Tag Archives: Myanmar

#R2PWeekly: 17 July – 21 July 2017

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


 

Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


Iraq:

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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


Sri Lanka:

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


Syria:

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#R2PWeekly: 26 June – 30 June 2017

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US-led Coalition Airstrikes Contribute to Civilian Deaths in Syria

SDF forces in Syria
On Monday, 26 June, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly captured al-Qadisia, a western district of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria. US-led coalition airstrikes have been assisting SDF throughout the Raqqa campaign against ISIL, but the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that coalition airstrikes in and around Raqqa have also purportedly killed nearly 700 civilians this year.

Furthermore, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that US-led coalition airstrikes killed 57 people in a single attack targeting a prison operated by ISIL on Monday. Civilian prisoners are believed to make up the majority of the casualties from the strike. The prison is located in al-Mayadeen, an eastern Syrian town where US intelligence officials believe ISIL has likely moved most of its leaders. Colonel Joe Scrocca, coalition director of public affairs, said that the airstrike mission was “meticulously planned and executed to reduce the risk of collateral damage and potential harm to noncombatants,” adding that the allegations will be assessed by the group’s civilian casualty team.

Meanwhile, US intelligence officials reported they had observed activities that seemed to indicate preparations for a chemical attack were underway in Syria’s Shayrat airfield, the same airfield that Syrian government forces are reported to have used in April to allegedly launch a chemical attack that caused more than 80 deaths in Khan Sheikhoun. White House press Secretary Sean Spicer said late Monday that Syrian forces would “pay a heavy price” if they launched another chemical attack. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reported on Wednesday that the Syrian government appears to have heeded the warning for now.

Despite the controversy on how its airstrikes are affecting civilians, the US-led coalition is moving forward with plans to make Raqqa safe once ISIL is effectively removed. On Wednesday, US-led coalition special envoy Brett McGurk met with the Raqqa Civil Council, which is designed to rule Raqqa after the coalition liberates the city. McGurk and other coalition officials said they would “support first removing mines, lifting rubble, maintenance of schools, then electricity stations and water,” according to Omar Alloush, a member of the Raqqa Civil Council.

Source of above photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters


Catch up on developments in…

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

 

 


Burma/ Myanmar:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has noted the particular absence of Burma from the United States-affiliated list of governments that use child soldiers. Burma reached an agreement with the UN in 2012 to steadily end its use of child soldiers, but HRW has documented new recruitments of children into the military as of this year. According to Jo Becker, the child’s rights advocacy director at HRW, Burma’s removal from the list reduces the pressure necessary to produce change in the country, and reduces the credibility of the list in pointing out what countries are violating international law.


 Burundi:

Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General Michel Kafando is expected to brief Burundi officials on how to bolster cooperation between the UN and Burundi during his first visit to the country. Burundi’s Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Aimé Nyamitwe expressed confidence ahead of the Special Advisor’s visit, stating that the Burundi government believes Kafando understands the challenges facing Africa and how to combat them. His visit comes after the Burundi government accused the previous advisor, Jamal Benomar, of bias against the country’s interests.


Central African Republic:

On 26 June, Red Cross worker Joachim Ali was shot and killed by an armed militia group in the town of Bangassou, part of a region that has seen intense violence for several weeks. He is the second Red Cross worker to have fallen victim to the ongoing conflict, and his death occurred after the failure of the peace accord recently struck between the various armed militias in CAR and the government.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The Bana Mura militia has emerged as a considerable threat in the DRC. Originally arising as a rival to the Kamuina Nsapu anti-government rebel group, Bana Mura is reportedly armed and supported by the DRC government. According to the UN, Bana Mura is largely responsible for the increased level of attacks in the Kasai region over the past few months, renewing both tensions and civilian casualties. Witnesses have told UN officials that DRC soldiers had accompanied Bana Mura fighters in the attacks and had even directed some of the group’s actions.

Rights groups in the DRC have sought to aid rape victims in the country to speak out about their experiences. Most of the 50,000 rape and sexual violence cases reported over the past couple decades are suspected to have been carried out systematically by both DRC soldiers and rebel fighters as part of the conflict plaguing the DRC. The UN has specifically noted the DRC’s alarming levels of sexual violence in the past.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, 27 June, the Israeli army bombed three locations in Gaza, according to Palestinian security sources and witnesses. The bombing caused damage but no casualties were reported. A spokesperson for the Israeli army acknowledged that the bombings were performed as retribution for a “projectile fire” allegedly launched from the Hamas-governed region. However, Hamas has denied performing any such airstrikes. The current tension comes after both Hamas and Israeli officials expressed last month that they had no interest in escalating conflict in the region.


 Iraq:

On Thursday, 29 June, Iraqi forces declared they had successfully defeated the Islamic State’s (ISIL) self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq. The declaration came after Iraqi forces recaptured the ruined Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, a symbolic move as al-Nuri was the place ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had asserted his group’s caliphate in 2014. During the recapturing of the mosque, civilians living nearby were evacuated through corridors by Iraqi and US-led troops. However, despite the Iraqi forces’ success in Mosul, ISIL still controls territory to the west and south of the city, a region that encompasses hundreds of thousands of people. Additionally, the cost of the ongoing battle in Mosul has been enormous, with the violence being responsbile for thousands of civilian deaths. About 900,000 people have fled from the violence, equaling nearly half the city’s population before conflict broke out, according to aid groups. Those trapped in the city, estimated at around 50,000 people by the Iraqi military last week, are used as human shields by ISIL and are in desperate situation with scarce food, water, and medicine.


Mali:

A branch of al Qaeda in Mali has released Swedish hostage Johan Gustafsson after 6 years of captivity. Gustafsson was first kidnapped in a restaurant in Timbuktu along with two others. Sweden maintained its policy of not paying ransoms for hostages but would not release the details of the negotiations that led to Gustafsson’s release.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently spoke to Algerian leader Abelaziz Bouteflika in regards to their agreement in 2015 to assist the peace process in Mali. Part of the accord required Algeria to help identify and “draw a line” for the separatist movement that has riveted Mali. However, Mali has yet to contain the separatists. The peace process is expected to take years, despite the peacekeeping mission’s presence.


Nigeria:

Nine were killed in Maiduguri, Nigeria, in what is suspected to be multiple suicide attacks orchestrated by Boko Haram. A suicide attack near the University of Maiduguri killed one security officer and injured two others. Another attack near the Jere region killed eight others and injured 11.

The United States 2017 Trafficking Report has listed Nigeria as one of several countries that actively employed child soldiers in violent military actions from April 2016 to March 2017. Particularly, in Nigeria, violations include the continued use of children to help support militias and “widespread sexual exploitation of Borno State women and girls displaced by Boko Haram.”


South Sudan:

The government of South Sudan has begun denying aid workers passage into rebel-held regions, asserting that the move is an effort to protect the workers. However, the restriction is also meant to protect the government’s interests, as a government spokesperson claimed on 29 June that if the workers were attacked while traveling in the conflict regions, the government would be blamed. Since May, aid groups have been prohibited from traveling to the most conflicted areas in South Sudan on at least four occasions, but the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted on Wednesday that aid workers have been allowed to travel to government-held areas during that time. Experts believe the government may be purposely restricting aid delivery to civilians in rebel-held areas.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 29 June, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to drastically reduce the number of peacekeeping troops in the Darfur region of Sudan. The move, which was an effort to reduce the extreme cost of maintaining peacekeeping in the region, will remove about 44 percent of the UN forces in Darfur. Sudan’s government has also been pushing for the removal of the UN and African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) by insisting that violence in Darfur has been greatly reduced recently. The same UNSC resolution expressed “serious concern” about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, including increased instances of “extrajudicial killings, the excessive use of force, abduction of civilians, acts of sexual and gender-based violence, violations and abuses against children, and arbitrary arrests and detentions.”


Yemen:

On 24 June, UN-backed Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government claimed that it had begun an investigation into reports that United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed forces have been holding detainees in secret prisons in southern Yemen, in which prisoners have been tortured and abused. Such claims correspond to previous reports from ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week, that 49 people, including children, were arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared in liberated areas of southern Yemen within the last year, with at least 38 detainees having been arrested by UAE-backed security forces. Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr has said that a six-member committee will investigate “human rights allegations in liberated areas… and sends its report to the prime minister within 15 days.”

 

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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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#RtoPWeekly: 29 May – 2 June 2017

Untitled

Increasing violence in the DRC leaves 922,000 displaced

and prompts action by NGOs and EU

24cefa68-ec23-4909-80b8-16b3e42ff5feOn 1 June, 262 Congolese and nine international non-governmental organizations co-signed a statement calling upon the UN Human Rights Council to create a specialized Commission of Inquiry into the ongoing violence in the Central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), an ICRtoP member and signatory of the statement, Congolese forces have allegedly used excessive force against members of the Kamuina Nsapu movement since August 2016, including the alleged killing of apparently unarmed women and children. Additionally, UN investigators have found at least 42 mass graves in the area since conflict broke out in the region. ICRtoP members the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and International Refugees Rights Initiative (IRRI) were also among the organizations adding their name to the statement.

Similarly, the European Union noted that the ongoing violence and alleged human rights abuses in the Central Kasai and Kasai regions prompted the regional organization to impose sanctions on nine prominent DRC officials this past week. According to the EU’s statement announcing the sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, these particular officials are believed to have “contributed to acts constituting serious human rights violations in the DRC, by planning, directing or committing them.”

The renewed ethnic and politically-motivated conflict in the DRC has continued to increase in intensity, forcing over 922,000 DRC civilians to flee their homes in 2016, according to the annual Global Report on Internal Displacement released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) this past week. IDMC revealed that the DRC had the highest recorded number of displaced civilians of any country last year, a number that seems only likely to grow if President Joseph Kabila neglects to hold the elections mandated by the peace agreement reached last year.

However, experts on the situation hope the EU sanctions will force the DRC government to take action and stabilize the conflict, as the continuation of EU monetary support for the elections is contingent on President Kabila holding to the agreement. Meanwhile, the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council begins on 6 June in Geneva, but it remains to be seen if the body will discuss creating a Commission of Inquiry during that time.

Source of above photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/ Myanmar
CAR
Iraq
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Burma/ Myanmar:

A video newly released this past weekend showed suspected Burmese soldiers beating, interrogating, and threatening to kill captives. Based on the alleged soldiers’ accents, uniforms, and dialogue in the video, experts believe that the incident likely took place in Shan State, where conflict between rebels and government forces has been ongoing. Human rights advocacy groups have urged Burma’s government to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable. However, representatives for both the military and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi refused to give any information regarding the video when questioned on 30 May.

The UN has designated a three-member team to investigate alleged mass rapes and killings against Rohingya Muslims in Burma. According to a UN statement, the team is also meant to investigate allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, forced displacement, and unlawful destruction of property by security forces. However, the government has strongly expressed its reluctance to facilitate fact-finding missions in the past.


Central African Republic:

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on 30 May, at least 68,000 persons have been displaced this month alone due to the upsurge in militia violence, adding that the total numbers of displaced throughout the country have reached levels not seen since August 2014. During his visit to several conflict-prone towns in CAR on 31 May, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour warned that armed groups are committing “atrocious attacks” against peacekeepers, women, and children at ever more frequent levels, and forces deployed to combat the armed groups lack sufficient resources.


Iraq:

On Tuesday, 30 May, two car bomb attacks killed at least 27 and wounded more than 100 people in Baghdad. The Islamic State (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the first attack, which was planned for late at night in order to target families celebrating Ramadan and have a “maximum impact.” The explosion killed at least 16 people, including children. Iraqi analyst Ali Hadi Al-Musawi told Al Jazeera that defeats in open conflict have made ISIL desperate to remain relevant, thus resorting to more targeted attacks against civilians.

As the liberation of Mosul from ISIL forces entered its final phase on Tuesday, the UN urged nearly 200,000 civilians to flee the ISIL-controlled part of the city, where they remain in great danger. The UN’s top humanitarian official in Iraq, Lise Grande, said the evacuation notice was not compulsory and the Iraqi government would seek to protect civilians who remained. Furthermore, the UN has been planning for the liberation of Hawija, the next town that Iraqi government forces may try to liberate from ISIL. The UN has built eight emergency camps near the area and is constructing more.


Nigeria:

On 26 May, six children were abducted from their school in Lagos by Boko Haram militants. The abduction of young children in Nigeria by the group has become a common occurrence since 2009, with the victims often becoming forced laborers, sex slaves, or suicide bombers. The latest incident follows the group’s recent release of 82 Nigerian girls, who have reportedly been transferred to a rehabilitation center in Abuja to receive psychological and medical treatment.


South Sudan:

13 South Sudanese soldiers appeared before a military court on 30 May for charges brought against them regarding a July 2016 attack in Juba, the South Sudanese capital. The soldiers were allegedly responsible for the rape of five foreign aid workers and the death of a civilian in a rebel-controlled area of the city. The trial will likely be watched closely as it will be a test of the South Sudanese government’s ability to try war crimes.


Sudan:

In the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) latest report, The World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises, the NRC has stated that almost four million Sudanese civilians have been forcibly displaced during the past 14 years of violence between the Sudanese government and opposition forces, leading to a humanitarian crisis that is left largely untreated. Jan Egeland, the Secretary-General of the NRC, said many of the displaced have been forced to flee their homes several times due to intense violence, and that their vulnerability to being targeted becomes greater with each displacement.


Syria:

Airstrikes and rocket attacks, allegedly at the direction of the US-led coalition and an armed Kurdish group, respectively, have been blamed for the deaths of 13 civilians in Raqqa on 28 May, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It is likely the attacks were directed at Islamic State (ISIL) forces, as Raqqa has become the de facto stronghold for the organization in Syria and both groups are involved in conflict with ISIL there. The Observatory further reported that  US-led coalition air strikes killed at least 225 civilians between 23 April and 23 May, including numerous children, equaling the highest monthly civilian death toll for the coalition’s operations in Syria to date.


Yemen:

UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien said on Tuesday that Yemen is now in the throes of the world’s largest food insecurity crisis, with 17 million people in the country struggling to secure food and around 7 million being “one step away from famine.” O’Brien added that the food crisis in Yemen is not a coincidence or a result of natural disaster, but “a result of inaction– whether due to inability or indifference – by the international community.”

The famine has been further exacerbated by the continuing conflict between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels. According to a Yemeni government official, the government and the Houthis have been seeking to negotiate a deal that had originally been presented by UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The plan notably includes turning the port of Hodeidah over to a neutral party. The Yemeni government has threatened to attack Hodeidah, where a majority of humanitarian supplies and food enter the country, if the Houthis refuse to turn the port over to a neutral observer. Should such an attack occur, it would likely worsen the crisis further.

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#RtoPWeekly: 22 May – 26 May 2017

Displacement in CAR at worst levels since 2013, with almost 100,000 displaced and hundreds killed in May

In what the UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA) has called the worst level of displacement in the Central African Republic since civil war broke out in 2013, a cumulative 440,000 civilians had been forcibly displaced by the end of April due to renewed conflict in the country. Officials from OCHA have estimated that an additional 100,000 people could be displaced by the end of May, a number that becomes ever more likely as militia violence continues to spread to several prominent cities in the country.

On 18 May, the UN Deputy Special Representative in the Central African Republic, Diane Corner, reported that at least one armed militia group in the country had access to heavy weapons, such as mortars and grenade launchers, as well as “more sophisticated military tactics,” and that the groups were using these weapons during increasingly frequent attacks. The groups have targeted several towns in the past two weeks using enhanced equipment, including Bria, Bangassou, and Alindao, inflicting incredible damage on civilians. In what Social Affairs Minister Virginie Baikoua called a “catastrophe,” the recent militia attacks and looting in the town of Bria resulted in more than 41,400 of the city’s 47,500 residents fleeing to the nearest UN base for shelter, equaling almost 90 percent of the city’s population.

The renewed sectarian and ethnic-based violence in the country has resulted in a reported 300 deaths since only 8 May, including those of at least six UN peacekeeping officials. According to Corner, the majority of those deaths occurred during the recent attack on the UN mission in Bangassou, where anti-Balaka fighters “pinned down” peacekeepers before directly targeting Muslim civilians in the city.

The situation prompted UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to release a statement on 16 May condemning the attack on Bangassou and others, noting with particular alarm that violence was spreading into previously peaceful regions of the CAR.

As such, Ms. Baikoua joined the Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic, Najat Rochdi, in expressing their mutual unease with the renewed violence, declaring that civilians have been “paying the highest cost” during the recent attacks. Earlier this month, Ms. Baikoua and Ms. Rochdi jointly praised regional humanitarian agencies for stepping in to assist the several thousands of displaced and injured civilians desperately in need of aid due to the attacks, but also acknowledged that it would be difficult to maintain such a tremendous response while the conflict continued. For the foreseeable future, civilians inside and near these violent regions remain at great risk.

Catch up on developments in…

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

 


Burma/ Myanmar:

On 23 May, Burma’s military publicly rejected allegations made by the UN regarding atrocity crimes toward the Rohingya Muslim population in the country. The military said that the allegations, which include references to gang-rapes, savage beatings, and the murder of Rohingya civilians by soldiers, are “false and fabricated,” according to its own investigations. The military further claimed that the results of the investigations came from interviews of 3,000 villagers and 184 military officers and troops.


Burundi:

On 19 May, Amnesty International called upon the East African Community (EAC) to prioritize resolving the human rights crisis in Burundi at the EAC’s summit on 20 May. Amnesty International added that the EAC needed to provide the “political leadership and commitment” necessary to ending the ongoing violations, which allegedly include “unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearances.” At the event, a representative for the Inter-Burundi Dialogue gave a progress report regarding the security and political situation in Burundi, which was accepted by the EAC despite details of the report not being disclosed to the public.


Cote d’Ivoire:

The Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) and the African Union have joined UN officials in condemning the recent violent revolt by Forces Armées de Côte d’Ivoire (FACI) soldiers. The three organizations jointly stated on 18 May that the uprising threatened the hard-won peace in the country, adding that it is imperative to maintain dialogue and proper legal channels as the means to resolving such disputes. Officials from each of the three organizations have expressed their support Cote d’Ivoire’s president, Alassane Ouattara.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

On 22 May, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) began a year-long effort to provide basic necessities to the 27,000 displaced civilians in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Boubacar Seybou, head of IOM’s office in Goma, the armed conflict responsible for the displacement has also caused many humanitarian agencies to evacuate the area, citing extensive security and funding concerns, but the resulting vacuum of humanitarian assistance has only left even more people vulnerable. IOM’s efforts have been significantly funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), which contributed an amount equaling $183,000 USD and has pledged additional funding throughout the following year.


Gaza/West Bank:

According to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency on 22 May, Israeli forces allegedly fired upon and injured at least 11 Palestinians that were taking part in the protests in West Bank in support of the strikes of Palestinian prisoners seeking an improvement of the conditions in Israeli prisons. Currently, there are ongoing protests of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.


Iraq:

According to the latest report from ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW), the government-allied Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) allegedly detained at least 100 men while they were fleeing from the conflict. According to victims, PMF soldiers blindfolded, interrogated, and beat them with thick metal cables while they were detained for up to 15 days. These latest accusations are similar to HRW’s previously reported cases of detention and torture allegedly at the hands of the PMF. The latter has continued to maintain that “PMF hands over captured ISIS suspects to state security forces who have a mandate to screen suspects,” but these statements are contrary to HRW’s findings.

On 22 May, Jan Kubis, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, told the UN Security Council that the Islamic State’s (ISIL) days in Iraq “are numbered” and that the city of Mosul, which is ISIL’s last base in Iraq, is close to liberation.


Libya:

The “Libya Quartet,” which is composed of the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union (EU), and the UN, met in Brussels on 22 May to discuss the migration issue stemming from Libya and other countries, while the number of refugees and asylum seekers kept in Libyan detention centers increases. Libya has opened a dozen detention centers where thousands of migrants are currently being held. In that regard, the United Nations called for the Libyan government to close its refugee detention centers due to the inhumane conditions in which the refugees and migrants are held.


Mali:

Nine days after the abduction of the humanitarian aid workers in Mali, two peacekeepers of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) in Mali were killed and a third wounded during an ambush in the Kidal region on 23 May. The attack took place near a town called Aguelhok, where the United Nations troops were patrolling. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid tribute to the peacekeepers who lost their lives, regretting the violent attacks from extremist groups which halt the peace process. As targeted attacks on humanitarian workers and peacekeepers are on the rise, Mr. Guterres called for states to provide adequate means to cope with the difficulties faced on the ground where terrorist groups and criminal networks operate.


Nigeria:

On 20 May, 82 of the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted in 2014 by the extremist group Boko Haram were reunited with their families in Abuja. The Nigerian government has acknowledged that mediation efforts by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assisted with the girls’ release. Boko Haram is responsible for the abduction of thousands of people during the last 8 years and for more than 20,000 deaths.


South Sudan:

A 19 May joint report by the Human Rights Division of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) revealed evidence of human rights violations and abuses against civilians, acts the organizations believe may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity. The report states that parties on both sides of the conflict, including pro-government forces, have committed extensive human rights violations rooted in ethnic tensions, and that the ongoing nature of the abuses indicates a high level of impunity for the perpetrators. According to the report, which had been compiled from a July 2016 to January 2017 investigation into the conflict in the town of Yei, pro-government forces were responsible for at least 114 civilian deaths and the forced displacement of tens of thousands during that period.


Sudan:

On 23 May, rebel group the Sudan Liberation Movement headed by Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) claimed that Sudanese forces in Darfur had arrested an SLM-MM senior commander, Mr. Gomma Mandi Issa. Although the Sudanese army had not confirmed the detention, the SLM-MM stated that Issa was apprehended during a violent clash that had erupted on 19 May between the Sudanese forces and the rebel group. A representative of Sudan’s Armed Forces, Mr. Ahmed Khalifa el Shami, confirmed on 22 May that both sides inflicted losses while the conflict surged over the weekend. The United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has not yet released a statement on the latest developments.


Syria:

On 20 May, around 3,000 people, including 700 rebels, were evacuated from Waer district in Homs under a Russian-supervised operation. Rebel fighters had been granted safe passage by the government to retreat to other rebel-held areas in Syria. The operation started two months ago and has the goal of evacuating more than 12,000 civilians and 3,000 rebels in total, according to the provincial governor Talal Barazi. Furthermore, around one to six hundred Russian soldiers will be deployed in Waer to protect any remaining residents or those who wish to return home.

On 22 May, fighting broke out in Daraa, despite having been previously designated one of the four “de-escalation zones” during ceasefire meetings in Astana, Kazakhstan earlier this month. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian government forces fired 11 missiles, while members of the al-Qaeda-linked Levant Liberation Committees attacked government-controlled parts of the city. Conflict has never truly ended in the “de-escalation zones,” and the clash on 22 May has become one of the most severe conflicts since the Astana deal was struck. According to the state news agency SANA, the Syrian government claimed that it “respects the Astana deal but has vowed to retaliate to any violation.”


Yemen:

On 23 May, US Special Forces troops killed seven al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen during an intelligence-gathering raid. In a statement, US Central Command said the al-Qaeda militants were killed “through a combination of small-arms fire and precision air strikes” and that the Yemeni government had supported the operation. There were no immediate reports of civilian casualties according to a US official, yet two sources claimed that the operation killed five members of the main tribe in the area, who are all civilians, and that six others were injured.

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#RtoP Weekly: 20 – 24 March

Rtop weekly
ICRtoP makes joint statement at 61st session of the
Commission on the Status of Women
 
On 16 March 2017, Ms. Sharon Bhagwan Rolls delivered a joint statement on behalf of the ICRtoP and our partners, the World Federalist Movement (WFM), femLINKpacific, and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), at the general discussion of the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which was held at the United Nations in New York.
To read the full statement, please click here.

Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

Burma/Myanmar:

During a statement to the 34th session of the Human Rights Council on 13 March, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee, emphasized the degree to which the continuous state of killings and serious human rights violations taking place in Burma are impacting civilians there. She particularly noted the escalation of conflict in the Kachin and Shan states, where several thousands of people have been forced to flee, and where Ms. Lee herself had been barred from visiting by the government. Additionally, she described others’ personal accounts of human rights abuses on the Rohingya population, allegedly at the hands of government forces. Ms. Lee stressed the necessity for new, “prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial” investigations into the serious human rights violations occurring in the country.


Burundi:

The chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights violations in Burundi, Dr. Fatsah Ouguergouz, says the commission is alarmed about the increasing level of human rights abuses in Burundi that have been brought to their attention. Such abuses include violations of the right to life and physical integrity, forced disappearances, and torture, with thousands of abuses being reported from all areas of the country. Human rights experts in Burundi are worried about the judicial immunity that the perpetrators of these crimes seem to be enjoying. Furthermore, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that at least 27,000 Burundians fled the country between 1 January and 9 March 2017. The total number of refugees who have fled Burundi since April 2015, mainly to neighboring countries, stands at 391,700.


Central African Republic:

The United Nations humanitarian office has stated that only 5% of the nearly $400 million request for humanitarian aid for the Central African Republic has been funded this year, leaving half of the CAR’s population in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Many civilians are only given half of their food rations. Violence has continued in the CAR since 2013, despite the successful democratic elections held in the country last year. Many remote areas remain outside of government control, and thus the sectarian-based conflict continues. The UN has asserted that international political support and increased resources to the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA) are essential to the sustainable resolution of the conflict.


DPRK:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) organized two panel discussions on 9 and 10 March in Geneva alongside the 34th session of the Human Rights Council. These discussions focused primarily on promoting accountability for human rights violations within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and included a group of human rights experts, UN officials, and three escapees from North Korea, among others. Human Rights Watch and the experts suggested that the High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Seoul, which documents abuses in the neighboring DPRK, should be given greater authority when strategizing on how to prosecute DPRK leaders responsible for serious human rights violations. Part of the increased autonomy would be the inclusion of international criminal justice experts at the Seoul office. John Fisher, the Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, reiterated the importance of bringing to justice to the North Korean leaders responsible for the alleged crimes.

On 13 March, the DPRK rejected a UN review of its human rights record, as hostilities between North and South Korea have increased and further closed off opportunities for dialogue. During the UN Human Rights Council session on abuses in DPRK, human rights experts called for action against perpetrators of crimes against humanity.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

According to the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 15 March, two UN officials have disappeared in Kasai-Central, one of the most conflict-prone regions of the DRC. The two UN officials were investigating allegations of soldiers murdering dozens of unarmed civilians in the region, including children, when they were kidnapped. Calls to investigate the army came after videos surfaced recently in which it appeared Congolese soldiers were walking down a rural road and shooting passing civilians. Meanwhile, on 18 March, seven Congolese Army officers were arrested and charged with war crimes in association with the highly controversial video.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) expressed grave concern over reports of high numbers of deaths, including of women and children, in Kananga between 14 and 17 March. MONUSCO is concerned by the Kamwina Nsapu militiamen’s attacks against DRC state institutions and symbols, but also the disproportionate use of force by the security and defense forces and the targeting of civilians.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on 21 March, the number of refugees fleeing from the DRC is increasing, with the latest refugee count at 460,923. A report from the UN Secretary-General says violence in previously stable areas, such as Tanganyika and the Kasai and Lomami provinces, has also increased. The UN is calling on the DRC to implement the political agreement signed in December 2016, which has continued to stall.
Amnesty International released a report this week in which they urge the DRC to: promptly investigate human rights violations conducted by security forces during protests; lift all unlawful bans on protests and demonstrations; engage in a reform of the National Intelligence Service and establish an oversight mechanism; step up efforts – in collaboration with UN forces – to protect civilians in the area of armed conflict; and address inter-ethnic conflicts.

On 22 March, former DRC Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced to a year in jail and fined 300,000 Euros for bribing witnesses during his war crimes trial in an unprecedented case before the International Criminal Court.


Gaza/West Bank:

During his report last week at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Mr. Michael Lynk, underscored the continuous human rights violations that take place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The human rights abuses, among other violations of international law, include the “excessive use of force, collective punishment, forced displacement, and restrictions on the freedom of movement.” Mr. Lynk also drew attention to Israeli human rights organizations focused on alleviating human rights abuses stemming from the occupation, and that these activists “are enduring an increasingly hostile public atmosphere in Israel and from the settlement movement, stoked by the Israeli political leadership and the media, as well as obstructive legislation enacted or being considered.” The Special Rapporteur made specific recommendations for action to the Government of Israel for the resolution of the human rights violations, including ending the Gaza blockade and allowing the free movement of people in the area.


Iraq:

As the Mosul battle continues, Major-General Maan al-Saadi of Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said Iraqi security forces have succeeded in seizing control of about 17 of 40 western districts of Iraq’s second largest city from the Islamic State (ISIL). However, Iraqi forces faced strong resistance from snipers and mortar rounds as they advanced to conquer Mosul’s Old City and Iron Bridge, a strategic passage through the River Tigris, on Monday. During the operation, the Iraqi federal police stated government forces had killed ISIL’s military commander of the Old City, Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary.

On Saturday, Iraqi forces asserted they had captured the al-Kur and al-Tawafa neighborhoods, which has allowed for the creation of a corridor for civilians to safely leave the city.
As aid agencies are bracing for the possibility that about 320,000 civilians may flee the western part of Mosul in coming weeks, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, said the crisis is pushing “all of us to our limits.” Iraqis fleeing Mosul are already struggling to find shelter in poorly-equipped and overcrowded refugee camps, and have begun to head to the east side of the city where most of their relatives are settled.

Similarly, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, said that the worst is yet to come, as about 400,000 Iraqi civilians are still trapped in the ISIL-held Old City of Western Mosul and are running short on food and other basic provisions as the battle continues. Geddo also reported that the number of civilians streaming out of the city is increasing at an average of 8,000 to 12,000 people per day.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch reported that a mass grave in Khafsa, a village near Mosul, could include the bodies of up to 25,000 civilians executed by ISIL since spring 2014, according to witnesses.


Libya:

Forces commanded by General Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to regain control of the country’s eastern oil terminals, which had been seized earlier this month by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), a rival group. Around nine people were killed during the attack, as Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) retreated from the oil ports.

Meanwhile, as tensions continued to escalate across the country, Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya and the head of the UN Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL), called on all parties to put Libya’s future ahead of their “own narrow interests”, refraining from violence and extremism. He also urged for democratic bodies and ideals to be respected, condemning serious human rights and humanitarian law violations committed during the fighting.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch accused the Libyan National Army (LNA) of having committed war crimes, including killing civilians and desecrating the bodies of fighters of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC), a group opposing the LNA. Civilians have been fleeing the Ganfouda neighborhood in Benghazi since the attacks began, heading al-Sabri and Souq Elhout neighborhoods in downtown Benghazi.


Mali:

On 19 March, the head of the UN mission in Mali reported that the situation in the country remains precarious, particularly in the north, as UN and other forces on the side of the peace process are continually attacked by non-signatory terror groups. Over 70 security forces members of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have died in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region. The concern over the uncertain security situation in the north was also noted by the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Suliman Baldo, to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday. Mr. Baldo reported that the continued state of insecurity in the north has contributed to: children’s lack of access to an education; dangers to civilians due to uncontrolled armed actors and military actions that “strayed from international standards”; mass displacement; and further radicalization of youth. Mr. Baldo noted that progress in transitional justice had been made with the opening of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, but that the justice system was still unable to truly tackle the problem of impunity.


Nigeria:

An amnesty and reintegration program for former militants in Nigeria is currently facing major shortfalls in funding, which is affecting the ability of the program to uphold the promises made to ex-combatants.

On 18 March, one of the Chibok schoolgirls appealed to the international community to take action to rescue the 195 remaining captives of Boko Haram since their abduction nearly two years ago.

Thousands fled a Nigerian fishing community on 19 March after police reportedly enforced evictions in violation of a court order issued in January. The surprise action, which culminated in the destruction of the homes of roughly 47,000 people, reportedly included the use of tear gas and live ammunition by the police to disperse the crowds that had gathered to block the path of the bulldozers.

An organization of Nigerians, who were reportedly upset with Amnesty International’s efforts to reach justice for human rights violations conducted by the military and security forces, besieged and occupied Amnesty’s office on 21 March in a protest calling for the rights monitor to cease operations in the country. Local rights groups and attorneys have come to the organization’s defence, with some condemning the protest and others calling for the government to deploy security teams to dislodge the illegal occupiers and protect Amnesty International’s office.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner of Refugees has expressed concern over Cameroon’s continued forced return of Nigerian asylum seekers, despite the recent tripartite agreement between the UNHCR, Cameroon, and Nigeria that includes a provision mandating voluntary return. The forced return of asylum seekers is refoulement and therefore a major violation of the international refugee law agreements that Cameroon has ratified.

Multiple blasts occurred on 22 March in a migrant camp for internally displaced persons in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, which has been at the center of the violence of the Boko Haram insurgency. The explosions killed between three and four people and wounded up to 20.


South Sudan:

On 16 March, Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the leader of the National Salvation Front (NAS), a new South Sudanese rebel group, urged for South Sudan’s peace process to be restarted.

The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) urged the international community to unite and put pressure on the rival South Sudanese leaders to exert the political will for the parties to cease hostilities and build peace. According to the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, during an address delivered in Juba, South Sudan, additional Regional Protection Forces (RPF) will be deployed in the next few weeks. The Security Council approved the deployment of 4,000 troops last year after violence again erupted in Juba, including mass occurrences of rape and assaults on civilians, but the force has been delayed due to resistance from domestic political actors. Mr. Ladsous said during his Tuesday speech in Juba that the UN would “spare no effort to speed up the [deployment] process.” Mr. Ladsous also urged all parties to work towards a nonviolent resolution to the conflict, emphasizing that the political option is the only possibility for lasting and stable peace.

On 19 March, the UNHRC named the crisis in South Sudan the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, as 1.6 million people have been displaced or have fled to neighboring countries in the past eight months. The ongoing famine in South Sudan is “man-made” and a result of conflict between armed groups, with more deaths being caused by violence than starvation alone.

Dozens of South Sudan army (SPLA) soldiers abandoned their positions on 20 March and joined the armed opposition Brigadier Gen. Meanwhile, Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe, President of Caritas South Sudan and Bishop of Yei, has warned the country is in a state of collapse with millions of people facing mass starvation.


Sudan:

The UN African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) supported the launch of the Community Peace Initiative in West Darfur, which is designed to foster local dispute settlement and build better relations between tribal groups. UNAMID Sector West, Acting Head of Office, Ms. Takako Ugaya, commended the move, saying it showed the government’s commitment towards ensuring lasting peace in West Darfur.


Syria:

On Thursday, alleged U.S. jets struck a mosque full of worshippers near Damascus, killing at least 42 civilians and wounding dozens. The U.S. confirmed it carried out an airstrike but denied killing civilians, claiming the attack was intended to target an al-Qaeda meeting. The spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Colonel John Thomas, said that the building they targeted was 15 meters from a mosque that is still standing. Moreover, Eric Pahon, the Pentagon spokesman, underlining that it was the building where al-Qaeda fighters had been educated and indoctrinated, said the Pentagon will investigate any credible allegation it receives in relation to civilian fatalities.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army’s High Command said on Friday that Israeli jets attacked a military target near Palmira, eventually breaching Syrian air space and aiding the Islamic State (ISIL). The attack prompted Syrian forces to retaliate with ground-to-air missiles, in one of the most serious incidents between the two countries since the civil war broke out in March 2011. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the airstrikes were intended for Hezbollah, the Lebanese group which is fighting alongside the Syrian government.

The fighting in Damascus continues, as the rebels launched their second attack in three days. The offensive began on Wednesday at 0300 GMT, and targeted a government-held area in northeastern Damascus. The spokesman of the rebel group Failaq al-Rahman, Wael Alwan, said that rebel forces finally restored all the points they withdrew from on Monday, and have started to storm the Abassiyin garages.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that an alleged U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit a school in the ISIL-held city of Raqqa, killing more than 30 civilians. The activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) said at least 50 families found shelter in that building.

Furthermore, as negotiations resume in the Swiss city of Geneva, civil society groups claim their voices are “not being heard” and push for greater representation in the ongoing Syrian peace talks. They have already participated in the Civil Society Support Rooms (CSSR) in Geneva, a mechanism set up by the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and aimed at implementing civil society demands. Whilst civil society activists are constantly sidelined and targeted on the ground in Syria, they tirelessly provide relief aid and medical assistance to civilians, as well as press for justice and democracy in the country.


Yemen:

A civilian boat carrying refugees from Yemen to Sudan was attacked  by an Apache helicopter late last Thursday. Thus far, 42 dead have been confirmed. Rebels have accused a Saudi-led coalition of being responsible, whereas the Saudi coalition has previously suggested the rebels use small boats to smuggle arms. For its part, the Saudi-led coalition has claimed it was not operating in the area at the time.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, formally condemned the attack on Monday and called on all parties to the conflict to conduct inquiries and ensure accountability for the attack.

After the attack, the Saudi-led coalition requested the UN assume supervision of the port city of Hodeidah, which is roughly 48 kilometres from the location of the boat when it was attacked. Hodeidah has been the center of fierce fighting between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government with Saudi-led coalition backing. The UN responded to the request earlier this week through spokesman Farhan Haq by noting it is the very clear legal obligation of all parties to the conflict that they protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and that this responsibility cannot be shifted onto other entities. Hodeidah is noteworthy for being a major port city that services nearly 70% of Yemen’s population; however, it has been almost entirely shut down due to the insecurity and infrastructure damage caused by the fighting and Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. The port city is a potentially life saving corridor for millions of Yemenis who are almost entirely reliant on imported food and supplies, and thus Mr. Haq stated it was “essential that all parties to the conflict facilitate unhindered access” to the port.

The current food crisis in Yemen leaves over 14 million people facing the threat of starvation and famine according to the UN, making it the largest of the top four humanitarian crises, which also includes Somalia, Sudan, and Nigeria. Last week, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released an infographic marking the second year of the escalation of violence. Among other statistics, the OCHA reported that in the last two years the import of medicine has dropped 70%, food prices have increased 26%, and nearly 11,000 cases of gender-based violence and 1,275 uses of children by parties to the conflict have occurred.

An arms monitor has reportedly uncovered evidence indicating Iran has been providing the Yemeni Houthi rebels with advanced military weaponry. The monitor has supposedly been able to link Iranian manufacturers to the serial numbers of drones used by the Houthi rebels in “kamikaze” attacks on missile defence sites. Iran has consistently denied accusations from Saudi Arabia that it has provided support to the Houthi rebels, despite reports from regional and western sources indicating Iranian involvement with the Houthi faction has increased in the last several months.

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Filed under Burma, Burundi, CARcrisis, DRC, Human Rights, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, RtoP, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, UN, Uncategorized, Yemen

#RtoPWeekly: 23-27 January 2017

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ICRtoP releases new infographic on the Responsibility to Protect in Peacekeeping Operations

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The ICRtoP serves as a key resource to increase understanding of the Responsibility to Protect amongst civil society, government and regional organization actors, the UN, and the general public. Our vast range of educational tools has been used by diverse audiences throughout the world and has had a direct impact on strengthening the global awareness of RtoP.

To contribute towards this goal of strengthening awareness of and action on atrocity prevention, the ICRtoP regularly releases a variety of educational tools exploring the different aspects of the norm and the relationship between RtoP and other sectors. In this vein, ICRtoP has released a new infographic on the Responsibility to Protect in Peacekeeping Operations.

This document provides an overview of the Responsibility to Protect and the Protection of Civilians mandates in Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) throughout the world. The educational tool also explores major peacekeeping roles that contribute to operationalizing the norm and methods for strengthening RtoP within PKOs.

To view the latest infographic on the Responsibility to Protect in Peacekeeping Operations, please click here.

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, expressed concern about the risk of government reprisals in a speech following the conclusion of her trip to the country on Friday. Lee also noted the many travel restrictions placed on her during her visit that interfered with her investigation.

The Burmese army has claimed to have two missing Kachin church leaders alive in custody. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Burmese authorities to either release or charge two detained church leaders and to allow for proper legal procedures.

The army reportedly seized a camp of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an armed ethnic faction and member of the Northern Alliance coalition, continuing the ongoing clashes with the group. Large military supply convoys were also reportedly deployed to the northern Kachin region, indicating a potential for a renewed offensive against the factions in the contested north.

The Peace Process Steering Committee (PPST) delegation, representing the eight factions that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in October 2015, met with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Chief Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on Monday to discuss groundwork for the second round of the Union Peace Conference, including the potential ability to include the Northern Alliance in negotiations. The delegation leader for the PPST also called on both the State Counsellor and the army chief to halt military operations and declare a ceasefire north, where the clashes have resulted in numerous military and civilian casualties.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has suggested that the government, lead by The National League for Democracy (NLD) party, should seek to amend or repeal laws that criminalize nonviolent speech. During the government’s first year there has been an escalation in prosecutions of peaceful political speech and speech monitoring has become significantly more aggressive. The government has reportedly continued the repression of the population through refused bail, months-long detentions pending trial, and the sentencing of citizens to excessive jail time for political speech.

On Wednesday, 22 non-governmental organizations called for immediate cessation of armed conflict, protection and safety of displaced citizens, and a dialogue of peace in Burma. In a press release, these organizations expressed concern for the escalating conflict and mass displacement in the country, particularly in the Kachin and Northern Shan States. Dire living conditions and lack of humanitarian aid plague more than 6,000 already displaced in camps, while an additional 5,600 have recently been displaced.


Burundi:

President Pierre Nkurunziza has pardoned 300 of Burundi’s prisoners as part of the government’s plan to release 25 percent of the Mpimba central prison inmates, totaling a release of 2,500 prisoners. However, human rights groups have voiced concern that this pardon is simply to make room for victims of arbitrary arrests, adding to the repression of Burundi’s citizens.


Central African Republic:

New reports have shown that the Central African Republic has become the most dangerous country for aid workers over the past year, with 365 security incidents in 2016. The International NGO Safety Organization recorded 27 injuries in attacks against aid workers last year and five deaths of humanitarian aid workers. They reports also shows no sign of improvement, with the security situation likely to deteriorate even more. In addition, hospitals and other areas for the provision of humanitarian assistance have repeatedly been attacked.


Cote d’Ivoire:

The UN independent expert on capacity building and operations for Côte d’Ivoire examined the challenges facing the country, looking ahead to the imminent withdrawal of United Nations Operation of Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in a statement on Friday. Mr. Mohammed Ayat called for vigilance to preserve and strengthen the country’s security and stability, political dialogue, transitional justice, and human rights situation. He specifically called upon Ivorian authorities to reform the security sector and strengthen institutions for peace and good governance.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) declared its intent to work on resolving the increasing violence caused by conflict between farmers, the government, armed groups, and nomadic herders in search of pasture for their cattle.

Bishops leading the negotiations between rival leaders in the DRC have said they are confident all stakeholders will ratify the agreement by 28 January. However, they also warned that unless the deal from 31 December is signed by that date, their efforts for peace in the country will have been in vain.


Iraq:

Iraqi forces declared that they have retaken control of eastern Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIL) on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has ordered investigations into violations of human rights and other abuses purportedly committed by government troops and paramilitary forces in the battle to retake the city. The order came after a UN demand for a government probe into a video reportedly showing brutal treatment and executions of at least three ISIL suspects taken prisoner in eastern Mosul.

In a report on Tuesday, Amnesty International claimed that the government of Iraq has executed 31 individuals for connections to a 2014 mass killing. The human rights monitor called the execution further proof of the government’s disregard of human rights in security efforts and alleged that the individuals were additionally victims of torture and a flawed judicial process. Mosul trauma care has been increased by the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, but current funding levels are not enough to provide full services for the 2.7 million people affected


Libya:

US officials have announced that Libya has been removed from a list of combat zones where the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) rules to protect to civilians can be disregarded. Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria remain on the list.

Officials from neighboring countries met in Cairo this week with the UN envoy for Libya and rejected the use of military force to resolve the Libyan conflict. The leader of the UN-backed Government of National Accord announced on Wednesday that he will meet with the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Cairo. While talks will reportedly be unmediated, they may involve representatives from Russia. The forces of the LNA have reportedly clashed with militias supporting the UN-backed administration, leading some to analysts and diplomats to raise concerns regarding a potential re-escalation of the conflict. LNA forces have been the primary group in Libya combating Islamist groups, including the Islamic State (ISIL) and the LNA announced on Thursday that they had made ground against an al-Qaeda linked group in Benghazi.

Also in Benghazi on Thursday, a car bomb injured six. A bombing last Friday near a mosque also killed one civilian and injured 10 others.


Mali:

Pro-government militias have claimed that an attack by former rebels killed 14 on Saturday. Elements of a Tuareg-led former rebel group who had been part of a joint patrol on Wednesday reportedly carried out the attack on pro-government and other former rebel militias while they were preparing for a joint patrol as part of the terms of the peace deal.
On Tuesday, the UN announced that a mortar attack on a camp of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) killed one UN peacekeeper and wounded two others. In a press statement, the UN Security Council called on the Malian government to swiftly investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice, emphasizing that such attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes in international law.  These attacks are reportedly part of an escalating trend in violence in the northern regions of the country driven by an expansion of extremist groups.


Nigeria:

On Saturday, the Indigenous People of Biafra claimed that police killed 20 people after a demonstration organized by a separatist group supporting the new US president and seeking his aid in establishing a breakaway Biafran state turned violent. The group also claimed that 200 people have gone missing. A police spokesperson denied that anyone had been killed, but did inform media that police arrested 65 people.

According to local officials, the total number of people killed in the purportedly accidental airstrike on an aid camp outside of the town Rann could be as high as 236. The regional security situation has only recently allowed humanitarian groups access to the area to help those fleeing the fighting between the government and Boko Haram terror group, however, only two days after the errant airstrike, a group of around 15 Boko Haram fighters attacked the town. Military officials have reported that a local garrison defending Rann killed all those fighters involved in the attack.


South Sudan:

On Monday, the UN Security Council called for the government of South Sudan to cooperate with the United Nations in the immediate deployment of a 4,000 strong regional protection force (RPF). The decision came after the government rescinded on its earlier acceptance of the force on 11 January. UN Secretary General Guterres has accused South Sudan of willfully hindering the deployment of the additional forces. Numerous voices have called on the UN Security Council to take immediate action in South Sudan to prevent the possibility of genocide. Former Deputy Defence Minister of South Sudan, Majak D’Agoot, has stated that the deployment of 4,000 additional troops, called for by UNSC resolution 2304 in August, was necessary given the delicate situation in the country and the warnings signs of a potential genocide. He also accused the political elite in Juba of interfering with the deployment to protect their own interests. The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) responsible for monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement has echoed calls for an accelerated deployment of the delayed RPF, citing similar concerns of the ethnically-fueled conflict collapsing into genocide.

The Director of Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Katherine Almquist Knopf, has also recommended a method of resolving the violence and risk of atrocities in South Sudan in a new report published by the Council of Foreign Relations. The report calls for the UN and African Union to cooperatively assume the responsibility to form an international transitional administration to allow the country to recover and stabilize.

On Tuesday, a UN spokesperson informed the media that the the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had received credible reports of renewed fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the opposition in Central Equatoria over the weekend and of clashes in Eastern Equatoria. UNMISS is pursuing further information of civilians being killed in both instances. However, on Thursday, the South Sudanese government officially denied any clash between their forces and the opposition.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated in the December 2016 humanitarian access situation snapshot that 77 incidents hindering humanitarian access had occurred over the course of the month. 61 percent of such incidents involved violence against humanitarian personnel and assets, with 27 percent involving interference in implementation. The snapshot also reports of multiple situations where violent clashes forced aid workers to relocate, including one incident involving refugees and members of the host community that necessitated the relocation of 85 humanitarian personnel. It was also stated that the country had deported two senior aid workers and the country’s armed forces forcibly occupied two schools.


Sudan:

A breakaway faction of the Sudan Liberation Army rebel group signed a peace deal with the government in Doha on Monday. Officials of Qatar’s government and the head of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) were also in attendance.


Syria:

Peace talks between the Assad regime and rebel factions moderated by Russia and Turkey in the Kazakhstani capital of Astana began on Monday with a difficult start between the two sides of the conflict angrily insulting and challenging one another. It was later determined that the objectives of the meeting would not be full peace agreement, but rather a strengthening of the current ceasefire agreement in order to increase the likelihood of success at the UN-brokered peace conference in Geneva next month. According to a final statement read by the foreign minister of Kazakhstan following the talks, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have agreed on behalf of the Assad regime and rebel factions to establish a trilateral mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire agreement. While the representative for the regime hailed the talks as a success, neither side has formally endorsed the agreement and opposition forces have voiced major reservations.

Government forces have continued to besiege East Ghouta using a strategy not dissimilar to the one utilized in the seizure of Aleppo. However, civilians are reportedly refusing to abandon their homes and the city to the government, with medical centers reporting that nearly 20-30 people each day are treated for injuries caused by the continuous bombardment of the area. 300,000 people are still believed to be living in East Ghouta. The city is one of 39 besieged communities which have trapped more than 1.3 million people in combat zones. At least 400,000 civilians have been killed since 2011 when the uprising began according to statements by the UN.

US military officials have claimed that the final airstrike of the outgoing US administration landed in Syria on Thursday, allegedly killing roughly 100 al-Qaeda forces. Officials have also claimed they have a high level of confidence that the airstrike did not harm any civilians.


Yemen:

Government forces fighting their way up the western coast had mostly surrounded the contested Red Sea port city Mocha by Sunday. The city is suspected to be a source of arms for the Al Houthi rebel groups. An army spokesperson stated on Wednesday that the army was in the process of clearing the last of resistance snipers and landmines throughout the town. Retreating Houthi forces have allegedly continued to heavily mine the territories they once occupied. The army has reportedly made concerted efforts to carefully target combatants to avoid civilian casualties. However, Houthi sources have claimed that coalition airstrikes killed one civilian and wounded two others in Mocha as well as killing another elsewhere in the Taiz province and wounding three civilians in Saana over the weekend. On Tuesday, the reported lack of coordination between Yemeni ground forces and coalition air power resulted in a mistaken strike on Yemeni soldiers. Reports claim that the fighting in Yemen over the weekend killed a total of 75 people, including those killed by the first US drone strikes of the new administration.

The British Ministry of Defence is reportedly tracking 252 violations of international humanitarian law by Saudi-led coalition forces, but has declined to state if arms supplied by the United Kingdom were utilized in the alleged violations. The export of arms and munitions to Saudi Arabia by the UK has been criticized for potentially fueling the conflict and thereby worsening the suffering of Yemeni civilians.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in the capital on Sunday to continue to push for a new round of peace talks. Under the new peace plan, current President Hadi will retain presidential powers until the Houthis fully withdraw from all occupied territories and disarm. The government formally expressed objection to the UN Special Envoy meeting with Houthi militia leaders and their allies in the Houthi-occupied capital, Sanaa. Following his visits, the UN Special Envoy briefed the Security Council on the situation in Yemen and provided several recommendations, including an immediate and complete ceasefire, the disarmament and withdrawal of the Houthi faction from Sanaa, and adherence to the roadmap for peaceful settlement, which includes the appointment of a new Vice President.

 

 

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#RtoPWeekly: 16 – 20 January 2017

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West African military force enters the Gambia in support of new president

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On Thursday, Senegalese troops crossed the Gambian border as part of a West African regional initiative to ensure a transition of power from longtime ruler, Yahya Jammeh, to the democratically-elected president, Adama Barrow, who was inaugurated at the Gambian embassy in Senegal earlier that day. Following the elections in December 2016, then-President Jammeh, who seized power of the country in a 1994 coup, originally accepted Mr. Barrow’s win, but later reversed his decision and has refused to leave office past the constitutionally-mandated date this week, citing irregularities and errors within the election process.

Thousands of civilians and tourists have already fled  the Gambia to neighboring countries in anticipation of the possible violence that could ensue if Jammeh does not relinquish power. At least 26,000 people have sought refuge in Senegal alone, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

On Tuesday, the political crisis in the country worsened as then-President Jammeh declared a state of emergency and held a parliamentary vote, which extended his time in the presidency by 90 days. He claimed that these steps would allow the country’s Supreme Court to consider the legal challenge he has brought against the election results and prevent a vacuum of power during the proceedings.

After President Barrow’s inauguration, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on all parties to accept the December election results and extending full support to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the regional initiative to ensure a peaceful transfer of power to Barrow. However, the resolution also underscored that all political methods should be exhausted before using military tools.

By Thursday evening, the West African regional forces had halted operations in the Gambia in order to allow leaders for the region to make a final attempt to use political methods to convince Jammeh to step down. However, operations will reportedly resume on Friday at 12:00pm local time if Jammeh continues to refuse to leave office.

Source for above photo of Senegalese soldiers moving toward the Gambian border on 19 January 2017: Sylvain Cherkaoui/AP via NPR


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Fortify Rights issued a joint report on Monday claiming that there has been state involvements in the disappearances of two Baptist Christian leaders from the Kachin ethnic group from Shan State after the men were called to a military base following their assistance to journalists reporting on damage purportedly done to a church by the Burmese military. HRW and Fortify Rights have called upon the government to provide information on the two missing men and to additionally allow Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, and other human rights monitors access to the region that has thus far been denied.

In a separate report last Friday, Fortify Rights called upon Permanent UN Security Council member China to do more to protect ethnic Kachin refugees fleeing violence in Burma after an alleged incident of Chinese state security forcing approximately 4,000 refugees back across the border on 11 January. China has denied this report and noted their provision of food and medicine as part of humanitarian initiatives.

Following the rise in violence within Burma in recent months, Malaysia urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Thursday to pressure Burma to address the issue and British politicians have urged Secretary of Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson to press the issue on his visit to the country on Friday.

Eight other groups who signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government in October 2015 and formed the combined Peace Process Steering Team, requested a meeting with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing last week to seek solutions to ongoing violence in Kachin and Shan states.


Burundi:

The Burundian government has ordered the withdrawal of the over 5,400 troops it contributed to the African Union (AU) stabilization mission in Somalia (AMISOM). This withdrawal is a result of the months-long withholding of payments to Burundi for its AMISOM contributions due to sanctions levied against President Nkurunziza’s current government by the European Union (EU), AMISOM’s largest financial backer.

Last Friday, Burundian national police acknowledged an increase in reports of kidnapping since the beginning of the political crisis in the country in 2015. This supports earlier findings by a UN independent investigation that uncovered multiple disappearances of opposition members, civil society advocates, and demonstrators following arbitrary arrests.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged that members of the Burundian ruling party’s youth league have beaten, tortured, and killed scores of individuals across the country in the months since the beginning of the turmoil caused by President Nkurunziza’s announcement of a third term. HRW claims that the youth league has mobilized to suppress dissent against the president and his plans for a third term in violation of the Arusha Accords. The report calls on the UN Security Council to use targeted sanctions against individuals in Burundi responsible for human rights violations and urges a full investigation by the UN and, if warranted, the International Criminal Court.


Central African Republic:

The 28,000 residents of a makeshift camp outside the airport of the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, are being moved out by the government citing concerns for aviation safety. However, many of the civilians still fear for their safety if forced to return to their home villages from which they fled during the sectarian violence that began in 2013. President Faustin-Archange Toudéra said last Thursday that over 70,000 civilians are believed to have been displaced since the beginning of renewed fighting in September, many of whom have been displaced several times.

The United Nations announced last weekend that attacks against humanitarian aid workers in the CAR rose to 330 in 2016.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The deal reached on New Year’s Eve to allow for a peaceful solution to the political and constitutional crises in the DRC is being celebrated as a victory for diplomats and civil society. However, the deal has not halted violent ethnic clashes in country. On Monday, a UN official reported that ethnic clashes between Bantu and Pygmy communities the week prior had killed 24. UN reports noted the particularly disturbing trend of targeting women with 19 of the 24 victims being female. These casualties are part of a larger period of violence over the last six months that has included 158 deaths, 205 injuries, and 50 acts of sexual violence against women.


Gaza/West Bank:

During his first address to the UN Security Council in the new year UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mlandenov, stated to the Council that calls for Israel to annex the West Bank, in part or as a whole, is destructive to the two-state long term peace process. A bill put forward in the Knesset to annex a settlement in the West Bank will be debated on Sunday. Mr. Mlandenov called on all actors to avoid unilateral actions that may threaten the two-state solution and also noted with concern increasing tensions in the Gaza Strip and Hamas’ treatment of peaceful protestors against the power shortages and restrictions. Last week, one of the largest protests in a decade saw about 10,000 people march through the streets while security forces fired weapons to disperse the crowd.

Clashes this week between civilians and Israeli security forces have left a 17-year-old Palestinian dead after being identified as the “main instigator” and shot by Israeli forces.


Iraq:

The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has shifted favorably for the Iraqi and coalition forces with their successful capture of most of the eastern portion of the city announced on Wednesday. However, the western portion of the city, across the Tigris River,  remains uncaptured and the narrow streets and dense neighborhoods promise intense and violent fighting, posing extreme danger to the 750,000 civilians the UN estimates remain in that area. Evacuation may be hampered by both fighting and the destruction of five bridges by US-led airstrikes as part of Operation Inherent Resolve that has left even the approaching Iraqi forces searching for makeshift alternatives for crossing. The UN has reported that more than 1,500 people have been evacuated from Mosul to hospitals in a neighboring city since the beginning of the operation in October.

The pressure of the advancing Iraqi forces has led to an evolution in the Islamic State’s (ISIL) battle tactics, with local media reporting the terror organization has begun adapting consumer model drones to drop grenades on small ground targets. The Iraqi CTS (Counter-Terrorism Services) have also seized and taken control of several barrels of chemical mixtures from the labs at the University of Mosul that had allegedly been used by ISIL to produce rudimentary chemical weapons.

The brutality of the violence in Mosul is hinted at by a media report released on Wednesday that includes Iraqi forces boasting to journalist on video about the revenge killing of a surrendered ISIL fighter. The soldiers claimed they executed the man to avenge their fallen compatriots.


Libya:

The UN-brokered Libya dialogue, which is intended to bring about successful unity of the country’s two rival governments, was delayed for the second time in a week on Wednesday as political figures in Libya disputed the makeup of the dialogue team. The meeting is now scheduled to begin on Sunday.

The growing body of reports of abuse of seafaring migrants by the Libyan coastguard now includes an incident in August that involved the firing of multiple bullets into a humanitarian aid ship operated by Médecins Sans Frontières. A report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has previously found that migrants have been imprisoned, robbed, raped, and subjected to forced labor after life-threatening interceptions by Libyan coastguard vessels. One account from a migrant stated the coast guard opened fire randomly on a boat of migrants killing at least three.


Mali:

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on Wednesday stated that the Malian government is failing to protect civilians in the northern and central parts of the country. The report detailed attacks on villages and peacekeepers with the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), noting that despite the 2015 peace accord, the human rights climate worsened in Mali through 2016 as signatories failed to execute many of the deal’s provisions, including disarmament.

UN Secretary-General Guterres, noting the stagnated adoption of the 2015 accord, urged the UN Security Council on Monday to consider imposing sanctions on those obstructing the deal’s implementation. The UN Secretary-General also called on all parties to resume negotiation.


Nigeria:

On Thursday, Nigeria released details of an airstrike that reportedly accidentally targeted a humanitarian aid camp on Tuesday. The airstrike, which was operating as part of Nigeria’s ongoing counterinsurgency effort against terrorist organizations in the region, reportedly dropped multiple bombs on the camp, killing at least 70 people, including six aid workers. In addition to the deaths and injuries, aid organizations are concerned that the incident may cause a lapse in the humanitarian aid infrastructure in the area. The Nigerian military is set to launch a formal inquiry that will release findings by early February, but top commanders have already called the incident a mistake, directing blame to the “fog of war.”


South Sudan:

On Monday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) released a human rights report detailing the records of human rights abuses documented by UNMISS during the violence in Juba in July 2016. UNMISS recorded 217 incidents of sexual violence against women and girls by both factions during that period. The report also detailed the targeting of civilians sheltering in UN camps, including multiple acts of sexual violence against women and girls, as well as findings that the South Sudanese military used language tests to identify members of different tribes during house-to-house searches in July, at times executing civilians on the spot.


Syria:

Russia has invited officials from the in incoming US administration to the talks between Syrian government and opposition representatives in Kazakhstan next week. On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told media that he is hopeful the peace talks will lead to local reconciliation with rebel forces. Fighting continues in several areas in the country and has intensified in some, such as in Deir al-Zor, where the UN World Food Program has announced that it will be forced to suspend its airdrop deliveries of food.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Thursday that the Islamic State (ISIL) had beheaded four and shot eight in Palmyra. The monitor added that the victims were made up of captured soldiers, rebels, teachers, and state employees.

The monitoring group has also reported continued infighting amongst rebel factions after the fighters from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly the al-Qaeda-linked al Nusra Front, attacked checkpoints and positions of the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham rebel group. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a car-bombing in Damascus last week that killed seven.


Yemen:

The UN envoy on Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, met with President Abrabbuh Mansour Hadi on Monday to attempt to persuade the government to agree to a new cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace talks. The current halt in negotiations is a result of the President’s rejection of an earlier proposal that would have reduced his power and moved towards a transitional government and new elections. The envoy previously met with senior officials of Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar over the past week and is set to travel to Sana’a in the next few days to meet with Houthi leaders to deliver the same message. The envoy is also intended to report to the UN Security Council regarding the situation in Yemen later this month.

On Thursday, the internationally-recognized government spoke well of elements of a new peace plan presented by the UN envoy, which would begin with a cessation of hostilities and lead to the formation of a unity government.

Fighting between Houthi and government forces in Shabwa province on Monday reportedly killed 34 people and wounded 16 others. Six civilians were also killed by a Houthi-fired rocket during fighting around Taiz. On Tuesday it the UN reported that the death toll in the Yemeni conflict has broken 10,000. The report also claimed that local human rights monitors have recorded 11,332 civilian casualties, including 4,125 deaths in Yemen through October 2016. Furthermore, 10 million people in Yemen are in urgent humanitarian need.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 28 November – 2 December

UntitledICRtoP to hold upcoming Event: Preventing Mass Atrocities:
The Role of Women in the Advancement of the Responsibility to Protect

4a681ab8-429e-4bb9-8132-eb4a0e3a753fThe International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) is pleased to mark this year’s International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime with a public event exploring the relationship between the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) agendas in order to foster discussion, increase awareness, and produce recommendations for action. Genocide and other atrocity crimes disproportionately affect women and girls at an alarming rate as they often are directly targeted and also bear the brunt of the economic and social consequences of such crimes. However, women are not just victims of atrocities, as they have a vital role to play in the implementation and advancement of the RtoP and an inherent right to participate in the norm’s advancement.

ICRtoP would like to invite you to join us for the event entitled “Preventing Mass Atrocities: The Role of Women in the Advancement of the Responsibility to Protect,” on 12 December from 6:30pm – 8:30pm at The Church Centre for the United Nations (777 First Avenue at 44th Street, NY, NY). The event will feature civil society experts working throughout the world to advance the WPS and RtoP agendas. By convening civil society, UN, and Member State participants, the event will also serve as an opportunity to hear diverse viewpoints, and link actors working on these issues in order to raise and consider recommendations to enhance women’s participation and leadership in atrocity prevention.

Moderated by Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy-Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, an ICRtoP Steering Committee member, the event will feature a panel of civil society experts, including Louise Allen, Executive Coordinator at NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security; Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, Executive Producer – Director of femLINKpacific; and Lina Zedriga, Secretary of Uganda’s National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All forms of Discrimination.

As space will be limited, please RSVP by 5:00pm on Monday, 5 December if you plan to attend. To RSVP, please contact  wfmint5@wfm-igp.org


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

On 28 November, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi cancelled her planned trip to Indonesia due to protests over government actions against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine State. The cancellation comes in the wake of a senior UN official accusing Myanmar of engaging in a policy of ethnic cleansing in order to force the Rohingya out of the country. In response to the escalating violence, the Thomson Reuters Foundation recently convened an expert panel on how to solve the issue. The panel’s responses can be read here.

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, released a statement on Tuesday expressing alarm over the security and humanitarian situation in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, following reports of human rights violations. Dieng urged the government and military to allow an independent investigation to look into the reported incidents and also called for accountability for those responsible for the alleged violations.


Burundi:

Last week, the UN announced that it will set up a probe into the violence in Burundi. Following the announcement, the government responded that it will not cooperate with the investigation as they claim it to be part of a political plot. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in support of the president. However, it is not known whether the protests are voluntary or forced upon the civil servants through threats.

On Tuesday, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressedconcern regarding several incidents, including the circulation of a questionnaire asking public servants to state their ethnicity, and reports of killings, abuse and torture. The Committeeaccused the Burundian government of being unwilling or unable to protect the population and called on the country to act swiftly to protect civilians. The Committee also called on the government to allow the deployment of a UN police contingent, mandated to monitor the situation in the country.


Central African Republic:

On 27 November, the government of CAR stated that a week of fighting between the rebel groups, the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic and Union for Peace in Central Africa, has left 85 people dead. Mr. Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, has released a statement condemning the violence amid reports that members of the Fulani ethnic group have been specifically targeted, with rebels going house to house looting, abducting people, and committing executions. His full statement can be readhere.

On Monday, a UN official said nearly half of the population, about 2 million people, in the Central African Republic are in need of humanitarian aid. According to aid groups, attacks in the country are restricting the access for humanitarian actors to deliver assistance to those most in need.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On 25 November, Ugandan rebels from the ADFNALU group released several villagers they had taken captive in order to convey a warning to the armed forces of the DRC as well as MONUSCO, the UN mission in the DRC. The message called for a halt to assaults on their positions, warning that for each rebel killed they will kill ten civilians.

On 27 November, the Mai-Mai Mazembe, a Nande “self-defense” militia, attacked both a DRC army outpost and a camp for displaced persons in the Hutu village of Luhanga, killing at minimum 34 civilians. In the weeks prior, the group had threatened to “purify” the village if the Hutus did not leave..


Iraq:

Iraqi Special Forces have killed approximately 1,000 ISIL fighters since the offensive to retake Mosul from the Sunni terrorist group began six weeks ago. Government forces were initially able to make advances quicker than anticipated in villages and towns vacated by civilians. However, fighting has slowed in recent weeks as operations begin in neighborhoods still populated with local Iraqi residents. More than a million civilians have remained in Mosul throughout the battle.

A major pipeline was hit during the continued battle for Mosul on Tuesday, leaving nearly 650,000 civilians, including women and children, without access to water. The UN has also warned that high levels of food insecurity have emerged and there is extreme need for humanitarian assistance.


Nigeria:

On 25 November, Boko Haram raided three villages in the northeast of the country, killing five people and setting fire to multiple homes.

Late last week, at the EU Human Rights Dialogue in Abuja, the EU urged the Nigerian government to ensure that the country follows global human rights practices and added that peace will be possible only if it is set upon human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.


South Sudan:

Late last week, after intense international pressure, the South Sudanese government agreedto allow the deployment of additional peacekeepers in the country, which was initially refused by the president as he regarded it as a threat to national sovereignty.

On Wednesday, the United States reported to the UN Human Rights Council that South Sudanese government troops are preparing to launch an attack on rebel areas or border states and that the US has credible information to support this report. The US also accused the troops of deliberately targeting civilians. A proposal from the US, at the meeting, regarding an arms embargo and targeted sanction was blocked by Russia.

A UN humanitarian official in South Sudan has expressed serious concern regarding the continuing blockage of aid convoys in the country and has urged all parties to allow humanitarian access to safely reach people in need. During November, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded about 91 incidents where humanitarian workers were blocked and several of these involved violence against personnel or assets. The major challenges for humanitarian workers have continued to increase as the situation for the South Sudanese population has also continued to deteriorate.

A UN commission on human rights has reported that a process of ethnic cleansing is under way in South Sudan, following a visit to the country, where members of the commission witnessed serious violations of human rights, such as massacres, rape, and the destruction of villages, based along ethnic divides, The UN commission has called upon the international community to fulfill its obligation to prevent genocide as such fears rise.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government has made public that talks have been taking place in Addis Ababa to determine the locations of Darfur rebel combatants in order to create a comprehensive framework for a cessation of hostilities agreement to be signed with the armed groups. Talks between the government and two armed groups in Darfur, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), over a humanitarian cessation of hostilities have been deadlocked since last August.


Syria:

Syrian government forces have reportedly retaken over a third of rebel-held territory in the besieged city of Aleppo. The latest offensive has included a sustained aerial bombardment from both Syrian and Russian warplanes over the area. The Russian defense ministry has stated that Syrian government troops have regained control of 12 districts, or approximately 40% of the territory, from rebels opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session on the enduring and protracted conflict in Syria on Wednesday. The UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien, referring to the current situation as a “descent into hell”, pleaded with Council members to do everything in their power to influence decision makers to bring an end to the six year conflict. Nearly 600 people have been killed since Saturday after government forces initiated a large-scale offensive to retake rebel-held areas of Aleppo. At least 200,000 civilians, including women and children, remain in the besieged rebel-held areas of Aleppo.


Yemen:

On 23 November, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed 12 civilians in the Hiran district of Hajja province. Another set of airstrikes killed at least 13 civilians on 28 November as it hit two homes in the northeast of Hodeida.

On Monday, the Houthi rebels formed a new government, which was sworn in on Tuesday, according to a Houthi-run news agency. The formation of a new Houthi government is a set-back to ongoing UN efforts to form a unity government in Yemen. However, the UN Envoy for Yemen, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, traveled to Aden on Sunday with the aim of holding discussions and with the hope of reaching an agreement between the warring parties. President Hadi firstrefused to meet with the UN Envoy as the Yemeni government is opposed to the peace plan, but later agreed to a meeting after sending a letter detailing the parts of the plan that his government will not accept.

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#R2PWeekly: 14 – 18 November

Rtop weekly

UN Special Adviser warns of risk for ethnic war and genocide in South Sudan

40e21209-d065-4454-beaf-4cf3e1c78475On 11 November, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, briefed the media with a statement on the situation in South Sudan following a five-day visit to the country last week. Mr. Dieng’s visit was largely in response to the growing amount of reports of ethnic-based violence that have emerged in the wake of the deterioration of the peace process between the government and opposition groups in July. During the visit, through meetings with government representatives, UN mission officials, civil society groups, and community members, Dieng tried to better understand the situation and the threats posed by the recent developments in the capital city, Juba, and throughout South Sudan.

Since the fighting resurfaced in July between President Salva Kiir’s predominantly Dinka soldiers and former First Vice President Riek Machar’s predominantly Nuer army, the extreme polarization of the groups along ethnic lines has increased. Over the last month there has also been an excessive escalation in ethnic hate speech, threatening letters, targeted killings, rape of members of certain ethnic groups, and attacks on individuals due to their perceived political affiliation. The media has also been used as a tool to help spread the hatred and encourage the segregation between the ethnic groups.

In his statement, Mr. Dieng argued that what he saw and heard during his visit confirmed his fears of the potential for genocide in South Sudan,  of which the escalating violence along ethnic lines is a strong indicator. While assessing the risk of atrocity crimes in the country, the Special Adviser concluded that all the criteria for an outright ethnic war and genocide are already in place and called on the South Sudanese leaders to take immediate measures to end the violence. He urged them to remember that the State has the primary responsibility to protect its population regardless of their ethnic, national, or political affiliations. Mr. Dieng finished the media briefing by, once again, stressing the importance of finding a solution for peace in South Sudan.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a report to the Security Council released on Wednesday, has called for an arms embargo to be imposed on South Sudan as he warned of the risk of mass atrocities. He also noted that the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) lacks the means to stop such acts should they occur. Both the Secretary-General and Special Adviser Dieng agree that South Sudanese leaders must work hard for peace in the country, before things escalate further.

At the time of publishing the RtoPWeekly, Mr. Dieng was briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in South Sudan.

Source for above photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly next week, 21 – 25 November due to the holiday, but we will resume publication with the latest RtoP news and updates on crisis situations around the world the following week, 28 November – 2 December. Thank you.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Saturday, the Burmese army killed 25 Rohingya villagers as the army started “clearance operations” that they allege are targeting armed militants in Rakhine state. The army reported that all of those killed had been carrying machetes or other weapons. However, photos and videos have proven contradictory to this claim. Hundreds of villagers fled from their villages over the weekend to escape the violence. The operation comes in the wake of Human Rights Watch (HRW) releasing new satellite images showing the extent of Rohingya buildings and villages burned down over the past month by the Burmese army.

Refugees International released a report this week containing recommendations for ways in which governments and institutions can protect Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing the latest unrest in Myanmar. The report specifically calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia, Thailand, and the United States to implement strategies such as appointing officers as first points of contact for asylum seekers, assessing screening policies in annual reports, and convening previously announced joint task forces on refugee registration.


Burundi:

Following an order from the Senate for the government to carry out a census of every civil servant based on their ethnicity and region of origin, people in Burundi have voiced their concerns for a possible genocide as the round-up reminds them of the conditions leading up to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. There are more than 100,000 people working for the state, making it the largest employer in the country.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Burundian Human Rights League (ITEKA) released a report on Tuesday warning of crimes against humanity being committed in Burundi. The Human rights groups urged the international community to send a civilian protection force to the country as they believe there is a possibility of ethnic civil war and genocide. They also pointed out that all criteria for a possible genocide are already in place, including ideology, intent, and identification of possible populations to be eliminated. On Wednesday, amid the warnings of the threat of genocide and the continuing mass exodus of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries, international humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) stated Burundi is becoming one of the biggest refugee crises in Africa.

On Monday, a letter from Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon surfaced, asking for the appointment of a new UN Envoy to the country. Jamal Benomar, the current envoy returned empty-handed from talks with the government on the situation in Burundi. UN spokesman, Farha Haq, responded by saying that there is no search for a new envoy at the moment.

International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda published a report on Monday, stating that the preliminary inquiry into the situation in Burundi will continue in spite of the country’s withdrawal from the court. Bensouda said that Burundi is still obliged to cooperate with the court when it comes to proceedings initiated prior to the withdrawal becomes official in October 2017, one year after notification to the UN Secretary-General.


Central African Republic:

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported on Wednesday that more than 850,000 people, of which around 50 percent are children, are either internally displaced in CAR or are refugees in neighboring countries. The organization called for donors to put the children first as the efforts to reach them in CAR are restricted due to a significant lack of funds.

A UN human rights expert said on Wednesday that the justice system in CAR must be strengthened immediately for peace to be achieved and stressed that a Special Criminal Court should be established in 2017. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch and other NGOs urgeddonor countries to support the Special Criminal Court and its mandate to end impunity for crimes under international law.

During a meeting on Thursday, the UN Security Council welcomed the signing of the National Strategy on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation, the National Security Policy, the Internal Security Forces Development Plan and the National Reconciliation Strategy by the Central African Republic. In a statement, the Council expressed its concern about the continued instability in the country and condemned the recent uptick in violence, especially against civilians, humanitarian personnel, and UN peacekeepers. The Security Council also recalled “the State’s primary responsibility to protect all populations in the CAR in particular from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” and emphasized the importance of a political solution to the conflict.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have accused former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda of witness tampering in his trial for allegedly keeping sex slaves, using child soldiers, and murders in the DRC in 2002 and 2003. Former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty last month of bribing witnesses in his trial.

Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo resigned from his position on Monday, fulfilling a requirement of the recent political deal that will keep Joseph Kabila as President beyond the constitutional mandate. Mr. Kabila, whose second term comes to an end next month, has cited the government’s present inability to conduct fair elections as the main reason for the extension of his presidency through 2018. The move by Mr. Ponyo now frees up the position of Prime Minister for a member of the opposition that has agreed to the deal to let Mr. Kabila remain in office. However, the main opposition group, Rassemblement, still rejects any such agreement while warning of the possibility of civil war. The UN Security Council, during their recent visit to the DRC, called for a peaceful transition of power and stressed the need for a permanent dialogue.


Iraq:

The Islamic State (ISIL) continues to perpetrate systematic killings of civilians, including women and children, in and around Mosul. The Sunni terror group has reportedly used child soldiers, aged anywhere from 10 to 14 years old, to carry out executions of detained members of the Iraqi Security Forces. At least 48,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes as a result of the enduring offensive by government forces, backed by US-led coalition forces and Kurdish militias to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State.

An ISIL suicide bomber killed at least 6 people and injured several others on Monday in the Iraqi town of Ain Al-Tamur on Monday. Iraqi Security Forces were able to apprehend an additional five suicide bombers before they could detonate their vests. However, a sixth bomber was able to evade custody and detonate his vest in a nearby house. An additional nine people were killed and up to 25 were wounded in two suicide bombings in Fallujah.

Human Rights Watch released a report on Monday detailing several incidents in which forces representing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) demolished Arab houses, leaving Kurdish houses untouched and intact in towns and villages throughout the country retaken from ISIL. The report, which documented incidents between late 2014 and mid-2016, was compiled through on-the-ground visits to both Nineveh and Kirkuk governorates, as well as through examining satellite imagery.

At least 700 civilians living in areas retaken by Iraqi Security forces from ISIL have taken to the streets in search of food and water. Soldiers have been handing out the few remaining rations they have to civilians while they wait for a resupply of resources from the government to arrive.

A new Human Rights Watch reports states that the mass grave found on the outskirts of Mosul earlier this month is believed to contain the remains of at least 300 former local Iraqi police officers. The policemen were allegedly held captive and then executed by ISIL late last month as government forces began advancing on the city.


Nigeria:

Late last week, Nigerian soldiers shot and killed three female suicide bombers as they attempted to infiltrate into the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram.

On Saturday, officials from Chad and the UN reported that several hundred Boko Haram fighters have surrendered in the country over the past month. Most of the fighters are originally from Chad and are currently being held in detention centers along with their families.

On Tuesday, the United Nations warned that about 75,000 children risk dying from starvation within months as the situation in the country is worsening. UN humanitarian coordinator Peter Lundberg said they have assessed that about 14 million people in Nigeria will be in need of humanitarian assistance by 2017, including about 400,000 children. Lundberg also added that they do not have enough money to handle the situation and are now in dire need of funding.


South Sudan:

The South Sudanese government has accused the opposition of kidnapping about 20 humanitarian workers over the weekend and has strongly condemned the incident while promising to safely bring back the abductees. However, the armed opposition has denied the allegations.


Sudan/Darfur:

President Omar al-Bashir has said that any peace deal with the opposition rebel group, Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLM-N), will not include the reintegration of the group’s soldiers into regular Sudanese military forces. Previous discussions of peace deals included reintegration, however Bashir has since stated that “no single outlaw will be absorbed” as he views the rebels as surrogate members of South Sudan’s military. Bashir has noted that Sudan is prepared for both war and peace with South Sudan.


Syria:

Russia and the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group fighting against Syrian government forces, continue to trade allegations over the use of chemical weapons in the besieged city of Aleppo. Russia has accused the opposition group of using shells containing chlorine and white phosphorus, while the SNC claims the weapons are similar to those used by regime forces and their allies in earlier attacks. The UN Security Council recently extended a mandate to further investigate the alleged use of chemical agents by the Syrian government on several occasions throughout the civil war.

Civilians still living in Aleppo were instructed via mass text message on Monday to flee the city before the onset of a “strategically planned assault using high precision weapons” began within 24 hours. The message likely came from the Syrian government as they are the only actor to have the capacity for a mass text transmission to the public.

Following the mass message, heavy airstrikes over Aleppo resumed on Tuesday after a nearly three week cessation of aerial assaults on rebel-held areas of the city. At least one civilian was killed and an additional five people were injured in a helicopter barrel bomb attack. Successive barrel bomb strikes by the Syrian government killed at least 27 civilians on Wednesday in Aleppo. Among the targets were a children’s hospital, the Central Blood Bank, and neighborhoods with nearby schools. Russian and Syrian officials have claimed that humanitarian corridors have been established to allow civilians to flee the city. However, many residents do not feel they are safe to use or have refused to flee out of principle.

Meanwhile, aerial assaults across Syria targeted eight hospitals in the past week amidst the regime’s renewed offensive to retake rebel-held territory.


Yemen:

The Saudi-led coalition said on Friday that the Houthi rebels have blocked a total of 34 boats carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen in the last six months.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led military coalition had agreed to renew the cessation of hostilities set to start on Thursday. Kerry claimed that the parties also agreed to work towards establishing a unity government in order for peace to be realized by the end of the year. However, following the statement from Kerry, the Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al Mekhlafi said the government is not interested in a ceasefire or any peace talks with the Houthi rebels.


What else is new?

Interested in interning with the ICRtoP in New York City? We are now seeking applications for Spring 2017. The ICRtoP Secretariat is looking for full-time (preferred) or part-time interns for a period of 3-4 months beginning in early 2017. Applications can be emailed to internship@responsibilitytoprotect.org. The deadline for Spring 2017 applications is 1 December, 5:00pm EST. For more information, please click here.

The Stanley Foundation released a policy memo this week, which provides insight on ways the private sector can work to prevent atrocities and promote the Responsibility to Protect. The memo captures the major discussion points and policy recommendations from a roundtable held last month amongst experts and policymakers from academia, governments, international organizations, and civil society. The roundtable focused on four key global issue areas: climate change, genocide prevention, nuclear security, and global governance.

The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (55 5th Ave., Room 1008, New York, NY, 10003) will be holding an event on Thursday, 1 December from 5:30-7:30pm to celebrate the recent publishing of Dr. James Waller’s new book, entitled Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide. Attendees will be encouraged to engage with Dr. Waller in an interactive discussion on the new book, his work, and the field of mass atrocity prevention more broadly. Refreshments will be served and signed copies of the book will be made available. Please RSVP by 28 November to Cardozo.CLIHHR@yu.edu.

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