this year. The violence in northern Mali has caused disruptions in health services and access to water and sanitation, causing a greatest risk to children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Although French peacekeepers have worked to stabilize Mali since 2013, there have been calls for intensified efforts to “build the resilience of families through improved food security, prevention and treatment of severe acute malnutrition”.


Nigeria:

On Monday, the Nigerian government began trials against more than 1,600 suspected Boko Haram members. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have notedthat fair trials for Boko Haram suspects are imperative. However, Amnesty International Nigeria’s Media Manager, Isa Sanusi, has reported that there are thousands of cases of arbitrary arrests where no evidence was provided and individuals were detained for years. Amnesty has also expressed concern in regards to the trials being held behind closed doors, stating that it prevents suspects from receiving access to public hearings.


Philippines:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has stated that the Philippines’ grave human rights violations during its campaign against drugs should result in being removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The HRW Geneva advocacy director, John Fisher, noted the importance of a UNHRC member to “uphold the highest standards of human rights, and cooperation with the council”, something that Fisher believes President Rodrigo Duterte is not fulfilling. Fisher also addressed the issue of President Duterte denying the reported extrajudicial killings (EJKs) taking place in the country, stating that Duterte is following a “convenient” definition of EKJs based on the previous administration.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced his shift of small drug war targets to bigger networks and suppliers. Duterte said he will remove police from handling the drug war and instead place the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in charge. He admitted that there are lower death tolls during the PDEA’s operations than during police operations. Although it is unclear if his change in plan was due to international pressure, he specifically addressed the European Union’s focus on the rising death tolls during his speech.


South Sudan:

The Center for Peace and Justice (CPJ) has warned warring parties to not focus on division of wealth and power sharing during the upcoming peace revitalization forum organized by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional bloc that brings together Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. The CPJ has said that the discussion must prioritize solving the country’s conflict by addressing the suffering of civilians who are targeted by the warring parties themselves.


Sudan:

UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy, has stated his approval of the United States’ (US) recent decision to lift sanctions against Sudan. Jazairy believes that this is a step in the right direction to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda, specifically Goal 1, to eradicate poverty. However, both American and Sudanese actors have called on the United States to continue pressuring President Omar al-Bashir and his government to support peace and democratic changes, as well as ending the armed conflicts in Sudan.


Syria:

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported, that since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014, the US-led coalition has allegedly “unintentionally killed” at least 685 civilians in its military action against the Islamic State (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. However, other independent sources, such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SORH), have reported numbers much higher. In an article published late last week, HRW argued for the responsibility of the US-led coalition towards these victims, who the coalition have reportedly regarded as collateral damage. HRW argued that the parties involved in the US-coalition have the responsibility to support the surviving victims of their actions with both symbolic gestures, such as a public apology, as well as materially, such as compensation payments.


Venezuela:

Colombian police from Cucutá, a town close to the border with Venezuela, have found a mass grave in Venezuelan territory. An investigation is set to begin soon, but authorities have given no information on which country will conduct it. Several non-governmental organizations and community members have denounced disappearances or killings of people who deal with smuggling on the border. Many criminal organizations operate throughout the more than 2,000 kilometers of border between Venezuela and Colombia.


Yemen:

On Wednesday, Reuters brought attention to the Saudi-led coalition’s military activity in the Red Sea, especially around the Houthi-controlled port Hodeidah, which they pursue with the aim of blocking weapons from reaching the Houthi rebels by ships. The military activity reportedly started in 2015, and Western governments approved the activity allegedly as a way to weaken the Houthi fighters and support the internationally recognized government. However, the blockade also stops ships from delivering essential goods, such as food and medical supplies, to Yemeni civilians, which has been of concern to the UN and international aid groups since the beginning of the blockade. Millions of Yemenis still suffer the consequences from this. According to the report, the Saudi-led blockade impeded or severely delayed ships carrying aid supplies and commercial goods from reaching Yemeni ports, even when the UN had cleared the vessels and assured that no weapons were found. Last week, Saudi ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi denied that the coalition was blocking commercial shipments with food and medicine, stating that such acts would be self-contradictory since Saudi Arabia is donating humanitarian aid to Yemen. Meanwhile, the internationally recognized government of Yemen has also implemented forms of blockades, such as when the government notified the UN of its decision to block a Houthi-held oil port due to its “illegal status” last summer. Therefore, the Houthi-held areas especially suffer from a lack of essential goods due to the blockades.

In the wake of the recent blacklisting of the Saudi-led coalition by the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, the permanent representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, reported that his government uses “extremely stringent measures” to ensure that the weapons sold to the coalition by the UK “are used correctly.” Reportedly, the UK’s biggest weapon’s client is Saudi Arabia, who purchased weapons worth four billion dollars during the past two years. However, the issue is heavily disputed within the UK; for example, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly condemned the government’s weapons sales to the coalition.

In this week’s UN Security Council briefing on Yemen, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged the members of the Security Council to pressure the parties to the conflict in Yemen to embrace a comprehensive peace deal, emphasizing that an agreement to secure access to humanitarian aid cannot be the end goal of efforts to protect the Yemeni civilians. In his briefing, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed argued that the influential political parties to the conflict have an interest in prolonging the war, and thereby maintain a profitable position in which they have control. Furthermore, Director of Operations at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) John Ging noted that the humanitarian response plan for Yemen, which has to reach 12 million people in need, is currently only 55 percent funded.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 9 – 13 October 2017

Rtop weekly

Concern grows over impact of security situation on
civilians in the DRC as elections pushed to 2019
Several non-governmental organizations, including ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW), have pushed for increased sanctions by the European Union (EU) and the United States on President Kabila’s financial associates and family members. The sanctions are reportedly aimed at showing Kabila that his “unconstitutional abuse of power” has real consequences. The International Contact Group for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, which includes the UN, the EU and the US, will meet on 12 October in The Hague to discuss the humanitarian crisis.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for MONUSCO, Maman Sambo Sidikou, has briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the country. He warned the Council about the rising political uncertainty brought by the fact that elections will most likely not be held before the end of 2017. Sidikou also noted that the conditions necessary to hold elections are the “implementation of confidence-building measures, the opening of political space, and the full respect of human rights.” The UN has also warned that civil society activists, journalists, and political opponents are subjected to intimidation, violence, and harassment for their opinions regarding the political process. Sidikou also highlighted the impact of the security situation on civilians, with 8.5 million people in need of assistance and almost 4 million internally displaced.

The electoral commission has said that elections cannot be held until at least April 2019. In a recent statement, the commission argued that it needs around seventeen months to pass a new law “drawing elected representatives’ constituencies, obtaining voting materials and recruiting personnel”. The delay undermines the 31 December 2016 agreement made between President Kabila and the opposition parties, in which the opposition agreed that Kabila could stay in power with the condition that new elections would be scheduled before the end of 2017.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Kenya 
Libya
Mali

Philippines
Nigeria
South Sudan 
Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen

 


Burma/Myanmar:

The UN Human Rights (OHCHR) office released a report on 11 October that outlined interviews conducted with Rohingya migrants who fled the violence in Rakhine State. The OHCHR reported that the alleged violence perpetrated by the Burmese military and Rakhine Buddhist militants against the Rohingya is “coordinated and systematic”. The witness accounts described a number of alleged human rights violations against the Muslim minority, including extrajudicial killings, ethnic cleansing, gender violence, and torture. The report also indicated that the violence may have been coordinated in an attempt to prevent migrants from returning to their homes after fleeing Rakhine by allegedly destroying crops, livestock, and other property. Furthermore, the report outlined reports of Burmese forces targeting Rohingya leaders in education, religion, and culture in the region. The OHCHR remains “gravely concerned” about the situation in Burma.

The government of Bangladesh announced on 11 October the formation of the “Citizen’s Commission for Investigating Genocide and Terrorism in Burma”. The group of 35 Bangladeshi citizens will investigate the credibility of reports of genocide in Rakhine State. Their report is expected to be released in early February.

Bangladesh announced its plan to build a refugee camp that will house more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees. The arrival of more than half a million Rohingya Muslims since 25 August has put an immense strain on the existing camps where there are growing fears of a disease outbreak. Bangladesh authorities want to expand the refugee camp in Kutupalong.

Aerial footage taken of a Bangladesh refugee camp in Cox Bazar shows the growing spread of shacks and makeshift tents as more Rohingya refugees continue to pour across the border seeking refuge.


Burundi:

Amnesty International has warned that Burundian refugees in Tanzania are being threatened with forced repatriation if they do not voluntarily apply to return to Burundi. Authorities have claimed that the security situation in Burundi has improved and that there is no reason for refugees not to return to their country of origin. Tanzanian officials have also reportedly been coercing refugees to return, while cuts in the UN Refugee Agency’s funds have left refugee camps short of assistance, leaving most refugees no option but to return.

Burundian Catholic bishops have called for inclusive dialogue to find a solution to the crisis in the country. Joachim Ntahondereye, the chief of the episcopal conference in Burundi, has said that dialogue is in the interest of all parties to the conflict and that war must be avoided. Burundian bishops have opposed President Nkurunziza since his controversial re-election for a third term, who described the move as illegal and as a threat to the fragile stability of the country. Burundi’s population is 62 percent Catholic and some protesters against the president have carried religious Catholic crosses in the demonstrations.


Central African Republic:

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in the CAR has calledfor increased funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan to avoid an escalation of the crisis that could threaten the stability of the whole region. The plan, which is aimed at protecting civilians who are targeted by armed groups, has only been funded by 30 percent of its original budget, compromising the assistance for half of the 2.4 million Central Africans that need it.

Thousands of refugees have fled the renewed violence in the CAR to neighboring Cameroon as UN aid agencies struggle to meet their needs. Gado refugee camp, where most Central Africans are seeking refuge, is currently sheltering 25,000 refugees, compared to the 1,000 that it sheltered in January. Moreover, health workers in the camp warn that children arriving at the camp show signs of severe malnutrition or are badly wounded by fighters when leaving the CAR for Cameroon.

UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng has raised an alarm on the escalation of the violence in a recent visit to the country. Dieng emphasized the importance of holding the perpetrators of crimes accountable to ensure the non-recurrence of crimes, and stated that the UN’s goal is to “explore ways to reduce inter-community tensions and ensure the protection of civilian populations.”

Stéphane Dujarric, UN Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, has said that new allegations of sexual abuse by the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) have surfaced. The abuse is reported to have happened in the town of Bambari against a minor by UN peacekeepers. The alleged victim has received psychological and medical assistance and the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services has started an inquiry that will be referred to the CAR for further investigation.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

An attack on a UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) base in North Kivu this past Monday morning has killed two UN peacekeepers and injured several others. The Allied Democratic Forces are suspected to have carried out the attack and MONUSCO has deployed a new brigade in order to reinforce its presence and protect the population. This attack comes a month after another attack killed a UN peacekeeper in Mamundioma. The UN has created a board of inquiry to investigate the incident and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has noted that the attacks might constitute war crimes. Guterres has also urged armed groups to drop their weapons and Congolese authorities to carry out a proper investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable.


Iraq:

Since 2014, more than 5 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes due to the conflict with the Islamic State (ISIL) in the country, according to the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, on Wednesday. As fighting to recapture territory from ISIL has intensified during recent months, the numbers of displaced civilians within Iraq has risen significantly. More than half a million people fled Mosul during the recapture of the city late last year.


Kenya:

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has pulled out of the 26 October election rerun. According to Odinga, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has refused to discuss the reforms proposed in order for the elections to be fair and free. The withdrawal left a situation of uncertainty in the country since the constitution says that no election can take place with only one candidate.

Kenya’s High Court ruled on Wednesday that a minor candidate could run in October’s presidential election after the withdrawal of Odinga’s candidacy. Besides Kenyatta and Odinga, none of the candidates who ran in the past election received more than one percent of the vote. The Supreme Court, however, had earlier ruled that the petitioner and the responder are the only ones who can stand in a rerun in the case of a challenging electoral outcome.

On Wednesday, more protests erupted after the parliament, which is dominated by the Jubilee party, passed a law stating if a candidate withdraws from the election, the other automatically wins the presidency.

A day after, the government banned protests in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu following weeks of demonstrations. Fred Matiangi, the security minister, said that the decision comes to protect the lives and properties of Kenyans as it identifies the demonstrations as a danger to public safety. The National Super Alliance had called for daily protests beginning next week in an effort to put pressure on electoral officials.


Libya:

Early this week, it was reported that the recent wave of violent clashes in Sabratha rose the death toll to 43 and wounded as many as 340. Additionally, the city’s hospital was damaged in the fighting and is reportedly only partially functioning. The Ministry of Health reported in September that the wounded were being treated either at private clinics or at hospitals abroad.

On Tuesday, the UNSC delivered a presidential statement reopening a Libyan-led political process, as submitted by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The initiative is a Libyan-led peace process that includes the establishment of a unity government and an action plan that, among other things, includes preparations for the creation of a constitution.


Mali:

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has called on all parties to implement essential provisions from the peace agreement between the Malian government and the Plateforme and Coordination armed groups. The UNSC noted that the continuous delays have raised concerns over the security situation in Mali that could give rise to potential threats to terrorism and transnational organized crime throughout the Sahel.

Due to continuous violence and displacement in Mali, 165,000 children are expected to suffer from severe malnutrition within the next year, with an estimated 142,000 children already affected this year. The violence in northern Mali has caused disruptions in health services and access to water and sanitation, causing a greatest risk to children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Although French peacekeepers have worked to stabilize Mali since 2013, there have been calls for intensified efforts to “build the resilience of families through improved food security, prevention and treatment of severe acute malnutrition”.


Nigeria:

On Monday, the Nigerian government began trials against more than 1,600 suspected Boko Haram members. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have notedthat fair trials for Boko Haram suspects are imperative. However, Amnesty International Nigeria’s Media Manager, Isa Sanusi, has reported that there are thousands of cases of arbitrary arrests where no evidence was provided and individuals were detained for years. Amnesty has also expressed concern in regards to the trials being held behind closed doors, stating that it prevents suspects from receiving access to public hearings.


Philippines:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has stated that the Philippines’ grave human rights violations during its campaign against drugs should result in being removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The HRW Geneva advocacy director, John Fisher, noted the importance of a UNHRC member to “uphold the highest standards of human rights, and cooperation with the council”, something that Fisher believes President Rodrigo Duterte is not fulfilling. Fisher also addressed the issue of President Duterte denying the reported extrajudicial killings (EJKs) taking place in the country, stating that Duterte is following a “convenient” definition of EKJs based on the previous administration.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced his shift of small drug war targets to bigger networks and suppliers. Duterte said he will remove police from handling the drug war and instead place the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in charge. He admitted that there are lower death tolls during the PDEA’s operations than during police operations. Although it is unclear if his change in plan was due to international pressure, he specifically addressed the European Union’s focus on the rising death tolls during his speech.


South Sudan:

The Center for Peace and Justice (CPJ) has warned warring parties to not focus on division of wealth and power sharing during the upcoming peace revitalization forum organized by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional bloc that brings together Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. The CPJ has said that the discussion must prioritize solving the country’s conflict by addressing the suffering of civilians who are targeted by the warring parties themselves.


Sudan:

UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy, has stated his approval of the United States’ (US) recent decision to lift sanctions against Sudan. Jazairy believes that this is a step in the right direction to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda, specifically Goal 1, to eradicate poverty. However, both American and Sudanese actors have called on the United States to continue pressuring President Omar al-Bashir and his government to support peace and democratic changes, as well as ending the armed conflicts in Sudan.


Syria:

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported, that since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014, the US-led coalition has allegedly “unintentionally killed” at least 685 civilians in its military action against the Islamic State (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. However, other independent sources, such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SORH), have reported numbers much higher. In an article published late last week, HRW argued for the responsibility of the US-led coalition towards these victims, who the coalition have reportedly regarded as collateral damage. HRW argued that the parties involved in the US-coalition have the responsibility to support the surviving victims of their actions with both symbolic gestures, such as a public apology, as well as materially, such as compensation payments.


Venezuela:

Colombian police from Cucutá, a town close to the border with Venezuela, have found a mass grave in Venezuelan territory. An investigation is set to begin soon, but authorities have given no information on which country will conduct it. Several non-governmental organizations and community members have denounced disappearances or killings of people who deal with smuggling on the border. Many criminal organizations operate throughout the more than 2,000 kilometers of border between Venezuela and Colombia.


Yemen:
On Wednesday, Reuters brought attention to the Saudi-led coalition’s military activity in the Red Sea, especially around the Houthi-controlled port Hodeidah, which they pursue with the aim of blocking weapons from reaching the Houthi rebels by ships. The military activity reportedly started in 2015, and Western governments approved the activity allegedly as a way to weaken the Houthi fighters and support the internationally recognized government. However, the blockade also stops ships from delivering essential goods, such as food and medical supplies, to Yemeni civilians, which has been of concern to the UN and international aid groups since the beginning of the blockade. Millions of Yemenis still suffer the consequences from this. According to the report, the Saudi-led blockade impeded or severely delayed ships carrying aid supplies and commercial goods from reaching Yemeni ports, even when the UN had cleared the vessels and assured that no weapons were found. Last week, Saudi ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi denied that the coalition was blocking commercial shipments with food and medicine, stating that such acts would be self-contradictory since Saudi Arabia is donating humanitarian aid to Yemen. Meanwhile, the internationally recognized government of Yemen has also implemented forms of blockades, such as when the government notified the UN of its decision to block a Houthi-held oil port due to its “illegal status” last summer. Therefore, the Houthi-held areas especially suffer from a lack of essential goods due to the blockades.

In the wake of the recent blacklisting of the Saudi-led coalition by the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, the permanent representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, reported that his government uses “extremely stringent measures” to ensure that the weapons sold to the coalition by the UK “are used correctly.” Reportedly, the UK’s biggest weapon’s client is Saudi Arabia, who purchased weapons worth four billion dollars during the past two years. However, the issue is heavily disputed within the UK; for example, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly condemned the government’s weapons sales to the coalition.

In this week’s UN Security Council briefing on Yemen, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged the members of the Security Council to pressure the parties to the conflict in Yemen to embrace a comprehensive peace deal, emphasizing that an agreement to secure access to humanitarian aid cannot be the end goal of efforts to protect the Yemeni civilians. In his briefing, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed argued that the influential political parties to the conflict have an interest in prolonging the war, and thereby maintain a profitable position in which they have control. Furthermore, Director of Operations at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) John Ging noted that the humanitarian response plan for Yemen, which has to reach 12 million people in need, is currently only 55 percent funded.

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#R2PWeekly: 2 – 6 October 2017

 

UntitledICRtoP, Stanley Foundation, and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
partner to host meeting on UN-civil society cooperation to strengthen
accountability and prevention under RtoP

On 7 September 2017, the Stanley Foundation, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung partnered to hold a breakfast meeting between 15 leading civil society organizations from all continents and Dr. Ivan Šimonović, UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). Within an informal, not-for-attribution setting, participants discussed opportunities and offered recommendations for strengthening accountability and prevention under RtoP. This session was preceded and informed by the UN Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect, which took place 6 September 2017.

Throughout the discussion, participants focused on three important reflections from the recent UNGA dialogue on RtoP. First, it was noted that the space for civil society participation in the dialogue had been improved due to procedural changes in the format of the dialogue. This was lauded as pivotal for the development of the discussion surrounding RtoP.  However, concerns were also noted over a trend towards polarization in Member States’ views on RtoP, particularly regarding the resulting effects on advocacy opportunities on behalf of support for the norm.  Lastly, participants were heartened by interventions which discussed RtoP in new and innovative ways, most notably through the thematic focus of the UN Secretary-General’s latest report and the theme of the dialogue on accountability for prevention.

The breakfast meeting also resulted in a range of recommendations on how the UN can strengthen its work on the Responsibility to Protect and atrocity prevention. These recommendations include ensuring a focus on thematic topics within atrocity prevention measures, such as the importance of incorporating a gender-lens. However, the recommendations also include propositions on how to develop existing tools to support RtoP efforts, such as the addition of a focus on atrocity prevention within the Universal Periodic Review process in the United Nations Human Rights Council and including RtoP on the UN General Assembly’s formal agenda.

Finally, participants also discussed recommendations on how to better mobilize implementation of RtoP. Participants noted the importance of strengthening legal tools for atrocity preventions, such as international humanitarian and human rights treaties, which can be used to set precedent and deter the future perpetration of such atrocities. Furthermore, participants highlighted the important role of regional and sub-regional organizations in upholding RtoP and in working with and supporting national capacities for prevention.

To read the full Policy Memo with reflections and recommendations, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Kenya 
Libya
Mali
Philippines
Nigeria
South Sudan 
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Representatives from both Burma and Bangladesh agreed on 2 October to implement a working group that would aim to send over 500,000 Rohingya refugees back to the Rakhine State. The two parties are set to meet later this week to discuss the terms and conditions of the agreement.  However, the Burmese government has questioned the practicality of the return of thousands of Rohingya refugees and migration experts have pointed out flaws in the process, including that many Rohingya from Rakhine State have been denied Burmese citizenship.

Human Rights Watch has collected testimonies from 14 Rohingya villagers that allegedly outline the scope of the violence that occurred in the villages of Maung Nu and Hpaung Taw Pyin in Rakhine State. The reports describe sexual assaults, beatings, stabbings, and shootings of villagers of all ages, including women and children. HRW also reported that on 27 August the Burmese military carried out several dozen summary executions of Rohingya Muslims in Maung Nu. Witnesses also reported that government soldiers had “beaten, sexually assaulted, stabbed, and shot villagers who had gathered for safety in a residential compound, two days after Rohingya militants attacked a local security outpost and military base.”

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee on the Rights of a Child have expressed concerns that the violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine State “may amount to crimes against humanity.” The resulting massive wave of Rohingya refugees has also led to increased rates of poverty and malnutrition, specifically among the women and children.

According to reports from UN and aid workers in Burma, UN leadership officials in the country have attempted to stop activists from raising concerns over the human rights abuses facing the Rohingya population in discussions with the Burmese government. Furthermore, a former UN official has asserted that the same leadership has also attempted to block human rights advocates from gaining access to Rohingya villages in Rakhine State.


Burundi:

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva voted last Friday to extend the investigation of the Commission of Inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity. Burundi’s ambassador expressed disagreement by saying that “there was no longer any need to continue the Commission of Inquiry” after the Council passed a resolution a day before to send three experts into the country.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has made an appeal for 429 million USD to address the refugee crisis in the East African region. Around 400,000 Burundian refugees have been displaced throughout the region in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Catherine Wiesner, UNHCR Regional Refugee Coordinator for Burundi, has said that “the chronic underfunding for the Burundi refugee situation has severely hampered reception capacities and the quality of protection rendered by host countries.”


Central African Republic:

The International Crisis Group (ICG) has released a report denouncing that the international community and national authorities in the CAR have not been able to address the escalation of violence or to find solutions to the crisis. Efforts have been focused on the DDRR (disarmament, demobilization, reinsertion and repatriation) of the rebels, but there has been little progress made, according to the group. ICG has stated that both the government and its partners must “put pressure on the rebels – particularly by tackling their sources of income and exercising stronger military deterrence – but also rebuild trust among the populations of peripheral regions”.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has expressed concern over the difficult situation that people with disabilities face amid the rising violence in the country; many times, they are unable to escape the violence and cannot flee to another country for safety. Those who do flee are reportedly “often not identified or counted in registration or data collection exercises, are excluded from or unable to access mainstream assistance programmes and forgotten when specialised services are set up.” MSF has also pointed out that displaced persons and refugees with disabilities are also more exposed to harassment, exploitation, physical and sexual violence, and discrimination.

The UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that around 64,000 refugees fled from the CAR to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between the months of May and August. Congolese villages have not been able to cope with the influx of Central African refugees, as over 170,000 refugees from CAR have arrived in the DRC since the crisis began.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a new report claiming that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war in the CAR. According to the report, sexual slavery and rape have been in widespread use by the two main parties to the conflict, the Muslim Seleka and the Christian anti-Balaka groups, as a method of “revenge for perceived support of those on the other side of the sectarian divide”. Such abuses are criminalized by international and national law and could constitute war crimes, but no arrests or trials have been conducted for such crimes since the conflict began in 2013. HRW has called on the government of the CAR and international partners to provide assistance to victims of sexual violence and to end impunity.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

 The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned that there could be further displacement in the DRC if the security situation in the insecurity remains unstable. Thousands of Congolese refugees that have arrived in Zambia have reported “extreme brutality, with civilians being killed, women raped, property looted and houses set alight.” Around 60 percent of these refugees are children and have shown signs of severe malnutrition.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the Security Council that funding cuts to the MONUSCO may “compromise its ability to deliver on its core priorities” late last week.


Kenya:

The African Human Rights Bureau has urged the UN Security Council to intervene in Kenya as it noted that the ongoing crisis has reached similar levels of concern the violent situation that took place after the elections in 2007-2008. Dan Alila, the bureau’s special counsel, said that “if no serious political intervention is made now by the UN, then Kenya could slide into a grave political instability with attendant chaos, violence, mayhem, and massive displacements and killings, thereby causing a humanitarian crisis.” He also said that a reformed electoral commission or an ad hoc UN committee should supervise the poll in which the two main parties are represented.


Libya:

On Tuesday, recent violence in the city of Sabratha killed at least five civilians and wounded another 12. Furthermore, reports suggest that the city’s hospital has also been attacked twice.


Mali:

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a report on 28 September focused on the current state of affairs in Mali following the death of three peacekeepers. The Secretary-General reported that the security situation in the state has plummeted due to domestic political instability and the increased amounts of extremist attacks since his last report in June. He also outlined specific human rights violations that occurred within Mali, including forced disappearances, the military recruitment of children, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and unlawful detention. In all, the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) documented 151 alleged cases of human rights violations in 2017 to date. In addition, the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System documented 1,368 cases of gender-based violence between January and June 2017. The region also continues to struggle with food insecurity, forced displacement, rampant poverty, and school closures. The Secretary-General also called upon the international community to increase UN funding for MINUSMA.


Nigeria:

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has claimed that portions of President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech on 1 October amounted to hate speech against ethnic Igbo populations in Nigeria.

The Nigerian military has commissioned human rights offices in conflict-affected Borno State in order to combat the perpetration of human rights violations by Nigerian soldiers. Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Tukur Buratai has also called on the media to work with Nigerian military and security forces in the fight against Boko Haram in the region.


Philippines:

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano stated this week that the Philippines welcomes independent experts from the UN to “conduct an objective assessment of the country’s human rights situation”. However, Mr. Cayetano also requested, that only unbiased investigators should be allowed to make the assessments.

The International Center for Transitional Justice’s Reparative Justice Program Director Ruben Carranza has argued that the International Criminal Court (ICC) may initiate an investigation into the Philippines if the government does not take action on alleged human rights violations in the country. According to Carranza, this could include an investigation into the criminal accountability of individuals in the country, including President Duterte.

Human rights defenders have repeatedly called for the removal of the Philippines as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council due to the government’s continued denial of extrajudicial killings allegations.


South Sudan:

President Salva Kiir has begun pushing for elections to be held in 2018 despite the ongoing conflict in the country. The current term of the transitional government expires in February 2018. The UN has warned, however, that the insecurity in the country is not a stable environment for a vote to take place.

Clashes between government armed forces and rebel groups have killed 91 rebels and five soldiers in the northeastern part of the country. Mabior Garang Mabior, a spokesman on behalf of the rebel groups, has accused the government of breaching a ceasefire.


Syria:

At the beginning of this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on individual deportations and collective expulsions of entire families of Syrian refugees from Jordan, a process which the group alleges has been occurring and increasing in frequency since mid-2016. In the first five months of 2017, the Jordanian authorities reportedly deported 400 registered refugees per month. According to interviews conducted by HRW, Syrian refugees were deported without basic due process, an explanation for their deportation, or even information about the state of security they would be returning to in Syria. Furthermore, such acts would be a violation of, among other international legal obligations, the Arab Charter of Human Rights, to which Jordan is a State party. The report also noted that international humanitarian workers have suggested that the deportations increased as part of an overall increase in security measures throughout Jordan, however, according to HRW, the Jordanian authorities have failed to provide evidence that any of the deported refugees were involved in situations of armed attacks in Jordan.

On Monday, two suicide bombers detonated their explosive belts in a car bomb attack on a police station in Al-Midan, an area of Damascus. The attack killed 17 civilians and policemen. Islamic State (ISIL) has claimed responsibility.

On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that in the past two weeks violence in Syria has reached its most intense level since the battle for Eastern Aleppo in the winter of 2016. The ICRC noted that the military activity correlated with very high levels of civilian causalities and that at least ten hospitals had been damaged in the last ten days. As violence escalated, the number of internally displaced people increased and humanitarian aid workers are reportedly struggling to provide food and basic health care for the many refugees who have arrived in refugee camps around Raqqa and Deir Az Zor. ICRC has repeated its call on all parties in the conflict to abide by International Humanitarian Law.

An investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has found evidence that sarin nerve gas, which was the substance used in the attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April, was also used in another attack five days earlier in the town Latamneh in northern Syria. This attack reportedly injured more than 50 people. The findings disprove earlier statements that the Khan Sheikhoun attack was the first time the banned substance had been used in the war since 2013. On Wednesday, the UN Security Council met in New York to discuss the use of chemical weapons in Syria.


Venezuela:

The crisis in Venezuela has provoked massive waves of refugees fleeing to Colombia. An estimated 25,000 people cross the border every day through the Simon Bolivar International bridge. Common goods have become scarce in Venezuela and hospitals struggle to treat their patients with a shortage of medicines. Many cross the border daily to acquire food or sell goods in the market of the town of Cucutá and go back to Venezuela. For this reason, the government of Colombia has introduced “border mobility cards” so that Venezuelans can cross the border back and forth without their passport


Yemen:

Late last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution establishing an independent group of experts to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all warring parties in Yemen. Amnesty International called the resolution a “breakthrough” and a “victory for Yemenis.”

This week, journalists from several media outlets reported that a draft UN blacklist allegedly included States in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen for killing and maiming children as part of their military campaign in the country. However, the UN Secretary General (UNSG) has yet to approve the list, and it is therefore still subject to change. The UN ambassador of Saudi Arabia has reportedly refused to comment until the list has been officially published and the Saudi Mission to the UN commented that there was no justification for their government to be on the list..


Other:

The Universal Rights Group, with support from the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN in Geneva, has launched a comprehensive guide on the 2017 Human Rights Council Elections.

 

 

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#R2PWeekly: 14 August – 18 August 2017

Rtop weekly

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

Rtop weekly

 

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

Rtop weekly

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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#R2PWeekly: 19 June – 23 June 2017

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Peace accord in CAR breaks down hours after its signing with
renewed violence in Bria
Earlier this week, officials from the government of the Central African Republic met with representatives from the major rebel groups in the country in an effort to formalize a path to peace. The discussion culminated in an “immediate ceasefire” accord on Monday, 19 June, which guaranteed the rebel groups political representation in exchange for their ending of violence and blockades against the CAR government and civilians. The effort to secure a formal peace in CAR was prompted by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ declaration this month about rapidly deteriorating security and stability in the country. Therefore, the parties to the accord seemed to be committed to transparency when they explicitly called for monitoring by the international community as part of the agreement.

However, mere hours after the agreement was signed, violence broke out yet again in the CAR town of Bria, which rebel group clashes have continuously plagued since 2013. Tuesday’s violence included the looting and burning of residents’ houses, leading to around 100 casualties, although the toll is expected to rise. A spokesman for the Popular Front for the Rebirth of CAR, a group formerly affiliated with the Muslim Seleka coalition, asserted that his group must protect itself from attacks despite signing the accord. It remains unclear which armed group is being blamed for renewing the violence in the city.

However, experts in the country had been pessimistic about the agreement’s chances of success since even before its signing. According to the President of the Central African League of Human Rights, Joseph Bindoumi, the most recent peace deal was just one of many that had also previously fallen through, and therefore he did not believe the armed groups saw the current deal as actually binding. Lewis Mudge, a researcher in the African Division of ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, had questioned if the leaders of the rebel groups even had enough control over their men to force them to stand down from the violence. It is unclear when the two sides will seek to create another deal, if any.

Source of above photo: UN News Centre


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
DRC
Iraq
Libya
Mali
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen

 


Burundi:

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, established last year by the Human Rights Council (HRC), provided on 19 June an oral report to the HRC about the human rights issues that have continued to pervade Burundi. The report detailed various human rights violations including torture, gender-based violence, forced disappearances with ransom demands, and unlawful executions. According to the report, these violations were committed by law enforcement and members of the National Intelligence Service, who targeted anti-government sympathizers, though ethnicity has also allegedly been a driving factor.

The Commission was first created in September 2016 in order to identify and ensure accountability for atrocity crimes committed since April 2015, with the Chairman of the Commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz, confirming “the scope and gravity of human rights violations and abuses” in Burundi since that time. The Burundian government, however, has accused the Commission of bias and being influenced by the European Union. The final report will be presented in September, at which time the Commission will decide whether the crimes violate international law.

On 20 June, Assistant Secretary-General Taye-Brook Zerihoun urged the international community to assist peacebuilding efforts to the Security Council during an update on the situation in Burundi. Continued reports of “targeted arrests, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of real or perceived opposition members” have fueled a renewed effort to initiate a cooperative political dialogue in the region. A lack of effective cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Burundian government has resulted in the stagnation of the peacebuilding efforts.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged elections to be conducted in the DRC immediately, while declaring that the political future of the country and Africa as a whole is in “grave danger.” DRC President Joseph Kabila has yet to vacate his office despite agreements to step down in 2016, and efforts to organize elections have deteriorated since then. President Kabila has stated that elections will take place by the end of 2017, but asserted they will not be held if doing so “would result in further chaos.” Meanwhile, the DRC is experiencing an ongoing insurgency as the Kamuina Nsapu forces maintain a prolonged uprising against security forces in the Kasai region.

A report released by the Catholic Church in Congo on 20 June stated that over 3,300 people have been killed as the situation in the Kasai region deteriorates. It is a sharp increase from the previously reported death toll of 400. Additionally, the government-backed coalition Bana Mura has “shot dead, hacked or burnt to death, and mutilated hundreds of villagers” in the region, according to Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 20 June. The High Commissioner further detailed examples of atrocity crimes being committed by both the Kamuina Nsapu and Bana Mura forces, including deliberate attacks and mutilations of children as young as two.

Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, the Justice Minister in the DRC, has rejected calls for an independent investigation in the Kasai region by stating: “Carrying out an investigation that excludes the Congolese authorities would be unacceptable. It would be as if we were not an independent country.” The High Commissioner for Human Rights had previously called for an independent investigation after the DRC failed to agree to a joint investigation.


Iraq:

Iraqi forces have continued their advance into old Mosul, the final district in the city held by the Islamic State (ISIL). The Iraqi army estimates that there are no more than 300 ISIL fighters remaining in the city. However, about 100,000 civilians, including 5,000 children, are still trapped with little food, water or medical treatment, and ISIL fighters continue to use those civilians as human shields and have killed hundreds who tried to escape in the past three weeks. Furthermore, the maze-like and narrow alleys and old buildings continue to slow down the coalition’s offense, as International Rescue Committee reported: “The buildings of the old town are particularly vulnerable to collapse even if they aren’t directly targeted, which could lead to even more civilian deaths.” Sabah al-Numan, spokesman of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), stated: “The operation now is about street fighting. Air and artillery strikes will be limited because the area is heavily populated and the buildings fragile.”

On 21 June, ISIL destroyed the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, a prominent Iraqi landmark that is over 850 years old. The mosque is also the place where ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014. Analysts have stated that the destruction of the mosque indicates ISIL is on the edge of collapse and is no longer capable of resisting the Iraqi government forces’ attacks.


Libya:

On 19 June, the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) ratified an agreement brokered by the UN that would allow the displaced population of the city of Tawergha to return to their homes, according to ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW). Militias had attacked and demolished Tawergha in 2011, leading to a mass evacuation of the residents, and the armed groups have prevented their return since they were forcibly displaced. The attack was believed to be a retaliatory act against the Tawergha residents for supporting then-leader Muammar Gaddafi during the 2011 conflict. Currently, around 40,000 former residents of Tawergha are allegedly being prevented from returning to their homes by civil and military authorities. Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, stated: “While the priority is to end the six-year-old collective punishment of people from Tawergha, the victims from both sides should also see justice for the crimes they have suffered.”


Mali:

A deadly terrorist attack killed five people on 18 June at a resort outside Bamako, the capital of Mali. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes after the group formed an alliance with other extremist militant groups in Mali. Authorities killed four of the perpetrators and arrested five others. French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has stationed troops in Mali to assist the UN peacekeeping mission in combating extremist militant groups, has reaffirmed his full support to Mali’s government and its security efforts.

On 21 June, the Security Council passed a resolution enabling the deployment of a transnational military coalition to counter terrorist forces in the Sahel region. France, a vocal supporter of the resolution, called the resolution a “landmark.” However, the resolution currently remains unfinanced, as the Security Council will not agree to pull funds from the UN peacekeeping budget; France is urging financial cooperation to fulfill the resolution’s objectives.


South Sudan:

A report released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC) on 19 June showed that there are 65.6 million forcibly displaced persons around the world at the end of 2016, the highest number ever recorded by the agency. UNHRC High Commissioner Filippo Grandi has urged countries to assist South Sudan by bolstering security and providing aid. Grandi does note, though, that peacebuilding efforts aimed at ending the civil war is the most sustainable solution. Grandi further noted that while South Sudan suffers from a “combination of violence, ethnic strife, lack of development, climatic factors and international neglect,” the country’s refugees are neglected by the international community because they do not reach “places where refugees become visible” and highly publicized, such as Europe, Australia, and the United States.

According to a report released by the UN on 21 June, an increase in humanitarian assistance has effectively pulled South Sudan away from famine. However, the number of people at risk for starvation has risen within the last month, illustrating that the country is still very much at risk. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report (IPC), the number of people at facing imminent starvation has risen to six million, up from 5.5 million just a month ago.


Syria:

On Saturday, 17 June, the Syrian army declared a 48-hour ceasefire to support “reconciliation efforts,” as the UN is starting a fresh round of Syria peace talks on 10 July in Geneva. Russia later said it would also hold a peace talk on the same day in Astana, Kazakhstan. There have been several rounds of talks between government and rebel representatives that have been mediated by both the UN and Russia since last year.

After the ceasefire expired on Monday, Syrian government forces resumed bombardments in rebel held areas of the city of Deraa, according to witnesses and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The government forces’ offensive on Deraa has intensified and more troops have arrived in the city, according to rebels and city residents. If the government troops capture rebel-held parts of Deraa and the few kilometers between it and the border with Jordan, it would divide the rebel areas in southeast Syria.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Wednesday for special consideration to be taken for civilians still trapped in the city of Raqqa, which the US-led coalition is seeking to liberate from ISIL. Guterres asserted there are civilians that have been deprived of food and medical aid for years and that he was “deeply alarmed” by the situation. Furthermore, the UN reports that ISIL fighters continue to use civilians as human shields and to shoot families who try to escape. “It is critical for all parties to facilitate improved humanitarian access to allow aid to reach those in urgent need of life-saving assistance without delay,” Guterres added.


Yemen:

On Saturday, Yemen’s Saudi-backed government agreed to a UN plan to keep the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah out of the civil war and to resume government salary payments. The UN has proposed that Hodeidah, a port that handles around 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports, should be turned over to a neutral party. However, a spokesperson for the Houthis said the UN was encouraging the Saudi-led alliance to resume its strikes and that they have the right and legality to respond to any aggression. The Saudi-led coalition has accused the Houthis of using Hodeidah to smuggle in weapons, but the Houthis have denied such allegations.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, 22 June, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the United Arab Emirates of financing, arming, and training Yemeni forces that allegedly tortured detainees during operations against the Yemeni branches of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIL). HRW reported that the UAE maintains the operation of two secret prisons in southern Yemen where officials are allegedly responsible for forced disappearances and where prisoners continue to be detained despite release orders. Prisoners have reported enduring torture such as heavy beating, sexual assault, and death threats to them and their families.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 12 June – 16 June 2017

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Civilian Deaths in Raqqa Mount as US-led Coalition Forces
Push to Reclaim City from ISIL

b71f049d-7645-4915-85fa-28393b073bf5Since beginning a large-scale offensive campaign on 6 June, the US-led coalition has continued to advance in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a network of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by the US-led coalition, has said they have opened up a second front inside the city. The recent offensive comes after a months-long effort by the SDF to cut off Raqqa, and ISIL within it, from outside support.

However, despite the seeming success at loosening ISIL’s grasp on Raqqa, the number of civilian casualties has continued to increase as the US-led coalition’s attacks have intensified there. Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry, told the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday that US-led coalition airstrikes are responsible for a “staggering loss of civilian life” in Raqqa, having caused at least 300 civilian casualties and the displacement of 160,000 since March. If the coalition’s offensive on Raqqa succeeds, it could liberate the city’s civilians, including Yazidi women and girls, that “the group has kept sexually enslaved for almost three years as part of an ongoing and unaddressed genocide” according to Pinheiro. However, he added that the fight on terrorism must not be “undertaken at the expense of civilians.” Additionally, Pinheiro reported on efforts coordinated between the Syrian government and armed groups to evacuate civilians from conflict areas, which he asserts can “in some cases amount to war crimes” as forces have forcibly removed civilians. Civilians also continue to face a direct risk from ISIL, as those who have successfully fled from Raqqa have reported that ISIL fighters have begun killing any who try to escape, and fighters have been using civilians as human shields.

The conflict situation has indirect consequences for civilians, as well. On Tuesday, 13 June, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) called for better access to Raqqa, claiming that close to half a million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic cited several barriers that have made aid operations “costly and complex,” such as a serious lack of resources and funding, as well as the blockage of land routes by other parties which has forced the aid agency to rely solely on airlifts.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch has urged the US to investigate airstrikes that have allegedly targeted civilians in Syria and Iraq, expressing particular concerns about the alleged use of white phosphorus by coalition forces in airstrikes, saying it “poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm” for civilians in densely populated cities like Raqqa. HRW added that “White phosphorus fragments can exacerbate wounds even after treatment and can enter the bloodstream and cause multiple organ failure”. In this vein, HRW has urged the US-led coalition to make protection of civilians a priority.

Source of above photo: The Washington Post


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/ Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Libya
Iraq
South Sudan


Burma/ Myanmar:

Burma has rejected the UN fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of mass killings, gang rapes, and torture by security forces against the Rohingya Muslim population. Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday that the probe “would have created greater hostility between the different communities,” adding that the Burmese government did not “feel it was in keeping with the needs of the region in which we are trying to establish harmony and understanding, and to remove the fears that have kept the two communities apart for so long.” Aung San Suu Kyi said she would only accept recommendations from an advisory commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan.


Burundi:
A grenade explosion in the primarily opposition-supportive area of Bujumbura left one dead and nine others wounded on 14 June. Bujumbura saw major protests two years ago due to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s seeking of a third term. Anti-government protests have persisted even after Nkurunziza’s success, with the UN having estimated that the unrest has caused between 500 and 2,000 deaths and over 400,000 forced displacements in total.


Central African Republic:

The UN Special Representative for the Secretary General in CAR, Mr. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, has expressed deep concern over increased attacks on civilians and peacekeeping officers throughout the country, while emphasizing “the intensity of the attacks, their premeditated nature and the targeting of ethnic minorities” as particularly alarming. During his meeting with the UN Security Council on 12 June, Onanga-Anyanga discussed how clashes between the Muslim majority Seleka rebels and majority Christian anti-Balaka militia has pivoted the country back into conflict, and further stressed the need to “re-energize” the political process in CAR to stabilize the conflict-torn region. Additionally, he applauded the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) for successfully reducing violence in the northwest regions of CAR, despite MINUSCA’s recent criticism by warring factions in the country.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has cited daily conflicts in Bria between Christian anti-Balaka and the Muslim Seleka factions. The violence has reportedly prevented the town from sustaining a livelihood, as tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee. Since the Muslim coalition forcibly removed President Francois Bozize from power in 2013, thousands have been killed in the country and up to a million have been displaced.


Cote d’Ivoire:
French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to reinforce the partnership between Cote d’Ivoire and France in an effort to mitigate the security threat that extremist terrorist groups pose in the Sahel region. The cooperation on military and intelligence issues was prompted by the March 2016 attack in Cote d’Ivoire by extremist groups, which resulted in 19 deaths, including several civilians.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other entities have requested $65 million in aid to assist the rising number of refugees currently flowing into Angola from the DRC. Clashes between militia forces in the country have displaced 1.3 million people and account for the 30,000 refugees who have now fled to Angola, though the UN estimates the number can easily rise to 50,000. UNHCR has stated that it needs $35 million to fund its planned aid operations for the rest of 2017, though currently only $10 million in aid has been received.


Gaza/West Bank:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Sunday to shut down the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which aids millions of Palestinian refugees. Netanyahu said UNRWA has perpetuated, rather than solved, the Palestinian refugee problem and that it incited anti-Israeli sentiment, asserting that the UNRWA should be “dismantled and merged with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.” Chris Gunness, UNRWA’s chief spokesman, responded this week by saying that only the General Assembly, by a majority vote, could change the agency’s mandate.

According to a report released on Monday by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, both Israel and the Palestinians have failed to bring perpetrators of war crimes to justice. The report urges both Israel and Palestine to conduct prompt, impartial, and independent investigations of all alleged violations of international human rights law. The report also mentioned a “general absence of higher-level responsibility” in Israel for violations in Gaza, and said Israeli and Palestinian authorities must ensure that victims of violations during the long-standing conflict have access to justice and reparations.


Iraq:
Iraqi forces on Tuesday reported progress in the US-backed campaign to liberate Mosul, the Islamic State’s (ISIL) last stronghold in Iraq. Iraqi forces stated they had captured a district called Zanjili, which sits just north of the city’s historic center. With the loss of Zanjili, ISIL controls only two districts in the city. The battle of Mosul has been longer than expected because ISIL has been using civilians as human shields, making it difficult for Iraqi forces to advance.


Libya:

According to the UN’s Libya Sanctions Committee report released on 9 June, the UAE has allegedly supplied military aircraft to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which violates UN-backed international sanctions against the regime. The LNA has refused to recognize the UN-backed government in Tripoli, and has taken control over a large part of the country during the past year. The report also showed that direct foreign support to Libyan armed groups has been increasing, despite the continuing arms embargo against them. Mohammed al-Dharat, a member of the Libyan Parliament, indicated that the UAE could not have brought equipment into Libya without help from other countries. Sulaiman al-Faqih, a member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Committee, said the UAE has violated international law and has called on the country’s Presidential Council to submit an official complaint at the UN Security Council.


South Sudan:
South Sudanese rebels have captured the Kuek region after an intense battle between the government and rebel forces. The rebel movement loyal to the former First Vice President of South Sudan Riek Machar, SPLM-IO, has officially assumed full control of the region.

Leaders of Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti attended the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit in Addis Ababa to discuss the South Sudanese conflict. The current First Vice President of South Sudan, Taban Deng Gai, was also in attendance, though leaders pointed out South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s “noticeable” absence. The IGAD summit agreed that President Kiir should “strictly implement” a previously agreed upon ceasefire and that rebel groups must respect the terms of the ceasefire. The conflict has already led to the displacement of 3.7 million people and forced 5.5 million people to face food shortages.

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#R2PWeekly: 5 June – 9 June 2017

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Number of Civilian Deaths in Mosul on the Rise

As the number of civilian deaths continues to rise in Mosul, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that the latest information suggests that US-led coalition and Iraqi forces have not taken the necessary precautions to prevent civilian casualties during the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIL) in the city. Evidence has shown that Iraqi forces employed large explosive munitions during attacks, which are known to pose an “excessive risk to civilians” when used in densely-populated neighborhoods. Additionally, several attacks caused disproportionate civilian harm in comparison to the military advantage gained, potentially violating international law. One specific example listed was an attack on 17 March, when US airstrikes killed 200 civilians while targeting only two ISIL fighters. Another two documented US-led coalition or Iraqi attacks occurred with no clear presence of ISIL militants in the area, but resulted in the deaths of at least 13 civilians. HRW has asserted that during efforts to secure Mosul, anti-ISIL forces should take “all feasible precautions” to minimize civilian casualties and injuries, including in “choice of weaponry in heavily populated areas.”

Furthermore, Iraqi government forces have allegedly carried out dozens of extrajudicial executions over concerns that the victims were affiliated with ISIL. Experts have suspected that Iraqi forces perpetrated the killings, as at least 26 blindfolded and handcuffed bodies were found in firmly government-controlled areas in Mosul, according to 4 June reports. Reuters has reported previously this year on bodies being seen floating down the Tigris River over several months, having reportedly originated from government-controlled towns in Iraq. This has raised the possibility that extrajudicial killings have been ongoing. Extrajudicial killings in conflict constitute war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity if conducted systematically.

ISIL has also been directly responsible for civilian casualties, with UN Human Rights Chief Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein noting ISIL’s particular brutality during an assault last week when the group left the bodies of 163 civilians lying in the streets. According to the UN on 6 June, the civilians had been directly targeted to prevent them from fleeing Mosul, and many hid among the piles of bodies in an effort to survive. Additionally, as US-led coalition and Iraqi forces move into the final phase of securing the city, ISIL has reportedly resorted to using civilians as human shields. Priyanka Motaparthy, Senior Emergencies Researcher at HRW, stated on 6 June that any future Iraqi or US-led coalition strikes should take the possibility of human shields into account.

other than direct action by armed groups, other aspects of the conflict have created an at-risk scenario for civilians. For example, Iraqi and US officials have stated that the maze-like narrow alleys in the old parts of the city make it extremely difficult to evacuate civilians. Furthermore, the UN estimated on 3 June that nearly 200,000 people face a severe food and water crisis in the city. Iraqi Major General Najim Abdullah al-Jubouri said on 3 June it will take at least another month before the liberation of Mosul is achieved, but his forces have halted attacks temporarily in order to create a safe passage out of the city for civilians fleeing from ISIL and the violence.

Source of above photo: VOA News

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
DRC
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen

 


Burundi:
On 5 June, the Burundi government accused the EU of seeking to destabilize security in Burundi, citing documents apparently implicating the EU delegation in a failed coup in May 2015 by actively financing entities that sought to destabilize the Burundi Government. The EU has publicly denounced these allegations, stating they are “based on a deliberately wrong interpretation of a program to support human rights defenders.”


 

Central African Republic:

The latest UN Mapping Report released this week documented the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in CAR, discussing evidence of the grave human rights violations in the country occurring from 2003 to 2015. The Report will serve as a key tool in holding perpetrators accountable in country’s Special Criminal Court, as well as in specific cases reserved for the International Criminal Court.

On 7 June, the UN peacekeeping force in CAR, responsible for containing ethnic and resource driven violence, urged the dismissal of the over 100 peacekeeping troops accused of sexual abuse if the situation does not improve. A memo detailing the “deteriorating” situation in CAR was sent to a military official at the UN headquarters, but details of the memo were not disclosed to the public.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:
On 7 June, the UN increased pressure on the DRC government to investigate the abduction and murder of UN investigator Zaida Catalan, who had been investigating crimes against international humanitarian law and human rights in the country. Human rights groups have suspected Congolese troops to be responsible, suspicions that have been exacerbated as the DRC has sought to close the investigation.


 

Libya:
On 2 June, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, Maria Ribeiro, called for increased protection and humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country. Ribeiro expressed specific alarm regarding allegations of abuse of IDPs and of humanitarian aid in the Tawargha IDP camp in Tripoli.


 

Nigeria:

The “Northern Youth Groups,” a coalition of activist groups in northern Nigeria, signed a statement on 6 June calling for the forced expulsion of all Igbo Nigerians from the region. The Igbo represent one of the three main ethnic groups in the country. Nigerian leaders have publicly criticized the statement and some have called for the arrest of the signatories.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that it will reduce its delivery of emergency aid to 400,000 people in northeast Nigeria due to funding shortfalls, according Peter Lundberg, the UN’s Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria on Wednesday. The region has struggled with a lack of adequate food due to attacks by Boko Haram.

On 7 June, Boko Haram launched an attack on the city of Maiduguri that resulted in 13 deaths, making it the group’s deadliest attack in Nigeria in several months. This comes after Nigerian authorities claimed last year that Boko Haram had been effectively removed from the country.


 

South Sudan:
ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the UN to more fully address the situation in South Sudan, where civil war has forced one million people into displacement. HRW also says more should be done to help those with disabilities, citing the 250,000 with disabilities living in displacement camps. The latest HRW report indicates that both sides to the conflict have allegedly “committed abuses that may qualify as war crimes and crimes against humanity,” including “beatings and torture, enforced disappearances, rape and gang rape, extrajudicial executions and killings.”

The UN has blamed warring factions for exacerbating the country’s hunger crisis. According the UN Food and Agriculture Organization director Jose Graziano da Silva, donors have found little reason to continue supplying resources to South Sudan due to the inability of the parties to the conflict to secure peace.


 

Syria:

On Tuesday, 6 June, the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) started a major offensive to retake Raqqa, the de facto capital of Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria. SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters that US-led coalition forces are working side by side with the SDF. According to the US-led coalition, around 3 to 4 thousand ISIL fighters are likely hiding in Raqqa and have built defenses for the upcoming battle.
Humanitarian aid organization International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimated that 200,000 civilians are still trapped inside the city, and ISIL snipers and mines are killing any who try to flee. IRC warned that civilians could be used by the militants as human shields if they remain.

On 26 May, the United States’ Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Act is meant to ensure “accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria against innocent civilians,” regardless of what side of the conflict allegedly committed the crimes.


 

Yemen:
On 2 June, the formally recognized Yemeni government, along with its supporting Saudi-led coalition, announced tight restrictions on the number of journalists and human rights workers that would be allowed into Yemen. The move has been criticized as reducing the ability to deliver desperately needed aid to ailing Yemeni civilians.

According to a Houthi spokesman on 6 June, the group has publicly rejected the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, as a peace negotiator between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition on accusations of bias. Mr. Ahmed has been denied access to Houth-controlled areas as well. The group’s rejection of Mr. Ahmed comes after the UN Special Envoy called for a Houthi withdrawal from the city of Hodeidah, as well as for the Houthis to send revenue from the city’s port to a neutral party in exchange for calling off a Saudi-led coalition military operation on Hodeidah.

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