Tag Archives: Prevention

#R2PWeekly: 2 – 6 October 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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

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


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

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

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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


Nigeria:

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

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


Philippines:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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


Venezuela:

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


Yemen:

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

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


Other:

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

 

 

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#R2PWeekly: 12 – 16 September 2016

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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


Burundi:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:
 

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

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


Iraq:

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

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


Libya:

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

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


Mali:

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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


What else is new?:

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

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

 

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#R2PWeekly: 6 – 10 June 2016

Untitled

Crimes against Humanity Occurring in Eritrea

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


 South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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


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

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Filed under Weekly Round-Up

#R2P Weekly: 9 – 13 May 2016

Untitled
The Challenges of Engaging National Governments with RtoP and Atrocity Prevention: Confessions of a British RtoP Advocate

 

By Alexandra Buskie, Policy and Advocacy Manager, United Nations Association – UK. UNA-UK is a Steering Committee Member of the ICRtoP.

Over the past 4 years, the United Nations Association – UKalt(UNA-UK) has been working on a dedicated policy and advocacy programme “to strengthen understanding, support and leadership for the Responsibility to Protect principle in the UK’s policy, parliamentary and public arenas”. This has been no small ambition. Engaging the UK Government on RtoP and atrocity prevention has represented huge challenges and success has been difficult to measure. What follows is a reflection on these challenges, how we have sought to respond to them and what we have counted as incremental steps towards a stronger national engagement with the principle in practice. (…)

Read the full blog here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Côte d’Ivoire
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has exhorted President Htin Kyaw to urgently revamp the nation’s “repressive and rights-abusing laws,” particularly those pertaining to race and religion protection.

Aung San Suu Kyi announced that her government is determined to help Thailand solve its long-standing refugee problems. The Thai Foreign Minister, Don Pramudwinai, has estimated that there are 1.6 million Burmese migrant workers residing in Thailand.

Two human rights organizations, Fortify Rights and United to End Genocide, have released areport entitled “Supporting Human Rights in Myanmar: Why the US Should Maintain Existing Sanctions Authority,” urging President Obama to renew the sanctions authority on Burma for at least another year. According to the report, more than 140,000 Rohingya, Kaman and other Muslims remain confined to over 40 squalid internment camps.


Burundi:

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) called on the African Union to step up its efforts to resolvethe Burundi crisis. The PAP Rapporteur, Victor Hlatshwayo, stressed the need to put the lives of the Burundi people at the forefront.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, stated that concrete steps must be taken in order to improve the situation of IDPs in Burundi, highlighting the importance of establishing a legal framework for their assistance and protection. According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), the number of IDPs in March 2016 has reached over 25,000 in the three provinces of Rutana, Makamba and Kirundo. In addition, some 78,000 persons remain internally displaced from the 1993 crisis.

On 9 May, Burundi’s Supreme Court sentenced 21 army officers to life in prison, including Burundi’s former Defence Minister, General Cyrille Ndayirukiye, in connection with a coup plot in May 2015.

On 9 May, unidentified gunmen wearing police uniforms killed three people and injured one in a bar in Maramvya.

Jean Minani, the newly elected leader of opposition group Cnared, urged rebels to “lay down their weapons” should President Nkurunziza agree to participate in peace talks later this month.
 


Central African Republic:

OCHA has reported that the government service delivery capacity for healthcare in the Central African Republic is extremely poor everywhere except in Bangui. This has left the population vulnerable to diseases and with very little access to health services. Over 1 million are currently being served by non-governmental organizations and UN agencies through mobile services in areas not covered by the government’s basic health facilities.

Doctors Without Borders stated that 4,000 South Sudanese refugees living in CAR are doing so in deplorable conditions after having fled conflict and violence. The organisation underlined the “lack of food, water and medicines”.


Côte d’Ivoire

The trial of former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, opened in Côte d’Ivoire on 9 May. She is charged with crimes against humanity during the post-election violence that took place in the country in 2010-2011, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people after her husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down and relinquish power after losing the election. Mrs. Gbagbo has also been charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity during the same period. Côte d’Ivoire has not applied to the ICC to challenge the admissibility of the case and Amnesty International has called for Côte d’Ivoire to comply with their obligation pursuant to her arrest warrant and surrender Mrs. Gbagbo to the ICC. Côte d’Ivoire contends that Mrs. Gbagbo’s trial is fair and transparent, but her defense has claimed that the jury is biased.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Suspected Islamist militants reportedly killed approximately 20 to 40 villagers in the eastern region of the DRC. Meanwhile, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), another active rebel militia in the area, killed at least nine civilians in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.

Authorities in the DRC have arrested Brigadier-General Leopold Mujyambere, the chief of staff for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel militia group linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. A DRC government spokesman said that authorities have taken Mujyambere to the capital to await a decision from the military system on whether he will be tried in Congo or extradited to Rwanda.

On Wednesday, the DRC’s Constitutional Court ruled that President Joseph Kabila may remain in office beyond his constitutional mandate should the election be delayed, as a clause in the constitution mandates that the sitting president must remain in his post until a new president is elected and installed. Opposition parties, who have accused Kanila of attempting to hold onto power by delaying the elections later this year, have denounced the decision.

Since late April, authorities have arrested at least 27 associates of Moise Katumbi, an opposition presidential candidate, as well as other opposition party members. The Justice Ministry opened an investigation into Katumbi on 4 May, the same day he announced his candidacy for president.


Iraq:

Iraq’s government failed again to vote on a cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Hadi, prolonging the month-long political crisis.

Amnesty International urged the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to carry out an “impartial and independent” investigation into abuses committed by their respective militias and security forces.

According to the Pentagon, on 6 May, an airstrike killed Abu Wahib, a top ISIL commander, and three others outside of Rutba in Iraq. Wahib was reportedly a former al-Qaida member in Iraq and made appearances in several ISIL execution videos.

On Tuesday, a suicide bombing in Baqouba, a city northeast of Baghdad, killed at least 13 people and wounded 60 others in a commercial area of a Shiite neighborhood. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attack and reported that a Shiite mosque was the intended target.

On 11 May, a car bomb killed 62 people, mostly women and children, and wounded 86 others in a crowded market in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement, specifying that they were targeting Shiite fighters.


Kenya:

Kenya has announced that the government has closed the country’s Department of Refugee Affairs and is currently working towards closing Kenya’s refugee camps. Amnesty International expressed concern over the closure of Kenya’s two large refugee camps, including the Dadaab camp, the largest in the world. Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, stated, “This reckless decision by the Kenyan government is an abdication of its duty to protect the vulnerable and will put thousands of lives at risk.” The closure could displace over 600,000 people.

The United Nations and human rights organizations have also called on the Kenyan government to revoke its decision on closing the refugee camps. In a joint statement, several non-governmental organizations, which are already providing assistance to refugees in the country, have pledged to provide full support to the Kenyan government in handling refugee problems.


Libya

Next week, regional foreign ministers will meet for talks in Vienna on providing support for Libya’s new unity government and bringing stability to the country, according to Italy’s foreign minister.

Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has announced the establishment of a “Presidential Guard”, a new military force in charge of protecting government buildings, border posts, and other important public facilities and notable visitors. It is the new unity government’s first move to reorganize military forces in Libya.

Western Libyan forces have announced that they are preparing an advance to retake the the city of Sirte, which has been ISIL’s Libyan stronghold. The forces have called for international logistical support in retaking the city but stated that they would not wait for the international assistance to lunch the operation.


Mali:

Malian security services have arrested Yacouba Toure, an alleged weapons trafficker and senior member of the Islamist militant group, Ansar Dine. Toure is suspected of trafficking weapons across the border from Mali that were used in a deadly attack near Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso in October.

Oumar Aldjana, representative for Mali’s Union of Fulani, has reported that 33 Fulani civilians have been killed in a conflict between the Fulani and Bambara communities in Mali’s central Mopti region.


Nigeria:

The Nigerian military spokesman announced that the army had launched a new military offensive to rescue unarmed civilians kidnapped by Boko Haram. The U.S. is also considering selling light attack aircraft to Nigeria to help it counter Boko Haram, a deal previously put on hold due to U.S. concerns over human rights abuses perpetrated by the military.

French President Francois Hollande will attend this week’s summit in Abuja to search for a regional response to the militant threat in Nigeria. Leaders from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger will also attend. During the summit, France and Nigeria are set to sign a defense cooperation agreement, according to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

Gunmen killed two policemen and three soldiers in raids on Monday in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil-producing region. A rise in recent violence in the region has raised concerns that a previously quelled insurgency could resume. The military has vowed to use “all available means and measures” to stop militants from attacking oil facilities in the region, but a labor union has called for oil companies to evacuate all staff in the region.

In a recent report, Amnesty International said that at least 149 detainees, including seven young children and four babies, have died at the Giwa barracks detention center in Maiduguri. The report called this center “a place of death” and called for its immediate close and the release of all 1,200 believed detainees or their transfer to civilian authorities. Amnesty International also said that over 8,000 young men and boys have been shot, tortured, suffocated, or starved to death since 2011 while in Nigerian military custody, with no one held responsible.

On Thursday, a suicide bombing in Maiduguri killed at least five people and wounded 19 others at a government compound. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the act.


South Sudan:

The World Food Programme warned that up to 5.3 million people in South Sudan may face severe food shortages during this year’s lean season.

An independent report by the International Organization for Migration revealed that the “protection of civilians” camps at UNMISS bases around the country, to which over 200,000 individuals have fled, will likely be necessary for years to come, despite the August peace agreement.

The United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict urged the South Sudanese government to actively address sexual violence crimes in the country, stating that sexual violence crimes have continued to be systematically committed during the conflict.


Sudan/Darfur:

Dr. Amin Hassan Omar, the head of the Darfur Peace Implementation Office, has announcedthat the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) have expressed interest in signing the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).

Gunman from local tribes killed six people, including two children, near a Darfuri camp for displaced civilians. The incident occurred after a rise in tensions between the tribesman and the displaced caused by recent cattle raiding.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour has stated that Sudan would open its borders to South Sudanese people when the South Sudanese government stops providing support to Sudanese rebel groups.

Many called for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir during his visit to Uganda, a signatory to the Rome Statute. The sitting president is wanted by the International Criminal Court for having allegedly committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


Syria:

Assad’s forces have failed to regain control of a prison in Hama, where opposition leaders have been warning of possible mass executions of the 800 prisoners by the government. Most of the prisoners are political detainees.

In retaliation for ISIL attacks on the Turkish border town of Kilis. Turkish shelling killed 55 ISIL militants. Kilis now hosts nearly 110,000 Syrian refugees. On Thursday, Turkish artillery and US-led coalition airstrikes killed another 28 militants in ISIL-held territory near Kilis. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the Turkish military is currently preparing to “clear” ISIL from the Syrian side of the border.

Recent reports show that around 700 Iranian soldiers and militiamen have died fighting in the Syrian civil war, although Iran maintains officially that only “military advisers” have been deployed there. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), around 2,000 troops from the special forces wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are currently in Syria as well as at least 13 Shia militias.

On Monday, the US and Russia announced that they would work together towards reaffirming the ceasefire agreement from February. US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Russia’s major role in achieving the initial ceasefire, but also called Russia’s political solution to the conflict “not necessarily a workable equation.” The 17-nation International Syria Support Group will meet next week in Vienna.

On Tuesday, airstrikes on Binnish, a town in Syria’s Idlib province, killed at least 10 people and injured others. Clashes also erupted in and around Aleppo, regardless of the ceasefire in effect. However, on Thursday, the truce in Aleppo expired with no extension announced.

After the two deadliest weeks since the ceasefire began in the country, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, issued a statement condemning the “ongoing indiscriminate and seemingly calculated attacks against civilians and civilian objects in Syria.” He also reminded States of their responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes and urged the international community to end impunity for perpetrators of the worst crimes in Syria. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, a UN-mandated human rights inquiry, also condemned the attacks and called on all parties to immediately stop the unlawful attacks on civilians, medical facilities, and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.

ISIL has tried to mount a comeback outside of Palmyra, with militants cutting a crucial supply route connecting Homs, which is controlled by the government, and Palmyra.

On Wednesday, France, the UK, the US, and Ukraine blocked a Russian proposal in the UN Security Council to blacklist Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham for their alleged links to ISIL and al-Qaida militants. Jaish al-Islam is part of the High Negotiating Committee, which has been representing the opposition at the UN-brokered peace talks with the government. The US said that blacklisting them would undermine the negotiation attempts to attain a full cessation of hostilities in Syria. Ahrar al-Sham, meanwhile, is an ultraconservative Sunni militant group, which has fought as part of a military alliance with the Nusra Front, a group that is not part of the previously-brokered ceasefire. Russia has long maintained that Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham should have no involvement in the peace talks.


Yemen:

UN reports indicated that the cessation of hostilities agreement has substantially facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was able to restore water facilities in Kitaf district, serving an estimated 10,000 people. At the same time, the UN has announced that over half of Yemen’s population, 14.4 million people, are in dire need of food, which the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is struggling to provide. The FAO has reported that Yemen is suffering the worst food shortage, “the volume of food required in Yemen is far greater than humanitarian actors can provide.”

On 10 May, Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels reached an agreement on prisoner swap, releasing half of the prisoners and detainees held by both sides. The agreement was seen as the first major result of peace talks that began in Kuwait on 21 April.

Despite this cautious progress, on 6 May, a bomb attack killed seven people and wounded 15 others in Marib. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 10 rebels in Yemen on Monday. On 11 May, a suicide bomber rammeda car packed with explosives into a government military convoy killing at least eight people and wounding 17 others in eastern Yemen. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Yet another suicide bomber attacked the convoy of General Abdulrahman al-Haleeli, killing four of his guards. General Abdulrahman al-Haleeli escaped unharmed from the attack. On 12 May, ISIL claimed a suicide attack that killed ten soldiers and wounded 15 others in the provincial capital Mukalla. The attack was carried out hours before Prime Minister, Ahmed Obeid bin Dagh’s, visit to the city.

The Pentagon has reported that a small number of US military personnel are on the ground in Yemen in order to aid Emirati forces and Saudi-led coalition efforts to root out al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). However, on 11 May, the Yemeni people took to the streets of Mastaba, a city in Hajja province, demanding the withdrawal of the US soldiers from Lahij province. Meanwhile, the Council for the Unity of Yemeni Tribes, expressed condemnation over the US military presence, calling it as “a provocative move and violation of all international laws and charters.”

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) has released a report entitled, “2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement,” indicating that Syria, Yemen, and Iraq have the highest number of IDPs, amounting to more than half the global total of displaced people.


What else is new?

Next Thursday, May 19, The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies will be livestreaming “Partners in Prevention: A Global Forum on Ending Genocide” hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at the Simons Center in Washington DC. Register here.

The Global Centre for R2P released a report “Ten Years of the Responsibility to Protect: Strengthening South-South Cooperation to Prevent Mass Atrocities.

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#R2P 4 – 8 April 2016

Untitled

Report: Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia 

21250c4e-4ffe-4ddc-b51e-1e4e28664d22On 4-6 November, 9-11 November 2015, and 7-9 December 2015, the ICRtoP and the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) held three installments of their workshop series “Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia” in Bangkok, Thailand; Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, respectively. The organizers gathered civil society representatives from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Myanmar in order to a) deepen support of and commitment to the prevention of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing in Southeast Asia; and b) strengthen early warning and response capacities at the domestic and regional levels to prevent and respond to atrocities. The overarching goal of the workshops was to develop civil society action plans for their countries on atrocities prevention.

Read the full report here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
DPRK
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The first bill proposed by the incoming government of Myanmar’s new Parliament, led by the National League for Democracy, created a new position in the government for Aung San Suu Kyi, that of state counsellor. This position, one that has been compared to that of a Prime Minister, would skirt the constitutional ban that prevented her from becoming president and allows her to have influence on the executive and legislative branches of government.

In her first act as State Counsellor, Suu Kyi announced a plan to release all political prisoners in the near future.


Burundi:

The Burundian Attorney General has asked the families of victims who had appealed to the International Criminal Court and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate their cases to come to him with their evidence instead of the international community. He further warned the international community that the evidence submitted could be “manipulated”.

The UNSC, in a unanimous resolution, requested the Secretary-General to present it with options for deploying a police force in Burundi. Such a force would monitor the security situation on the ground, promote human rights, and advance the rule of law.

The Burundian government stated that it accepts the UNSC’s resolution. However, the main opposition coalition, CNARED, expressed its objections to the UNSC’s resolution, stating that “the resolution gives President Nkurunziza the power to continue killing” and that only a peacekeeping force could help end the crisis.

ICRtoP Member International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) released a new briefing paper entitled “Burundi: A country on the edge.” Drawing on a mission to the country in February, in-depth interviews with refugees who have fled to Uganda, and IRRI’s previous experience in the country, the briefing offers insights on some crucial aspects of the current crisis.


Central African Republic:

The first trials against Congolese peacekeepers who allegedly sexually abused women and girls in CAR started in DRC. Meanwhile, in France, a prosecutor opened preliminary investigations into allegations of sexual abuse committed by French troops of MINUSCA. France also began withdrawing its troops from CAR on Wednesday.

The newly sworn-in president of CAR, Faustin Archange Touadera, announced that he had appointed Simplice Sarandji as the new prime minister.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

Ambassador Robert King, US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, is in South Korea in order to assess how to address the gross human rights violations being carried out by North Korea.

Lee So-yeon, a former soldier in the North Korean army, has spoken out about the mass rape of female soldiers within the North Korean army.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

A UN Response Team, charged with probing into allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the DRC, have found through their investigations allegations that point to sex with minors as well as paternity claims by victims.

Tanzania announced that it has already formed an investigation team that would travel to the DRC to investigate accusations of sexual abuse by its peacekeepers.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israel is charging the soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank with manslaughter.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) condemnedthe destruction of Palestinian homes in the West Bank. Lance Bartholomeusz, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, stated that over 700 people have been displaced since the start of 2016, an alarmingly high number compared to the same period last year.


Iraq:

ISIL militants killed at least 29 people in a series of suicide attacks carried out on Monday. Most deadly was an attack in a Dhi Qar restaurant popular amongst Shiite fighters that killed an approximated 14 people. Meanwhile, a car bomb set off in Basra killed at least five and wounded an additional 10. Another militant reportedly drove his car into a security checkpoint at Sadr al-Qanat; the wreck killed six troops and wounded 13. Finally another car bomber killed four troops and wounded 10 more at a paramilitary headquarters in Mishahda.


Kenya:

Judges at the ICC decided to throw out a case against Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang for crimes against humanity due to a lack of evidence. Mr. Ruto denies his involvement in the charges of murder, deportation, and persecution in the period after Kenya’s 2007 elections and many of the prosecution’s key witnesses have changed their statements. The prosecution claims this is due to bribery and intimidation, but in February ICC judges still denied the prosecution the use of previously recorded witness testimonies that have been recanted. The charges will be vacated and the accused are to be released, but the decision is still subject to appeal and does not preclude new prosecution in the future.


Libya:

The UNSC welcomed the arrival of the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, citing its hope that the government would “tackle Libya’s political, security, humanitarian, economic and institutional challenges and to confront the rising threat of terrorism.” The EU also demonstrated its support for the UN-backed government when it  imposed travel bans and asset freezes on three individuals who oppose its establishment.

Ali Al-Za’tari, senior UN humanitarian affairs official in Libya, called for an independent investigation into the deaths of four migrants who had been detained by the authorities, citing the widespread “abuse and exploitation” of migrants in the country and calling for their protection.


Mali:

On Tuesday, UN Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous, the top UN peacekeeping official,told the Security Council that, “every day lost during the implementation of the peace agreement is a day won for extremist and terrorist groups who have been gambling on the failure of the Mali peace process.” He also warned that these delays would impact intercommunal conflicts and have unfortunate consequences for civilians. Mr. Ladsous did, however, also report positive developments towards the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, but warned that “progress on defence and security issues is too slow.” Furthermore, he announced that a strategic review of MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali, will be completed before the Secretary-General’s next report in May, roughly one month ahead of the date MINUSMA’s current mandate is set to expire.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has declared a 10-day State of Emergency over the entire country due to “terrorist threats” following a meeting of ministers on Monday. The previous State of Emergency ended less than a week before on 31 March.


Nigeria:

Nigerian authorities have arrested Khalid al-Barnawi, the leader of Ansaru, a Boko Haram breakaway group. Ansaru is aligned ideologically with al-Qeada in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Like AQIM, Ansaru is infamous for kidnapping foreigners and is accused of killing several Westerners. Since 2012, the US has had a $5 million USD bounty on al-Barnawi and branded him one of Nigeria’s three “specially designated global terrorists.”

According to a Nigerian Defense Ministry spokesman, the country’s military has opened a camp to rehabilitate repentant ex-Boko Haram fighters who have surrendered. The camp provides the ex-fighters with vocational training to help them meaningfully contribute to economic growth in the country. He further claimed that around 800 members of Boko Haram have surrendered within the last three weeks.

The military has also released a statement urging other fighters to surrender, warning that it would not relent in the fight against Boko Haram until the group is “completely neutralized”. Since 26 February, the military claims to have rescued almost 11,600 civilian hostages from Boko Haram camps and villages in northeastern Nigeria. Another army spokesman haspromised troops that the military will address “logistics deficiencies which have hindered the optimal conduct of the Nigerian Army’s counter insurgency operations.”


South Sudan:

The leader of the SPLM-IO, Riek Machar, announced on Thursday that he would return to the state capital of Juba on 18 April, in order to form a transitional government alongside President Salva Kiir.

The conflict has led to a record 5.8 million people in South Sudan facing extreme poverty and starvation. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program (WFP) stated that hunger in the nation has increased significantly since the start of fighting two years ago.


Sudan/Darfur:

Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous has reported the continuation of a series of clashes and serial bombings in rebel occupied Jebel Marra. As a result, 103,000 Sudanese have sought refuge at the four Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps facilitated by the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID. Ladsous also stated that 138,000 people have been displaced since January 2016.  However, restrictions imposed by the Sudanese government on aid organizations and UNAMID has made it difficult to determine the exact number of persons displaced by recent fighting.

Amid the recent increases in conflict occurring in and around Jebel Marra, Darfuris have grown wary about the referendum set to take place next week from 11-13 April. The referendum will give residents the choice to either keep the five existing states of Darfur or to unite the region into a single, semi-autonomous zone. President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged by the International Criminal Court for committing mass atrocities, intends to move forward with the vote despite it being rejected by many. The referendum was part of the 2011 peace agreement between Khartoum and numerous rebel groups.


Syria:

Islamist rebels shot down a government warplane on Tuesday and captured its pilot. The event happened in an area south of Aleppo where al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, along with its allies, launched a new military initiative last week to take back territory from Assad. However, a prominent member of the al-Nusra Front, Abu Firas al-Suri, was killed on Sunday by an airstrike in the rebel-occupied province of Idlib along with 20 other extremists part of the al-Nusra faction. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed Abu Firas’ death andsuspects that either Syrian or Russian forces are responsible.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government reclaimed yet another town from ISIL, one week after capturing the historic city of Palmyra. Syrian forces gained control of Qaryatain,a crucial oil and gas-rich area. The territorial gain will also help Assad block militant supply routes between Damascus and Homs. The town will now act as a foothold for attacking ISIL alongside the Iraqi border.

Leaders of the religious Alawite sect, to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs, released a lengthy report distancing their community from the Assad regime. In the document, titled “Declaration of Identity Reform,” the group said that they represented a third model of Islam that wishes to support “the values of equality, liberty and citizenship” and called for the secularization of the future government of Syria. Furthermore, the community stressed that the legitimacy of the Assad regime in years to come lies only on the basis of democracy and human rights.

In the lead up to the resumption of the Geneva peace talks next Monday, Assad has stated that he believes the talks could lead to a new Syrian government made up of an opposition, independents and loyalists. Nevertheless, he completely rejected the idea of establishing a transitional authority. For its part, the Syrian opposition, as represented by the High Negotiations Committee, has continuously called for a halt on civilian attacks and for the Geneva talks to result in the formation of a transitional government that excludes Assad altogether. The second round of peace talks is expected to address the issue of a political transition in Syria as well as the future of the Assad regime.


Yemen:

The US and the UK received criticism for continuing to deliver arms to Saudi Arabia, which is reported to be violating international humanitarian law in its fight against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

A delegation of Houthi rebels is holding talks in Saudi Arabia ahead of peace negotiations scheduled on 18 April, a move welcomed by the Saudi government.


 What else is new?

The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The United Nations Development Program and International Interfaith Peace Corps is holding a Roundtable on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington DC on 18 April.   RSVP here.

Also in DC, the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum is holding an event entitled “Preventing Mass Atrocities and Deadly Conflict” on 12 April. RSVP here.

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#R2P Weekly: 28 March – 1 April 2016

Untitled
On the Way to Ending Impunity:The Cases of Karadzic, Bemba, and Ongwen

Last week was an important one for the advancement of international criminal justice and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). On 24 March 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rendered its judgment (summary) in the Karadžić case, three days earlier, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba; and on 23 March, the ICC also decided that there was enough evidence in the Ongwen case for it to proceed to trial. Both RtoP and international criminal law, as exemplified here through the ICTY and the ICC, aim at bettering the world’s prevention of and reaction to atrocity crimes. Accountability for the perpetrators of such crimes serves as a vital element of upholding RtoP, as ending impunity for these crimes functions both as a deterrent for future perpetrators and as a means to rebuild communities in the wake of atrocities. As such, any improvements in accountability for atrocities can also be considered an improvement in the implementation of RtoP.

(…)

To read the full blog, click here.
To read the statement by the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide on the conviction of Radovan Karadzic, click here.

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other

 


Burma/Myanmar:

The outgoing government of Myanmar lifted a curfew in Rakhine State this week, imposed in June 2012 after clashes that displaced over 140,000, mostly Rohingya.

U Htin Kyaw of the National League for Democracy was sworn in on Wednesday as the new president of Myanmar. In his speech, Mr. Htin Kyaw urged “patience in the pursuit of democracy”, while noting that his government would strive for national reconciliation and a resolution of military clashes with ethnic groups.

 


Burundi:

Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, warned the UN Human Rights Council that the human rights violations occurring in Burundi posed a threat to the country and the wider Great Lakes region. He urged the Burundian government to release political prisoners and to ensure the respect of its citizens’ human rights, be they civil and political or economic and social.

The EU has threatened to stop funding Burundi’s 5,400 strong peacekeeping mission in Somalia with the aim of forcing the Burundian government to the negotiations table.

FOREBU, a rebel group in Burundi, has claimed responsibility for the killing of an army colonel in Bujumbura.

Burundi’s ruling party accused President Paul Kagame of Rwanda of attempting to “export genocide”. Burundi’s government and the UN have both accused Rwanda of recruiting refugees to help remove President Nkurunziza from power.

 


Central African Republic:

New reports of sexual abuses by Moroccan and Burundian peacekeepers in CAR have emerged, prompting a UN investigation. Additionally, AIDS-Free World released a report that peacekeepers had abused 98 girls from 2013-present.

The French minister of defence confirmed that the French intervention in CAR, Operation Sangaris, will end in the course of the year, stating that French troops had achieved their mission of restoring security there. The withdrawal shall happen parallel to the build-up of the MINUSCA and the EU Training Mission.

Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Central African Republic’s new president, took office on Wednesday, vowing to restore peace and security to the country.
 


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Three days of clashes between the DRC’s army and the FDLR and Mai Mai militia have killedsixteen in Mpati.

The UN Security Council unanimously extended the mandate of MONUSCO, refusing to cut down on the 20,000-strong force, despite recommendations from Ban Ki-moon and request from the DRC government.

Several opposition parties endorsed the former governor of Lubumbashi, Moise Katumbi, for president. Katumbi was a member of President Kabila’s party, but quit while accusing Kabila of plotting to stay in power last September.

The DRC began the trials of twenty soldiers accused of rape and other crimes while serving as UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic.
 


Gaza/West Bank:

The HRC passed a resolution creating a blacklist of companies involved in settlement activities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The resolution wasdenounced by Israel and the US.

The OHCHR has stated that it is extremely concerned by the extrajudicial execution of a Palestinian man in the West Bank, fearing that it might not have been a lone incident. The Office has called for a “prompt, thorough, transparent and independent investigation”.

 


Iraq:

An ISIL attack near a gathering of workers in Tayaran Square in Baghdad killed 7 and wounded 27.

 


Libya:

Martin Kobler, Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya,condemned executions by armed groups in Warshafana against civilians in the north of the country, citing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

The UAE Red Crescent is airlifting 300 tons of aid resources to Libya.

The Libyan ambassador to the UN has asked the UNSC to exempt its blacklisted sovereign wealth fund from sanctions imposed by the Council in 2011, claiming that mismanagement of funds is causing the loss of billions of dollars at the Libyan Investment Authority. However, the resolution adopted by the UNSC only reaffirms the Council’s intention to make frozen assets available to Libyans at a later date.

The heads of Libya’s UN-backed unity government, known as the Government of National Accord, have made their way to Tripoli, the capital, in order to broker a ceasefire between the rival factions and better confront ISIL.
 


Mali:

According to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi has agreed to plead guilty to destroying religious and cultural sites in Timbuktu. He faces war crimes charges for his involvement in the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque during the city’s occupation in 2012.

Special forces have arrested Souleymane Keita, the top jihadist leader in southern Mali, and one of his allies near the border with Mauritania. Originally part of the jihadist forces which took control of large swathes of territory in northern Mali in 2012 and ousted by the French in 2013, when French troops ousted the jihadists in 2013, Keita went south to start his own jihadist group called the “Ansar Dine of the South”. He has been accused of running a jihadist training camp outside of Bamako and for carrying out attacks in the capital and in cities near the border with Côte d’Ivoire.

Authorities in Mali also arrested two citizens accused of “actively participating” in a deadly attack on a beach resort in Côte d’Ivoire on 13 March that killed 19 people. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, the third such strike in West Africa in recent months after the attacks on a hotel in the capital city of Mali and another on a hotel in Burkina Faso, demonstrating the mobility and access of the growing jihadist threat these countries face.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concerns about the number of challenges facing UN peacekeepers in Mali and the spreading insecurity throughout the country. In his latest report, Ban noted “The northern and central parts of Mali remain under the threat of criminal, violent extremist and terrorist groups, which take advantage of the limited presence of Malian law enforcement institutions.” Although a peace agreement was reached last year between the government and the rebels, jihadist violence still presents a real threat and the national government has not been able to maintain the country’s security with its domestic forces alone.
 


Nigeria:

In their latest report on Nigeria, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the Nigerian government’s response to the Damasak attacks last year “woefully inadequate”. The attacks resulted in the abduction of 400 women and children, including 300 schoolchildren, by Boko Haram.

In the days after the HRW report, a local Damasak resident, government administrator, elder, and chief reported that Boko Haram had abducted an additional 500 girls, boys, and women from Damask on 24 November 2014. The government of former president Goodluck Jonathan denied reports of the abduction last year, while other officials expressed doubts over the claims. One of the people that came forward, whose child had been among those abducted, claimed that the people of the city had “kept quiet on the kidnap out of fear of drawing the wrath of the government.”

Although Damasak is the largest documented school abduction by Boko Haram, it has drawn less international attention than the group’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, of which 57 are confirmed to have escaped, although 219 girls remain captive. Two girlsarrested by authorities during an attempt to carry out a suicide bombing on a village in Cameroon could be part of this group, and two parents of the Chibok abductees have been sent to Cameroon to meet with the girls.

Although US cooperation with Nigeria had effectively stalled during Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency due to his refusal to investigate accusations of corruption and human rights abuses committed by the Nigerian military, on Wednesday, the United States and the current Nigerian government agreed to set up working groups to strengthen security cooperation and the economy and tackle corruption.
 


South Sudan:

The United Nations has reported that over 48,000 South Sudanese have escaped to Sudan since the end of January, due to food shortages and ongoing conflict. Since the conflict started in December 2013, tens of thousands of people have been killed and over 2 million displaced. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is concerned about the amount of South Sudanese seeking asylum in Sudan, with an average of 500 refugees, equivalent to 100 households, arriving daily in East Darfur. The 2016 South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP), which covers all refugee programmes in the area, is only funded at 3 per cent, which leaves many emergent and necessary efforts, such as providing clean water, sanitation, medical assistance, food and shelter, incredibly underfunded.

In response to a report published by Radio Tamazuj, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has stated its commitment to protecting populations in the country. The report by the popular local media outlet accused UNMISS of declining to protect displaced persons in a camp called Sector 5 in Malakal. UNMISS had said in a previous statement that Sector 5 is not a priority for them, as they are still focusing on Sectors 1-4, which have been recently damaged by fires. However, UNMISS also stated that its peacekeepers are protecting 200,000 people seeking refuge within their bases all over the country and are working to protect people outside of their bases. The UN body hopes that the upcoming peace agreement between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar will result in displaced persons returning home.
 


Sudan/Darfur:

The Special Prosecutor of Darfur Crimes, Al-Fatih Mohamed Tayfor, accused rebel groups of abducting children and forcing them to participate in military activities. Tayfor stated that the recruitment of child soldiers by armed movements violate all international conventions and international humanitarian law, as well as the 2010 Child Act. The leaders of Sudan’s primary rebel groups, such as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) have agreed to take increased measures to protect children in conflict areas.

Continuous attacks and air raids on East Jebel Marra in Darfur have resulted in most of the population of the area fleeing to camps for the internally displaced. Others have sought shelter in caves and valleys in the Jebel Marra area. Moreover, there is reportedly not a single healthcare facility throughout southern Darfur. As of 20 March, conflict had displaced approximately 129,200 people in Jebel Marra conflict since 15 January.
 


Syria:

The Syrian government recaptured the historic city of Palmyra on Sunday, marking an important milestone in the fight against Islamic State fighters, who had conducted a 10-month reign of terror in the area. The city is locally known as the “Bride of the Desert” and is popular for its 2000-year-old ruins that used to draw in visitors from all over the world, before ISIL destroyed many of the monuments. The recapture was supported by Russian military forces. The loss of Palmyra is seen as one of the biggest setbacks for the Islamic State since it declared a caliphate in 2014 across much of Syria and Iraq. This victory by the Syrian government has also opened up a vast, strategic space of desert leading to IS occupied territory in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in the east.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 363 civilians were killed during the first month of the ceasefire.This is the lowest number of monthly civilian deaths since November 2011. The 363 civilians that died last month is in stark contrast to the 1,100 who were killed the previous month, including 234 children. Nevertheless, while the ceasefire has brought some calm to Syria, fighting has continued between rival groups and jihadist factions.

The United Nations is considering appointing a specialist to facilitate negotiations with the goal of a possible prisoner exchange between the Syrian government and the rebel opposition. This effort has been identified as a priority for the Geneva peace talks, as the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has demanded that the government release prisoners countless times. The responsibility of the new specialist will also be to ensure that named-detainees are not harmed after their release.

President Bashar al-Assad told an interviewer on Wednesday that he rejects the idea of a “transitional body with full executive powers” proposed by the opposition, which requires him to step down. Assad continued to state that Syria needs a national unity government consisting of various political parties that will secure the transition to a new constitution. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last December that called for a road map to be created in order to establish “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months, as well as a schedule for the drafting of a new constitution which should be followed by an election.

In the meantime, three days after President Vladimir Putin’s declaration to pull military forces out of Syria, Russia’s naval ship nicknamed “the Syrian Express” left the Russian Black Sea port for Tartous, Russia’s naval base in Syria. The exact contents of the ship are unknown, but according to an analysis by Reuters, the movements of the ship suggest that Russia is attempting to maintain its military presence in Syria as well as supply the Syrian army. However, over half of Russia’s fixed-wing strike force flew out of Syria following the declaration for the partial withdrawal.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community on Wednesday to aid in the resettlement of about a half a million Syrian refugees over the next three years. The United Nations Refugee Agency has aimed to resettle 480,000 by the end of 2018 but has admitted that it may be a struggle due to widespread fear, as well as a lack of political will. Ban urged states to pledge towards creating new legal pathways for humanitarian admission through family reunions, as well as labor and study opportunities.
 


Yemen:

A previously agreed upon prisoner swap was carried out between Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels ahead of the planned cessation of hostilities and peace negotiations, freeing 109 Yemenis in exchange for 9 Saudis.

UNICEF has warned of the disastrous humanitarian consequences of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen, especially in relation to children, reporting that more than 6 children are killed every day in the conflict. The United Nations Population Fund, meanwhile,reported that the Yemeni conflict has left 3.4 million women between the ages of 15-49 needing humanitarian assistance. Reproductive health and other services are severely lacking, putting the lives of thousands women and (unborn) children at risk

In attacks claimed by ISIL, three suicide bombers killed 26 people near security checkpoints in Aden. The attacks, which took place last Friday, coincided with the first anniversary of the start of the civil war.

An airstrike by unidentified planes has left at least four suspected al Qaeda members dead.
 


What else is new?

The ICRtoP is pleased to welcome two new members to its coalition:

Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights (Kurdistan, Iraq)

Founded in 2005, the Jiyan Foundation originally began in Kirkuk, Iraq as a rehabilitation center for victims of violence and torture in the region. Since then, the Jiyan Foundation has opened offices throughout several cities in Iraqi Kurdistan as well as an office in Berlin, Germany. Their main purpose is to promote and protect human rights through their assistance to victims and survivors of torture, terrorism, and atrocity crimes, with the organization working with over 2,000 victims over the years. The Foundation provides free medical treatment and psychotherapeutic support as well as social and legal counseling to assist in physical and mental and reintegration into society. Additionally, the Jiyan Foundation conducts programmatic initiatives focusing on human rights education, political advocacy, and the promotion of public awareness for atrocity crime prevention.

Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights
Founded in 2011 following the rise of the “Arab Spring”, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor documents violations of human rights committed throughout the Middle East and North Africa with the aim of informing public opinion and advocacy for action in the region. There are a range of issues in focus for the organization including, but not limited to, women’s and children’s rights, detention of prisoners of conscience, commission of torture, and refugee and migrant rights. Through a series of press releases, publications, infographics, and videos, as well as direct advocacy, the organization strives to galvanize political will to hold perpetrators to account and stimulate action for prevention and protection.

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#R2P Weekly: 29 February – 4 March 2016

Untitled

ICRtoP Summary of
Thematic Panel Discussion on RtoP within UN General Assembly

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 09.55.29

On Friday, 25 February 2016, the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened a high-level thematic panel discussion entitled From commitment to implementation: Ten years of the Responsibility to Protect to mark the 10th anniversary of adoption of the norm.

Find the ICRtoP’s summary of the dialogue here. To read any of the statements made, click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
DPRK
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


 Burma/Myanmar:

A Burmese human right organization, Network For Human Rights Documentation- Burma (ND-Burma), released a report identifying 84 human rights violations between January and December 2015. The violations occurred both in areas of active armed conflict and those covered by ceasefires.

John Ging, director of operations at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), called for an end to discrimination against displaced Muslims, particularly the Rohingya.


 

Burundi:

The African Union plans to deploy 100 human rights observers and 100 military observers toBurundi. Members of the opposition have complained that 200 observers is insufficient to cover Burundi’s territory.

The East African Community named former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as the new mediator for talks on ending Burundi’s crisis, a move welcomed by the opposition group National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Accord (CNARED).

A UN team of experts began investigating human rights violations in Burundi. The experts will remain for one week and present their findings in late March. Meanwhile, authorities in Bujumbura unveiled a mass grave, which they claim contains the remains of government supporters.


 

Central African Republic:

According to LRA Crisis Tracker, the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnapped over 200 people in eastern CAR this year, already nearly twice the amount that had been abducted last year.

In a press release, the ICRC noted that hundreds of thousands of displaced people in CAR are waiting to return home from displaced camps. Armed men number among the camp’s residents, while accidental fires have wreaked havoc in three separate sites.

CAR’s constitutional court confirmed Faustin-Archange Touadera’s election as president.


 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The DPRK’s foreign minister denied any claims of human rights violations by his State, warning that his country would no longer work with the Human Rights Council. He also pointed towards gun violence in the United States of America and the handling of the refugee crisis by European States as “proof of partiality and double standards.” During this session of the Council, Japan and the EU will likely present a resolution condemning the violations in North Korea.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

On 29 February, attacks killed at least 12 in Mamabio, in eastern DRC. The Center of Study for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, which monitors violence in the region, stated that attacks have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist group from Uganda.


 

Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces arrested 38 Palestinians on Monday for various reasons, including violent acts, ties to Hamas, border infiltration, and alleged arms smuggling through the Gaza sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking the Attorney General’s approval to deport relatives of West Bank terrorists to Gaza. In his letter to AG Avichai Mandelblit, Netanyahu stated, “I am convinced that such a measure will lead to a significant decrease in the number of terror attacks against the State of Israel, its citizens and its residents.” A few days prior, Mandelblit rejected a similar query from the political party Likud, arguing that such an explosion is a violation of both Israeli and international law.


 

Iraq:

At least 27 people were killed on Monday at the funeral of a Shi’ite military commander’s relative in Diyala, when a suicide bomber detonated his vest. 55 more people were wounded. This follows twin-set of market place bombings which took place in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 53 and injuring 117. These events are the deadliest of the year thus far in Iraq.

The U.S. military is planning for the next phase of the battle against ISIL, which is re-taking Mosul. The U.S. claims to have isolated the city and says that the capture of Shaddadi, Syria last week had cut the last significant lines of communication between Mosul and ISIL’s Syrian capital of Raqqa.


 

Libya:

In a briefing to the UN Security Council, the head of UNSMIL, noted that Libya risks division and collapse if it does not move ahead now. After a minority of parliamentarians opposed a vote on a new list of candidates for a cabinet on 22 February, Kobler vowed to reconvene the Libyan Political Dialogue. He further noted that the “overwhelming majority” of the Libyan people are in favor of the Libyan Political Agreement.

A new UNSMIL report stated that shelling, gun shots, explosive remnants of war, and aerial bombardments had killed 28 and injured 38 others since January.

The U.S. announced that it was prepared to expand military operations against ISIL in Libya, but only after Libyans agree on a national unity government.


 

Mali:

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a former member of Ansar-Dine, stands accused of causing irreparable damage to Africa’s cultural heritage by destroying ancient shrines in Timbuktu during the conflict in 2012 in Mali. According to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the former trainee teacher and Islamic militant had “led and personally taken part in the attacks on nine mausoleums and mosques in the city with pick-axes and crowbars.” Although trying cultural destruction as a crime is established in past jurisprudence in international law, this case is the first to be tried addressing it as a heinous crime, but the prosecutor, Ms. Bensouda, does not think this will be the last.


 

Nigeria:

On 2 March, 76 emaciated-looking people associated with the Boko Haram group, including women and children, surrendered in Gwoza, a town near Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. The food shortages are likely a result of the successful choking of Boko Haram supply chains by the Nigerian military in their fight to suppress the insurgency under President Muhammadu Buhari.


South Sudan:

A UN source anonymously claimed that approximately 50,000 may have been killed since the start of the civil war. The source further estimated that around 2.2 million had been displaced.

South Sudan missed another deadline in implementing the August peace deal, as rebel troops under former vice-president Machar signaled that they would not arrive in Juba on Tuesday as planned. The rebels announced that the government had not designated cantonment areas or food and medical care facilities for their troops. The government, meanwhile, claims that the delay is due to the rebels’ failure to submit their names to the troika, who are responsible for their transportation to Juba.


 

Sudan/Darfur:

Over 10,000 people living in the Kalma camp for the displaced protested on Tuesday, demanding an end to the six-month-long pause in food aid delivery to the camp. The displaced persons arriving at Kalma from 2013 to 2014 were not registered by the camp and therefore never added to the permanent food subsidy lists of the humanitarian organizations operating in the area. The Secretary General of the camp appealed to relief organizations, asking them “to act immediately to save people.”

In the meantime, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed reports by the UN concerning the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have fled their homes since 15 January, when the conflict in Jebel Marra escalated. UN OCHA has stated that 90,000 have been displaced since 21 February due to the continued conflict between the Sudanese army and the rebel opposition, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLA). The Ministry described that figure as inaccurate and claimed that government authorities have provided aid to the displaced, who have since returned to their villages.

The Sudanese military has meanwhile claimed control over all areas north of Jebel Marra.


Syria:

Hours prior to the start of the ceasefire in Syria last Saturday, reports surfaced claiming that over 100 airstrikes had been conducted in Northern Aleppo. Amnesty International, for its part,accused the Russian and Syrian government of deliberately and systematically targeting health facilities in Aleppo over the past 12 weeks. The human rights organization claimed to have evidence that these attacks were an attempt by government forces to gain ground before the cessation of hostilities took effect.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that there has been 31 violations of the ceasefire in 3 days. Zakharova said the exact number was provided by the U.S. and did not specify which parties have contributed to the offences. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that all alleged violations of the ceasefire would be investigated and added that both the U.S. and Russia are working on a mechanism to ensure airstrikes only target UN-designated terrorist organizations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Tuesday that his government would “do its part” to ensure the success of the ceasefire. He has also offered amnesty to the opposition if they agree to disarm. Meanwhile, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a group representing the opposition, cautioned that ceasefire violations would further threaten the possibility of finding a peaceful, political solution to the five-year war.

UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura stated that the U.S.-Russia cessation of hostilities plan is reportedly holding up despite the many setbacks. Mistura noted that the ceasefire has greatly reduced violence in Syria and created hope for the resumption of the peace talks in Geneva next week. The truce is further expected to assist in making progress with the delivery of aid to remote and besieged areas.

In the meantime, Israel accused the Syrian government on Tuesday of using chemical weapons against civilians during the ceasefire.


 

Yemen:

An airstrike on 27 February on Khaleq market killed 32 civilians and injured at least 41, making the death toll the highest from a single bombing since September 2015.

President Hadi declared that Yemen’s army and popular resistance forces have liberated more than 85% of Yemeni territories from control of the Houthis. The president was confident that his forces would soon regain control of Sanaa as well.

Amnesty International urged all states to impose an arms embargo on all warring parties in Yemen.


 

What else is new?

The ICRtoP co-signed a statement along with around 60 other domestic and international groups asking ‪US lawmakers to pass the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act in support of mass atrocity prevention. The passing of the legislation would authorize “critical tools that are needed to prevent violent conflict and save lives” such as the Atrocity Prevention Board and the Complex Crises Fund, require training for Foreign Service Officers in prevention, and more. Read the full statement with signatories here.

ICRtoP Member Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is launching the 2015 Annual Report of the Technical Secretariat of the Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention on 8 March. RSVP to diana.mantilla@auschwitzinstitute.org by March 4.


 

Above photo: General Assembly Holds Panel Discussion on Responsibility to Protect. (UN Photo/Manuel Elias.)

 

 

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#R2P Weekly: 8-12 February 2016


Untitled
A Group of U.S. Legislators Plan to Introduce a
Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), supported by a group of other legislators, plans to introduce legislation in Congress permanently authorizing the U.S. Atrocity Prevention Board (APB) and concentrating U.S. government efforts on early prevention of violent conflict and atrocities as an essential part of the United States’ national security strategy.

Along with permanently authorizing the APB, the proposed Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act would continue the APB’s engagement of high level government officials through its inter-agency nature and maintain the APB’s role in preventing violence through the continuation of programs in places like the Central African Republic and Burundi. The Act would also go further and finally authorize funding for atrocities prevention through the Complex Crises Fund, which has been appropriated since 2010, but has never been authorized. Additionally, it would provide training in conflict and atrocities prevention to Foreign Service Officers, which would help them to not only mitigate violence, but also to recognize early warning signs, which could save both lives and funding. Furthermore, the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act would strengthen the APB’s connection to Congress and its leadership and oversight, as well as require a report to Congress by the Director of National Intelligence, including a review of at-risk countries annually to ensure that APB’s atrocities prevention measures are informed by the realities faced on the ground.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a Quaker lobby organization working towards the promotion of the public interest, has been monitoring the APB situation closely. To find more information and to urge your senators to co-sponsor the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act click on the link on the FCNL page here.

Find more information on how civil society can engage with the U.S. Atrocity Prevention Board and other existing national RtoP initiatives throughout the world with ICRtoP’s brief here.

In 2012, U.S. President Obama created the Atrocities Prevention Board in order to ensure that the prevention of mass atrocities would be considered a “core national security interest and core moral responsibility of the U.S.” The APB is currently an inter-agency committee, which is lead by the White House, but includes representatives from several different government Departments, USAID, the CIA, the US Mission to the UN, and others. The APB is mandated to assess the U.S. government’s anti-atrocity capabilities and to recommend reforms. However, although the APB has put forward meaningful contributions to the U.S. government’s anti-atrocity measures, concerns over its impermanent status and lack of a strong connection with Congress are troubling.


 

Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Sri Lanka
Syria
Yemen
Other 


 

Burma/Myanmar:

The National League for Democracy, the party of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is currently negotiating the future composition of the government with the military, talks which could possibly include a deal that would allow her to become president. However, the military has indicated that a suspension of the Constitutional clause barring Aung San Suu Kyi from assuming the presidency is unlikely. Burma’s Parliament announced that it would hold elections to select the president on 17 March.


 

Burundi:

On Saturday, 6 February, a grenade attack in Bujumbura killed four and wounded ten.

Rwanda’s government is denying allegations that it has been training refugees from Burundi with the aim of removing President Nkurunziza. Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, accused the UN of attempting to “scapegoat” Rwanda in order to dismiss the fact that Burundi’s crisis is one of its “own making.”

The ICGLR’s executive secretary, Ntumba Luaba, expressed concerns about the current situation in Burundi, stating that “all must be done to avoid a civil war in Burundi.” The Burundian crisis will be discussed at the summit of heads of State and Government of the ICGLR on Friday in the capital of Angola, Luanda.


 

Central African Republic:

A new report by Amnesty International, titled Mandated to Protect, Equipped to Succeed? Strengthening Peacekeeping, examines failures of the UN’s peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) in the CAR. The report addresses variables such as training, equipment, coordination, and the number of civilian and uniformed personnel in the mission. Amnesty notes that “MINUSCA’s presence in CAR has saved many lives and prevented much bloodshed, but the extreme violence that erupted in Bangui in September 2015 exposed the mission’s weaknesses. However, today, it still lacks the resources it needs to adequately protect civilians.”

Following the allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation carried out by international peacekeeping troops in the CAR, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Jane Holl Lute to coordinate efforts to address the “systemic issues, fragmentation, and other weaknesses” which were identified by the report on 17 December 2015 by the High-Level External Independent Review Panel on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by International Peacekeeping Forces in the Central African Republic. The Republic of Congo has also launched an investigation into the earlier allegations of sexual abuse involving children against the country’s troops serving as UN peacekeepers in the CAR.

MINUSCA decided on Tuesday that it would maintain the 12,800 person ceiling of its military/law enforcement wing and increase the number of corrections officers in the CAR. The Security Council also requested that the Secretary General continuously review MINUSCA’s military, police, and corrections resources. Set to expire in April, MINUSCA has prioritized taming the increase in violence witnessed in since last fall.

The second round of presidential elections will take place in CAR this weekend. Ahead of these elections, the UN’s latest report, which will be released later this month, details horrible human rights violations in Bangui during the violence that erupted at the end of 2015. The report recommends ending impunity and prosecuting the perpetrators of past and present crimes, ending armed groups’ attacks on civilians, reforming the CAR armed forces, and the implementation of disarmament, violence reduction, and protection of civilians and victims programs, as well as many others.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

As Congolese election approaches, political tension between President Joseph Kabila and opposition parties continues to escalate. The opposition parties want to secure that the Congolese government does not make any changes in the Constitution that would extend presidential term of Mr. Kabila.


 

Gaza/West Bank:

On Saturday, there was an arson attack on a synagogue near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The synagogue hosted a memorial dedicated to the three Jewish teenagers kidnapped and killed during the summer of 2014, one of many events inciting the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict.

A 15-year old Palestinian boy was shot and killed after throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles in the West Bank on Wednesday. Since October, 27 Israelis and an American citizen have been killed by Palestinians. 157 Palestinians have been killed in the same time by Israeli forces, including 101 militants. Other Palestinians have reportedly been killed in their own demonstrations against the state of Israel.

Turkish and Israeli representatives met on Wednesday in Geneva in hopes of rapprochement. Significant topics are likely to include Turkey’s desire for Israel to lift the Gaza blockade, and Israel’s request for Turkey to shut down Hamas offices within its borders.


 

Iraq:

ISIL executed 300 supposed “Iraqi police personnel, army troopers and civilian activists” by firing squad in Mosul, an act apparently intended to prevent a potential uprising of people in the militant-held city. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is currently working to deploy 4,500 troops in preparation for an offensive to retake Mosul.


 

Libya:

Airstrikes executed Sunday by a party yet to be revealed targeted a hospital in east Libya. Four casualties have been reported, including a nurse, her 10-year-old child, and two fighters of the anti-government Shura Council.

The UK’s Royal Air Force has already been flying missions over Libya to prepare for a potential future invitation by a Libyan national unity government, once it has been formed, to help Libyan state troops to stabilize the country and combat ISIL in Libya. However, the foreign minister, Tobias Ellwood, did stress that British troops would not enter Libya to hold or take any ground and that “it would be illegal to send any support until a government is in place and an invitation is given to us to provide assistance in the training of their armed forces.” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry agreed, claiming that Libya must form a unified government before Western allies intervene against ISIL fighters in Libya and that it “has to be a Libyan-led” process.

Additionally, the Pentagon is lobbying for $200 million in the 2017 U.S. budget for counter-terrorism operations in Libya.

Efforts to form the national unity government in Libya continue to be troubled by differences over the defense portfolio. The internationally-recognized government has recently set a new deadline giving the UN-supported Presidential Council an extra week to come to an agreement on the lineup for the new, smaller cabinet.

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, called upon the UN Member States for  “unity and action” at a meeting of the UN Security Council on 9 February in order to combat the threat of ISIL, which he called “one of the major challenges of our time to international peace and security.” Mr. Feltman also noted that in order to do so, it was necessary to a) address the group’s political and socio-economic standings, and b) counter ISIL’s financing and recruitment of violent, extremist foreign fighters through preventative and criminalization efforts.


 

Mali:

On 5 February, militants attacked a UN police base in the city of Timbuktu. After detonating a vehicle in one of the entrances to the base, a fight ensued, with Malian and UN peacekeeping forces eventually retaking the police base. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for the attack, in which a Malian commander and four militants were killed.

The Azawad Movements and Platform armed groups have signed a peace deal. The deal focused mainly on the management of Kidal, which will be shared jointly between the two groups. Although the Malian government does not recognize full autonomy for Azawad, it did say that it would devolve more authority in the region.

Three Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine in the Mopti region in Mali, while two more were wounded and sent to the hospital. Although no group has claimed responsibility, Al-Qaeda-linked militants have been fighting Malian army in the region, which is very close to the border with Burkina Faso. Another attack by suspected Islamist militants in the Mopti region killed two civilians and a customs officer and burned a car at a customs post on 11 February.


 

Nigeria:

Nigeria’s Department of Secret Service (DSS) announced that it had arrested an alleged ISIL recruiter in Nigeria. The DSS claims that two Nigerians are already training in Libya. Furthermore, the DSS captured seven suspected members of a breakaway group of Boko Haram, the leader of which has previously pledged allegiance to the head of ISIL.

Two female suicide bombers killed 58 people and injured at least 78 others at a camp of about 50,000 people displaced by Boko Haram violence in north-eastern Nigeria. The majority of those injured or killed were mostly women and children. A third woman equipped with bombs had also entered the camp with the others, but surrendered herself to authorities and refused to detonate her explosives after she had seen her parents and siblings in the camp.


 

South Sudan:

40,000 people are being starved to death in South Sudan war zones. The UN released a report on Monday accounting the worst conditions yet in the continuing 2-year civil war, including possible war crimes, such as the blockading of food supplies.  25% of the population, or 2.8 million people, is in need of immediate aid. Meanwhile, President Kiir and opposition leader Machar missed a second deadline to form a transitional government. International mediators criticized both Kiir and Machar for a lack of willingness to compromise, expressing fear that South Sudan would become a failed state. Some analysts have warned that the economy could collapse within a matter of weeks if a unity government is not formed.


 

Sri Lanka:

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, was in Sri Lanka this week for four days to begin investigations and meet victims of the human rights violations committed during the civil war in the country, as well as government officials, civil activists, and religious leaders.

Zeid has called for the government to quickly locate the thousands of civilians which were reported missing during the civil war, but the government claims that most of those missing are likely dead. Tamil politicians provided the UN with a list of around 4,000 names which had been reported missing during the conflict, but many Tamil civilians have been missing since being abducted by pro-government militias or taken from their homes by police or military personnel. After almost 30 years of conflict and the loss of tens of thousands of lives, progress has been made in Sri Lanka, but the country still has its challenges is still “in the early stages of renewal” according to Mr. Zeid. Amid the issues plaguing the country and the President’s claims that the accountability mechanisms for past crimes would be handled domestically even after the country had co-sponsored the adoption of a UN Human RIghts Council resolution including foreign judges, investigators, in such a judicial mechanism, Mr. Zeid said the implementation of that resolution were high on his agenda.

Additionally, the Sri Lankan government appointed to parliament a former army chief, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, whose forces are accused in war crimes after a seat was vacated by the death of the incumbent. Human Rights Watch points out that this appointment contradicts the government’s pledge to accountability and suggests that “the government may protect senior military leaders suspected of widespread abuses.” President Sirisena gave Fonseka a full pardon for his criminal conviction in March 2015 and promoted him, and the Sirisena government has also previously protected and promoted other implicated military commanders such as the promotion to chief of army staff of Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias in May 2015.


 

Sudan/Darfur:

The UN announced that the tens of thousands of civilians affected by the armed conflict between the government and opposition forces in Jebel Marra are now in dire circumstances and in need of immediate aid. 34,000 have been displaced recently as a result of fighting between the President Bashir regime and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA-AW). In one case, eleven displaced children died of malnutrition while attempting to take shelter on one of Jebel Marra’s mountains. 161 children are currently at risk of the same fate.


 

Syria:

Increased sieges by the Syrian government on Aleppo, as well as heavy airstrikes provided by Russia, forced tens of thousands of people to flee towards the Turkish border last weekend. Turkish aid trucks and ambulances rushed to the Syrian side of the border on Sunday to assist the thousands of civilians affected. Turkey has been providing refuge to Syrians since the crisis began and has now given asylum to an estimated 2.5 million Syrians. However, Turkey has thus far closed its borders to the 35,000 previous residents of Aleppo, despite pleas from the EU to accept them.

Previously, control of the area around Aleppo had been split between the government and rebels groups. As the government encroaches into rebel-held territory, however, UN officials have expressed worry that the last line of transportation to the Turkish border, as well as food supplies to 300,000 insurgents and civilians, could be cut off. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described the situation in Aleppo and other parts of Syria as ‘grotesque’ while calling for those responsible for the possible war crimes and crimes against humanity to be brought to justice.

At a meeting of world powers in Munich on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for an immediate ceasefire and aid to be sent to civilians in an attempt to make progress in the peace process. However, Russia’s involvement in the war has effectively ended the stalemate and given Assad more sway than perhaps at any point since the uprisings began in 2011, casting the resumption of the peace talks later in February increasingly in doubt. Russia has suggested beginning a ceasefire on 1 March, an idea dismissed by the U.S., who countered that such a date would give Assad enough time to decimate Syria’s moderate rebel forces.

A United Nations report published on Monday describes the plight of thousands of detainees held by the Syrian government and rebel groups in official and makeshift detention centres throughout the five-year-war. The report details detainees being unlawfully imprisoned, tortured, beaten to death, subjected to tactics of “extermination” and other inhuman acts. The investigation conducted by the international organization found that government officials intentionally maintained poor conditions in order to systematically create life-threatening situations. Furthermore, killings and deaths occurred at a high frequency and with the aid of state resources. Consequently, the UN report  states that “the government has committed the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and other inhuman acts … based on the same conduct, war crimes have also been committed.”

However, a watchdog group has challenged the statistics compiled by the UN, claiming that the IO has severely underestimated the amount of besieged Syrians, a topic at the centre of the peace talks that were abruptly halted last week and postponed until 25 February. The Siege Watch report says that there are currently 1.09 million people trapped in 46 besieged areas as opposed to the 18 claimed by the UN.

Additionally, a suicide car bomb exploded in Damascus near a busy vegetable market, hitting a police officer’s club. The attack, claimed by ISIL, has killed nine police officers and wounded 20 according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. IS was responsible for multiple bombings last month that left 71 dead.


 

Yemen:

An airstrike executed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition hit a cement factory north of Sana Wednesday evening, killing more than 15 people, including civilians. Just days prior, Saudi government officials had agreed to investigate aerial bombings in Yemen and promised to improve its military strategy in order to prevent further civilian casualties.

Also in Aden, a clash between Yemeni forces and Al-Qaeda militants in Aden killed six people on Tuesday. Al-Qaeda has reportedly gained more ground in Yemen’s south this week.

After being refused access for months to Taix, the UN’s World Health Organization finally managed to deliver medicine and supplies to address urgent needs in the country.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, said it might be possible to “to try to engage in some productive conversations about how to bring that [Yemen] conflict to a close” over the next few weeks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon added his voice to those pressuring the United Kingdom to stop its arms sales to Saudi Arabia due to its alleged violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen. Ban noted that “We need states that are party to [the] arms trade treaty to set an example in fulfilling one of the treaty’s main purposes – controlling arms flows to actors that may use them in ways that breach international humanitarian law.”


 

What else is new?

The Global Observatory has released a recent report by Alex J. Bellamy entitled, “Time to Rethink Protection as Syrian Mistakes Echo Sri Lanka

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Elect to Act, Why the Unrest in Burundi Cannot Be Ignored

The following is an entry in ICRtoP’s ongoing ‘RtoP at 10′ blog series. The series invites civil society and academic experts to examine critical country cases, international/regional perspectives, and thematic issues that have been influential in the development of the norm over the past 10 years, and that will have a lasting impact going forth into the next decade. Below is a piece by Sean Murphy, Research Intern with the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. Applying the Framework of Analysis produced by the United Nations Office for the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, Mr. Murphy reflects on the risks present in Burundi as the country prepares for a contested upcoming election.  

Mothers line up to register their children in Rwanda after fleeing their native Burundi. Photo credit: UNHCR/S. Masengesho

Mothers line up to register their children in Rwanda after fleeing their native Burundi. Photo credit: UNHCR/S. Masengesho

In under eight weeks’ time, the people of Burundi will come forward to vote in what is becoming an increasingly contested and volatile presidential election. As the vote nears, violence has erupted between protestors and police, with twelve civilians reported dead so far and thousands having fled to neighboring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, citing threats and intimidation by the ruling party’s youth wing, the Imbonerakure. There has also been mass detainment of those voicing disapproval with the government, and steps to silence the media seeking to report on the deteriorating situation. The recent decision by Burundi’s current president, Pierre Nkurunziza, to seek a third presidential term, which violates the country’s constitution, and run in the June elections has been the spark that has led to Burundi experiencing the most serious unrest since the end of its civil war in 2005. While atrocity crimes – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing – are not presently being perpetrated in Burundi, many civil, regional, and international actors are concerned about the risk because of the highly contested nature of the elections combined with the underlying and unresolved issues that the country faces. Early reporting and the identifying of warning signs, such as those present in Burundi, is crucial to spur swift and preventive action to protect populations. Given that atrocity crimes are not spontaneous acts that erupt without warning but rather are the result of a process of planning at the hands of those most responsible, there are often windows of time to take preventive action.

The Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes, published by the United Nations Off ice on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect (OGPRtoP) in 2014, is a new tool to help identify the risk for atrocity crimes and lead to early warning and reporting. It contains 14 risk factors for atrocity crimes and within each risk factor are additional indicators relating to that specific risk factor. The risk factor helps to identify the probability of atrocity crimes overall, while the indicators assist in determining the degree to which an individual risk factor is present. These risk factors and indicators are meant to help monitors and analysts in guiding their collection and assessment of information where suspected atrocity crimes are taking place. This blog will show the use of the Framework of Analysis as a practical tool in helping with the prevention of atrocity crimes and violations by identifying some of the risks that are currently present in Burundi.

Please note that this blog does not seek to identify all current risk factors and indicators present in the country.

Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. Published by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.

Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. Published by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.

Burundi Through the Framework

Risk Factor 2: Record of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law

Indicator 2.2: Past acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or their incitement

Burundi is a country that has suffered tremendous violence throughout its history, whether it be the 1972 genocide in which around 200,000 were killed at the hands of then-President Michel Micombero, who deployed his Tutsi military commanders to kill Hutus across Burundi, or the twelve-year civil war that saw about 300,000 Hutus and Tutsis killed due to violent inter-ethnic hostilities. Despite the atrocities carried out, adequate steps have not been taken to hold perpetrators accountable and assist victims.

On 4 December 2014, Burundi’s Parliament elected eleven members to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to look into the decades of killings it has faced since independence in 1962. The Burundian TRC has been long overdue and has faced continuous setbacks and delays. Furthermore, its establishment was boycotted by opposition politicians from the Tutsi minority who feel the TRC protects the President’s ruling party and, “ignores the element of justice contained in the Arusha Peace Accord.” While the establishment of a TRC is a positive step towards bringing justice to those responsible for the killings, there are many challenges it will have to overcome. TRCs are often criticized for their slow movement and their ability to secure pragmatic resolutions that will satisfy victims has been questioned. The TRC will have four years to establish the truth about ethnic killings from 1962-2008, identify and map mass graves, propose a reparations program, and promote reconciliation and forgiveness. This will be an extremely difficult undertaking, and with the presidential elections not far away, the threat of renewed ethnic clashes remains.

Risk Factor 1: Situations of armed conflict or other forms of instability

Indicator 1.7: Economic instability caused by scarcity of resources or disputes over their use or exploitation

The issue of limited land and resources in Burundi is a serious cause of contention. With around 10 million people packed into just 10,475 square miles and the return of refugees previously driven out by violence and conflict, the amount of land one possesses is vital to survival. Burundi also contains a very high internally displaced persons (IDPs) population, further exacerbating complex ownership issues. Most of the population relies on subsistence farming and many barely have enough to sustain themselves and their families. If the ineffective and inconsistent policy decrees from both the government and the Commission National Terres et Autres Biens (CNTB), the agency tasked with resolving land disputes, continue, it could possibly serve as another triggering factor that could lead to the outbreak of violent ethnic conflict.

Indicator 1.5: Political instability caused by disputes over power or growing nationalist, armed or radical opposition movements

Enter the Imbonerakure. The Imbonerakure is the youth wing of Nkurunziza’s current ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy—Forces for Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). They have been flagged by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for their previous violent actions against civilians and, according to recent reports, its members have been responsible for the disappearance of family members and carried out other intimidation tactics against those associated with the political opposition.

Furthermore, Tutsis are also being targeted because of their ethnicity in what are increasing signs that tensions between Hutus and Tutsis could once again produce devastating consequences. To gain an actual account of the torment, Pelagie Nduwimana, a Burundian refugee now in Rwanda, describes her experience stating: “One day, in a bar, one of them told me that if the president gave him the signal, he will clean his rifle with the blood of Tutsi…There is a lack of food and shelter here [Rwanda], but I will never go back to Burundi. Even if we are forced to go, I prefer to struggle and to die here.”

Risk Factor 4: Motives or Incentives Indicator 4.1: Political motives, particularly those aimed at the attainment or consolidation of power.

Throughout its text, the Framework brings continued attention to the importance of early warning. Specifically under Risk Factor 4 it notes that, “From an early warning perspective, it is extremely important to be able to identify motivations, aims or drivers that could influence certain individuals or groups to resort to massive violence as a way to achieve goals, feed an ideology, or respond to real or perceived threats.” With regards to Burundi, President Nkurunziza’s political motivations to seek a third term have the potential to eradicate the decade of peace in a very short amount of time.

Electoral workers conducting voter registration for the upcoming 2015 elections in Burundi. Photo credit: MENUB

Electoral workers conducting voter registration for the upcoming 2015 elections in Burundi. Photo credit: MENUB

The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi, from which the current constitution is based upon, stipulates a two-term limit for the presidency, meaning that seeking a third term is a violation of both the agreement and the constitution. Nkurunziza and his supporters claim he is eligible to run as he was elected by Parliament and not “by universal direct suffrage” as indicated in the Agreement. On 5 May 2015 the Burundian Constitutional Court decreed that Nkurunziza’s decision to run did not violate the constitution, which further enraged protestors. Reports claim that the judges were under heavy pressure and in some instances even received death threats from senior government officials to rule in favor of Nkurunziza. If President Nkurunziza does not step aside and allow for a free and fair election process to be carried out, Burundi could fall right back into another civil war. The Arusha Peace Agreement should be abided by so as to establish important precedents that would prevent situations like this from occurring in the future.

Risk Factor 8: Triggering Factors

Indicator 8.8: Census, elections, pivotal activities related to those processes, or measures that destabilize them.

Triggering Factors are “Events or circumstances that, even if seemingly unrelated to atrocity crimes, may seriously exacerbate existing conditions or may spark their onset.” As evidenced throughout this piece, the presidential election, set to be held on 26 June 2015, is a pivotal triggering factor that is responsible for the current volatility in Burundi. The 2015 presidential election has also produced another alarming development: the censorship of media outlets, such as radio stations and the internet. The decision by the government to shut down independent radio stations and block access to social media, according to Risk Factor 7 in the Framework, is described as an, “enabling circumstance or preparatory action.” It specifically corresponds to Indicator 7.6: “Imposition of strict control on the use of communication channels, or banning access to them.” Christian Mihr, the director of Reporters Without Borders Germany said, “President Nkurunziza is openly trying to silence media coverage of disagreeable events.” Aside from silencing political opposition and the protests, by limiting access to the internet and independent news outlets it becomes increasingly difficult for agencies monitoring the situation to report the risk or commission of atrocity crimes and easier for those carrying them out to do so. The Framework states, “Such events, actions or changes can also serve to create an environment that favors or even encourages the commission of such crimes.”

Looking Ahead

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in his recent trip to Burundi on 15 April 2015, stated: In short, Burundi cannot afford another outbreak of violence. It cannot afford it economically, politically, socially or culturally. It cannot afford it domestically or internationally…I urge the President and the ruling party, as well as opposition leaders, police and military to place the future well-being of the country as a whole before their own personal political desires. The Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes is a useful tool that helps signal the warning signs but it must be put to good use behind a conscientious effort to protect civilians. Jean Claude Nkundwa, a peace activist in Bujumbura and Jonathan W. Rosen, a journalist based in Rwanda, warns the international community that it cannot afford to repeat its previous stance of negligence from two decades ago saying: Twenty-one years after the Rwandan genocide, as the United States, the United Nations and other international actors still try to come to terms with their failure to act in the face of horrific violence, they must not underestimate the severity of the crisis that once again is brewing in the region.

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RtoP and Rebuilding: Preventing atrocities through post-conflict reconstruction

In the lead up to the World Summit, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, noted that “roughly half of the countries that emerge from war lapse back into violence within five years.” RtoP was first put forward in the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, with advocates embracing it as a full spectrum of responsibilities from prevention, to reaction and rebuilding. When governments unanimously endorsed RtoP in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, the “responsibility to rebuild” was not included (presumably because rebuilding was to be the focus of the newly created Peacebuilding Commission), but rebuilding obviously plays a large part in preventing a return to conflict and the commission of atrocity crimes. This leaves us asking – What is the responsibility of actors in post-atrocity situations? With a number of states – Libya, te d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka, and Kenya – emerging from bloodshed in recent years, it is important to understand how actors can effectively contribute to the rebuilding process.

What does post-crisis reconstruction after mass atrocities entail? 

Mass atrocities – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing – are the most extreme forms of violence and often literally destroy a country by leaving it with collapsing infrastructure and destabilized political, judicial and legal systems. These institutions often need to be rebuilt from scratch and on top of this, the social fabric – how members of a society interact with each other – breaks down, and mistrust and suspicion predominate between the fractured communities.  As can be expected then, rebuilding is a complicated and multi-faceted process, and includes a range of measures that can be taken by actors at all levels to assist in reconstruction. Such measures may include fostering political inclusiveness and promoting national unity, reforming legislation, ratifying relevant treaties, promoting human rights, monitoring elections, improving judicial processes, reintegrating ex-combatants and others into productive society, curtailing the availability of small arms, providing psychological support and reparations to victims, and establishing truth and reconciliation commissions. It is critical that these efforts not only serve to bring security to a country or region, but also address the causes of the conflict and mistrust between communities.  Without this complete approach, it is likely that continued suspicion could fester, risking a return to the deadly cycle of violence. What this demonstrates is that no single measure in the rebuilding process stands alone, but rather that all action must be linked to ensure a holistic approach that achieves long-term stability.

Responsibility to Rebuild in Practice

But what does rebuilding look like in practice?  As the cases of Libya, Côte d’Ivoire and Sri Lanka show, post-conflict countries are fragile and the tasks before them complex, as each state faces unique challenges based on its past, the causes of the conflict, and the level of destruction experienced.

Libya: Weapons continue to destabilize a nation and the region

The international community upheld its responsibility to protect populations in Libya by taking swift and coordinated efforts to halt the bloodshed and imminent threat to the people of Benghazi at the hands of the Gaddafi government, which had resorted to force against what began as a peaceful popular uprising. However, rebuilding remains an ongoing challenge as the countless weapons, which flooded the nation during the crisis following the arming of the opposition by outside states, continues to destabilize security in Libya and surrounding countries. While measures were taken to secure anti-aircraft missiles, nearly every adult male carries a weapon, and countless more arms that went missing have turned up in the hands of rebel forces in Mali. This is not to say the government and international community have done nothing since the crisis – both have remained engaged in the justice process by attempting to eliminate impunity through the national judiciary and the International Criminal Court, and have provided economic support, with the European Union giving an economic package to combat post-crisis challenges and the United States unfreezing assets worth US $32 billion. Yet as Ramesh Thakur argues, the challenges we see today demonstrate that more needs to be done to prevent revenge killings, reprisal attacks and the return to mass violence by establishing security and law and order and disarming the country.

Côte d’Ivoire: The struggle for justice and reconciliation 

Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire continues to struggle to rebuild by holding perpetrators accountable following the disputed 2010 presidential election between former President Laurent Gbagbo and recognized election winner Alassane Ouattara that left hundreds dead, thousands displaced and descended the country into war. Since the crisis, claims of one-sided justice have emerged – further perpetuating divisions between communities and causing an increase in attacks. Pro-Ouattara forces were quick to seek justice by arresting Gbagbo on 11 April 2011. They re-established key institutions such as courthouses and prisons, and assured that all responsible for atrocities would be held accountable. Yet, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) points out, tensions remain as the special unit established to investigate crimes has charged more than 150 people, but all only from Gbagbo’s supporters. If continued, this would ignore the risks associated with giving one side of the conflict a free pass for committing atrocities, which could have devastating outcomes for the people and the country. As HRW states, “the impunity of today leads to the crimes tomorrow”.

Sri Lanka: “Exclusive development” renews tensions

Following the 30-year civil war that arose out of ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority and ultimately destroyed the country’s infrastructure, halted development, and resulted in the commission of RtoP crimes – including 40,000 killed in the last months of the conflict – the Sri Lankan government began to rebuild. The government has driven development by addressing housing needs and providing safe drinking water and electricity. With the building of highways and airports, the government has begun to extend transportation and develop the tourism industry. These efforts, however, have not been without their challenges.  Firstly is the fact that some areas of the country remain devastated and uncultivated, leading, as International Crisis Group (ICG) points out, to renewed tensions between communities as some Tamils believe the development process has been selective and the government has undertaken efforts to impose Sinhala culture on Tamil communities across the country.  Then there’s the issue of accountability, with HRW noting that the government has resisted taking meaningful steps to investigate and prosecute government forces for alleged war crimes and failed to implement most of the accountability-related recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. ICG recommends that the international community increase pressure on the government to make it more accountable and to expand the democratic political role for the Tamil minority. The failure to address these social aspects of rebuilding may risk reviving Sri Lanka’s violent past.

Preventing atrocities in the long-term

Just as every crisis is unique, so is every path for reconstruction.  While the process of rebuilding a society following atrocity crimes remains an imprecise science, what these cases demonstrate is that there needs to be a holistic approach where security, justice and reconciliation and sustainable development are able to be achieved. The responsibility of all actors is not just to act to prevent or respond to imminent threats but assist in rebuilding efforts to ensure that populations are not threatened by the reoccurrence of atrocities.  As the UN Secretary-General reminds in his 2009 report on RtoP, “The surest predictor of genocide is past genocide,” so we need to be sure that the world’s attention goes well beyond stopping the most immediate threats, and includes long-term commitments to preventing atrocities.

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