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#R2PWeekly: 17 July – 21 July 2017

Rtop weekly

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


 

Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


Iraq:

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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


Sri Lanka:

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


Syria:

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#RtoPWeekly: 6 – 10 March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


DPRK:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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


Sri Lanka:

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


Sudan:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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#RtoPWeekly: 30 January – February 3

UntitledSecretary-General and other top UN officials denounce
discriminatory migration policies

Following the announcement of the recent Executive Order in the United States regarding immigration, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a statement on Tuesday denouncing any policies founded in discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or nationality as both “ineffective” and “against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based.” Mr. Guterres also noted that discriminatory migration policies breed fear, anger and the very violence they claim to prevent. Above all, Mr. Guterres expressed his particular concern regarding decisions around the world that have jeopardized the integrity of the international refugee protection regime, preventing refugees from receiving the protections they are in desperate need of and are entitled to under international law.

Secretary-General Guterres, who previously served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has stressed the importance of the pursuit of peace and has repeatedly underscored the primacy of prevention and diplomacy in international peace and security, stating during his first official address as the UN chief that, “peace must be our goal and our guide.”  Speaking with media at UN Headquarters on Wednesday Mr. Guterres specifically addressed the actions of the US prohibiting migration and refugees from specific countries and expressed belief that the measure should be reversed. Recalling the written statement he had made the day prior, Secretary-General Guterres emphasized that the measures put in place by the US administration are not the way to protect the US, or any country, from the threat of terrorism. He went on to firmly state that “these measures should be removed sooner rather than later.”

The Secretary-General’s calls have been also echoed by other officials and experts within the UN. On Wednesday, five independent human rights experts released a joint statement through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN Special Rapporteurs on migrant rights, racism, human rights and counter-terrorism, torture and freedom of religion jointly expressed their expert opinion that the US policy is discriminatory, a “significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection,” and risks violating international humanitarian and human rights law. The current UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, also made an impassioned plea for solidarity and compassion for refugees fleeing devastation in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. Mr. Grandi said “The world has to go back to solidarity, has to think again of these people – not with fear, not with suspicion, but with open arms, with an open mind, with an open heart.”

Earlier this week the Mr. Grandi also expressed his deep concern over the uncertainty now faced by thousands of refugees in the process of resettlement in the United States due to the ban. The High Commissioner noted that in the first week of the Executive Order alone, 800 of some of the most vulnerable refugees were turned away from the US after already being cleared to restart their lives in the country. In total, the UNHCR (Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees) estimates that 20,000 refugees could have been resettled over the 120 days prohibited by the Executive Order. Recalling the history of the US as a leader in the protection of refugees, the High Commissioner voiced clearly his hopes that the “US will continue its strong leadership role and its long history of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.”

The UNHCR released a new infographic this week on Refugee Resettlement facts, focusing on the process within the US and globally. To view the UNHCR’s infographic, please click here.

Catch up on developments in…

CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen 
Other

Central African Republic:

President Museveni of Uganda called on all regional leaders participating in the fight against the remainders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to better cooperate with regional forces. While noting that the regional forces have reduced the LRA’s capabilities enough that they no longer attack military targets, he also noted that the group’s continued attacks on civilian and soft targets is an embarrassment for the governments unable to protect their citizens. Earlier in the week acting the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR reported that the Ouaka province is at major risk of civilian casualties should conflict spillover from neighboring regions.

Top UN officials have approved an allocation of 6 million USD from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support responses to new violent emergencies in the CAR. Part of this will allow the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to reach 36,800 people facing food insecurity due to the violence in recent months.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The UN has stated that human rights abuses rose by over 30 percent in the DRC in 2016, with a documented total of 5,190 human rights violations across the country. The increase is allegedly tied to election-related repression and increased activities of several armed groups.

The representatives of the Guarantors of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region (PSC Framework) held a meeting in Ethiopia, on 27 January, in which they considered efforts to address instability in eastern DRC, including support to the neutralization of armed groups. The representatives also discussed dialogue processes in the DRC and Burundi. However, political parties failed to agree on a new peace deal agreement, which has been in progress since the beginning of the year. The representatives reportedly could not agree on the method of appointing a new Prime Minister and experts worry the likelihood of organizing a nationwide poll by the end of the year will be extremely difficult and costly.


Gaza/West Bank:

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), made claims based on an internal report, accusing Israel of “unlawful” and “systematic killings” of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The assembly called on the 324 parliamentarians from 47 countries to support the possibility of launching a formal investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).


Iraq:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported the disappearance and torture of minors by the regional government of Kurdistan. Over 180 boys under the age of 18 are purportedly being held without being charged according to HRW estimates. Furthermore, the government has not informed the children’s families, increasing the probability of being disappeared.

The UN envoy for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said this week that Iraq’s liberation from the Islamic State (ISIL) is soon to come, but fighting and massive challenges will continue. Kubis also stated that Iraq will need substantial and sustainable international support and any scaling-down of engagement will only repeat past mistakes. Kubis also noted his concerns over ISIL’s continued targeting of civilians, adding that they will be at extreme risk when fighting in western sections of Mosul begins. Human Rights Watch also claimed in a report on Thursday that groups within Iraqi military forces known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have been involved in the abuse, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances of men fleeing Mosul, carrying out secret screenings in unidentified detention centers.


Libya:

Over the weekend, German diplomats reported that the private camps used by human traffickers to hold refugees and migrants are rife with cases of rape, torture and execution. The leaked memo detailed evidence compiled by the German Foreign Ministry of, what they called, “concentration-camp-like” conditions. The report comes days before the beginning of a special European Union (EU) summit of heads of state in Malta on Friday where the European migrant situation is to be discussed. On Wednesday Human Rights Watch (HRW)called on the EU and the heads of state meeting in Malta to put human rights and the protection of migrants from future abuses in Libya. The UN-backed Prime Minister of Libya also said on Wednesday that his government would consider allowing NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or EU ships to operate in national waters in cooperation with Libyan coastguard operations.

Elsewhere in Libya, forces loyal to Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the self-declared Libyan National Army (LNA), continued combat operations in an effort to retake Benghazi. The LNA reported that their forces had suffered heavy casualties, but the civilian impact from the offensive is currently unknown.


Nigeria:

Nigerian police have reported that clashes between mostly Christian Mumuye farmers and mostly Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed six people and resulted in the razing of 80 houses in Taraba state in central Nigeria. The violence began on Friday and continued through the weekend into Tuesday, when Mumuye youth reportedly attacked a Fulani village. Ethno-religious tensions in Taraba state escalated earlier in January when the state’s governor was quoted by media urging Christian farmers to fight back against those he dubbed terrorists.

The situations faced by civilians in the country’s embattled north has become whollyunacceptable, according to local media outlets and humanitarian agencies on the ground such as Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Food and medicine shortages, caused in no small part by corruption in the government-run humanitarian sector, has left camp residents in dire situations, with MSF reporting that in a camp visited in July 66 percent of children were emaciated and 1,200 graves had recently been dug. Residents in one camp protested conditions and claimed that they were able to eat only once a day and that inadequate shelter and medical care had made disease rampant. Security is also a concern with surveys of internally displaced people in the camps, the majority of whom are women and children, found two thirds of camp residents reported that guards are engaging in sexual abuses against the very civilians they were tasked with defending. Of the 1.8 million internally displaced people in Nigeria, many are children. Over 30,000 of these children have been separated from their parents while fleeing the fighting.


South Sudan:

Renewed violence broke-out in the city of Malakal in the upper Nile region this week as rebels and government forces engaged in heavy fighting causing civilians in the area to flee for safety. The UN mission in South Sudan noted great concern over the intensification of violence and called on both parties to cease hostilities, with observers warning of the potential for the breakdown of the security situation into an all-out war. The clashes are a continuation and escalation of sporadic fighting that occurred in Malakal last week.

The expansion of the fighting in Malakal to Wau Shilluk, a town to the north, forced the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to halt humanitarian operations for thousands of displaced persons and evacuate 14 staff to safer locations.

Fighting reported to have broken out between government and rebel soldiers in a town on the southern border with Uganda also forced many civilians to flee into the neighboring state this week.

Following the joint statement released by the UN and African Union (AU) on 29 January, which expressed deep concern regarding the current violence and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), a leading civil society organization in South Sudan, called on the UN, AU and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to move from statements to action in South Sudan. CEPO maintains an active and ongoing mapping of violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed in South Sudan’s ongoing civil war on their website. Exiled rebel leader Riek Machar, currently residing in South Africa, supported the joint calls of the UN, African Union and IGAD to end the conflict, but disagreed with the calls for dialogue until a reinstatement of the ceasefire is reached.

The Enough Project has released a report on corruption in the South Sudanese military and the pursuit of profits and powers as fuel for violence and conflict in the country, entitled “Weapons of Mass Corruption: How corruption in South Sudan’s military undermines the world’s newest country.” The report identifies incidents of fraud and other forms of corruption amongst military officials as being a major obstacle to the assurance of peace and the protection of civilians from violence in the country.


Sri Lanka:

Torture and impunity for such heinous acts continues to be a serious concern in Sri Lanka,according to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez. Several organizations have released press statements regarding Mr. Mendez’s report and criticizing the collapse of the system in the country meant to investigate and prosecute torture.


Sudan:

New reports of violence in Darfur have arisen this week, as well as details of an allegedrevenge attack carried out by government forces on the civilians of Nertiti, which resulted in the deaths of nine people at the beginning of January and injured 69 others. UNAMID, the joint UN and African Union mission in Darfur, has been criticized by locals for allegedly failing to intervene in the reported attack despite having a base of operations in the town.

In commemoration of the 12 year anniversary of the “Port Sudan Massacre,” activists from eastern Sudan called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the incident from 29 January 2005 that is alleged to have involved the killing approximately of 20 unarmed protesters by government forces.


Syria:

The UN World Food Programme resumed air drops to besieged Deir al-Zor on Tuesday, where roughly 93,500 citizens are believed to still be trapped. Syrian and Russian forces have increased the intensity of their offensive on rebel and Islamic State (ISIL) held portions of the city, with Russian air force bombers reportedly hammering ISIL positions with unguided bombs. Despite this, the siege lines have yet to significantly change as the humanitarian need for the nearly 100,000 trapped civilians grows more desperate as access to clean water has been eliminated.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that a midnight airstrike on Wednesday in the city of Idlib hit offices of the Syrian Red Crescent, injuring several staffers, including the director of the local branch. It is still unclear which forces are responsible for the strike.

On Thursday, the US military reported that 11 civilians were killed in four separate airstrikes by the US-led Coalition in Iraq and Syria between 25 October and 9 December last year. An attack on 7 December near Raqqa, Syria proved the most lethal for civilians as a Coalition airstrike hit a building allegedly containing ISIL combatants, killing seven civilians. The statement claims that the total number of civilians killed since the beginning of the air campaign is 199, but this number drastically conflicts with independent monitoring groups such as Airwars, who have totalled the civilian death toll at 2,358. According to US military data, the Coalition has conducted 17,861 airstrikes since the beginning of the operation, 6,868 of which have struck in Syria.

The UN-orchestrated peace negotiations in Geneva have been delayed until late February according to Russian sources. However, the UN has not yet confirmed this delay. The US and Saudi Arabia are reported to have come to an agreement on cooperating to establish safe zones in Syria, but no further details have yet emerged.


Yemen:

A US raid on alleged al Qaeda allies last Sunday caused an unknown amount of civilian casualties, with conflicting reports. US military officials have said 14 militants were killed and one commando killed with others injured. Medics on scene reported a total of 30 fatalities, including 10 women and three children including, reportedly, the eight-year old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was targeted and killed by US drones in 2011. On Thursday, the USadmitted to the likelihood civilians, including children, had been killed by their raid, but were silent on the number believed killed. US naval bombardment on positions believed to be held by al-Qaeda continued into Thursday according to Yemeni security officials.

UN experts have warned that airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen may amount to war crimes. The expert panel reviewed 10 attacks between March and October 2016 that are believed to have killed at least 292 civilians. The panel found that in all cases the Saudi-led forces did not meet the minimum standards of proportionality and precautions for attack found in international law. The experts said that despite their inability to travel to Yemen that they had achieved the highest achievable standard of proof and were near certain of their findings. The panel also expressed concern over actions of the Houthi rebels that may also amount to war crimes.

On Monday, rockets reportedly fired by Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia on Mondaydamaged a UN building. In condemning the attack the on the De-escalation and Coordination Committee building UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed noted that the building attacked was supposed to host the committee that will oversee the cessation of hostilities and report on violations.

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) released a report on the healthcare situation in Yemen this week. The report, entitled “Yemen: Healthcare Under Siege in Taiz,” focuses on the events occurring in the embattled city, but MSF officials say the situation in Taiz is representative of Yemen as a whole. MSF reported that both sides of the conflict have regularly demonstrated a lack of respect for the protection of civilians and healthcare workers and facilities. The UN also stated that Yemen is exposed to the risk of widespread famine and food shortages once the city’s limited stores of stable foods are depleted, likely within the next 3 months. Torture, murder and abuse of migrants by traffickers and kidnappers in Yemen as also beenreported.


What else is new?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has published a new report on the implementation of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention). In 2016, ICRC surveyed capacity for the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in 25 African states and identified how states could best meet their responsibilities towards displaced persons. The findings are summarized in the new report, “Translating the Kampala Convention into Practice: a stocktaking exercise,” which is available here for free PDF download or for hard-copy purchase.

ICRtoP member the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) is co-sponsoring a panel discussion on the relationship between legal accountability and the prevention of atrocity crimes on Thursday 9th February. The event is entitled “Accountability and Prevention of Mass Atrocities: International Criminal Justice as a Tool for Prevention” and will be hosted at the New York City Bar Association. For more information on this event or to register your attendance, please click here.

The Yale MacMillan Center will also be hosting an event from 16-17 February, entitled “Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect.” Both days of programing will be held at Yale University in New Haven, CT. For more information please click here.

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#R2PWeekly: 17 – 21 October 2016

Rtop weekly

Iraq: Coordinated offensive to retake Mosul from ISIL puts over 1.5 million civilians at risk
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The Iraqi military, in conjunction with a US-led coalition, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Sunni tribal fighters, and Shia paramilitary militias, initiated a long-awaited offensive on Sunday to retake the country’s second largest city of Mosul. The city was forcefully taken by the Islamic State (ISIL) in the summer of 2014 and has since acted as a symbol of their ability to control large swaths of territory in the country and has served as the capital of their proclaimed caliphate in Iraq.

The offensive is expected to take approximately two weeks to reach the city center and an additional two months to eliminate the threat of the approximately 4,000-8,000 ISIL fighters defending Mosul. The Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has appealed for all sides of the conflict to prioritize the protection of an estimated 1.5 million civilians living in the city. OCHA has noted that shelter for approximately 60,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) is currently available while the construction of additional sites with the capacity for 250,000 more IDPs is in progress.

Since the offensive began, there have been few reports of residents fleeing the city, which has stirred fears that civilians are being forcefully kept within city limits to be used by ISIL as human shields as Iraqi-led forces close in. Additionally, Amnesty International released a report on Tuesday detailing accounts of torture, forced disappearance, and revenge attacks against ethnic and religious minorities committed by ISIL, pro-government militias, and Iraqi government forces during similar operations this year such as the liberation of Fallujah. The report recommends that appropriate safety measures be implemented so as to avoid the same attacks throughout the ongoing Mosul offensive. However, reports have emerged of yet unverified videos of Iraqi soldiers and allied militias committing human rights violations against civilians fleeing the northern city of Mosul. The videos allegedly show Iraqi soldiers interrogating a child to find out if his family are members of ISIL, including allegedly beating, kicking, and  threatening the child when his answers are supposedly deemed unsatisfactory by the soldiers.

OCHA has reported that approximately 1,900 displaced persons, mostly women and children, arrived at camps in the area south of Mosul this week, with an additional 900 refugees crossing the western border into Syria. While food rations for 220,000 families are ready for distribution and 143,000 sets of emergency household items are stocked, funding from donor countries has been insufficient to prepare for successive waves of refugees that are expected as conflict closes in on Mosul.

Source for above photo of civilians fleeing Mosul: AP via BBC News


Catch up on developments in…

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

Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The number of villagers forced to flee their homes in Rakhine State, in western Burma, has now reached over 1,000 as Burmese security forces continue to search for those responsible for attacking border posts on 9 October. Burmese authorities claim that a radical islamist militant organization is behind the attack and for the past week have dispatched security forces to sweep the area, while also increasing their numbers. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has had its movements restricted since the start of the operation, while sources have reported that at least 50 members of the persecuted Rohingya minority have been killed, with over 200 buildings burnt and destroyed.  A UN official reported on Tuesday that the violence and military restrictions imposed after the raids has stopped aid agencies from delivering food and medical aid to the region, where international human rights organizations have warned that civilians have been caught up in the violence and following military crackdown. Rohingya activists have accused the country’s security forces of carrying out a counterinsurgency campaign aimed at civilians, including the burning of Rohingya homes, but the accounts have yet to be independently verified. However, Fortify Rights, an international advocacy group, has reported that witnesses interviewed by the group have described apparent extrajudicial killings being carried out by the military. It was reported on Wednesday that up to 3,000 people have been displaced, with 1,000 seeking refuge in the state’s capital of Sittwe.

On Wednesday, members of Myanmar’s Rakhine advisory commission, established by the government in August and led by Kofi Annan, met with government officials to discuss and assess the situation in the state. While Kofi Annan was not in attendance, the commission was able to meet with members of the ministries of defense and home affairs.


Burundi:

Late last week, the Security Council decided to dispatch a UN special envoy to Burundi for political talks. The envoy, Jamal Benomar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Conflict Prevention, will consult with the Burundian government on the political crisis in the country and try to move forward towards a peaceful solution. In a unanimous statement from the Security Council the members said that the UN envoy has their “full support” and that they hope the disagreement will be resolved swiftly.

The President of the Human Rights Council met with the Permanent Representative of Burundi to the UN in Geneva late last week to discuss the country’s response to the UN report. He also expressed his concerns about the government’s decisions to ban UN experts and suspend cooperation with the UN Office for Human Rights, underlining the importance for cooperation between the country and the UN.

On Tuesday, the president of Burundi signed legislation to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). He decided to approve the legislation as it won overwhelming support in the country’s parliament. According to the government, the withdrawal is solely “for national sovereignty”. Opposition parties and members of civil society, however, claim that the decision is proof of guilt for the crimes against humanity committed by Burundi and they have urgedthat sanctions be imposed following the decision. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch hasargued that behind the rhetoric of such threats to withdraw from the ICC is “a crude attempt to protect members of the police, military, and intelligence services who have committed the worst crimes.”


Central African Republic:

On Saturday, 11 people died as gunmen opened fire on a camp for internally displaced persons in Ngakboo. This comes in the wake of the deaths of 30 people in an attack last week when a primarily Muslim militia group targeted both civilians and UN peacekeepers. MINUSCA has strongly condemned both attacks, stating that those responsible may face charges of war crimes.

Armed groups attacked a number of convoys from the UN mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) throughout the week. On Tuesday, MINUSCA condemned the continuous targeting of peacekeepers in the country and called them “cowardly and irresponsible actions”. Rebel groups have also continued to attack aid groups, resulting in the diminished access for the delivery of humanitarian aid.


Cote d’Ivoire:

Small protests were held in Abidjan following last week’s approval by Parliament of a new draft constitution. The protesters, which reportedly amounted to around 50 people, were met by police in riot gear who fired tear gas and arrested some, including opposition political leaders. Protesters convened ahead of the referendum on the constitution, which will be held on 30 October, to denounce what they feel has been a secretive drafting process. While the draft constitution seeks to make changes to the nationality issues facing prospective presidential candidates, an issue which has been at the heart of political crises in the country, some are concerned about other elements within the draft that are feared to increase the power of the president. This includes decreasing the number of votes needed to support amendments by the President, as well as removing the age limit, currently at 75 years, which would enable current the president to run again in the next election.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Sunday, the government officially announced the delay of the presidential election until April 2018, against constitutional restrictions on presidential term limits. The election was originally scheduled to take place next month, but has been postponed by the government, which has cited an inadequate voter registry and lack of funds as the main reasons for the delay. The main opposition parties refused to participate in the talks leading to Sunday’s decision, which they view as a thinly-veiled attempt by President Joseph Kabila to retain power beyond his second and constitutionally-mandated final term as leader of the DRC.

A signed agreement emerged from the DRC’s “national dialogue” on Tuesday that will keep President Joseph Kabila in office beyond the constitutional limit. However, due to a lack of participation of many of the key opposition parties, opposition leaders have appealed for an interim president who would helm the country as it prepares for the delayed elections.

The opposition responded to the government’s announcements by calling for general strikes for Wednesday, which took place in the capital city of Kinshasa. The streets in the city of 10 million people were virtually empty as most shops closed their doors in a gesture of protest to Tuesday’s national dialogue agreement.

A team of prosecutors from the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrived in the DRC on Sunday for a five-day visit to monitor the ongoing political unrest in the country. The ICC has said that last month’s clashes between political protesters and government security forces, which led to several deaths, could be constituted as war crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The team of prosecutors met with government officials, political parties, civil society members, and the media.

Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba was convicted by the International Criminal Court on Wednesday of crimes involving witness tampering and bribing. The crimes occurred during a previous trial for which Bemba was accused and convicted of war crimes for leading a four month campaign of rape and murder in the Central African Republic over a decade ago. Bemba is currently serving an 18 year sentence for the aforementioned war crimes conviction.


Gaza/West Bank:

The European Union (EU) and the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development (MoSD)introduced a program to strengthen “social protection systems” in Palestine. The program aims to support the MoSD in its mission to eradicate poverty and strengthen the government’s ability to provide services for its people in order to support “a future Palestinian State.”

Several NGOs operating in and around Gaza have expressed concerns over a recent spike in travel restrictions by the Israeli government. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) saw an increase from 3% to 65% of travel permit denials from January to August of this year.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, has estimated in a briefing to the UN Security Council that approximately 2.3 million Palestinians, out of a total population of 4.8 million, are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance.


Iraq:

Airstrikes by the US-led coalition increased in the besieged northern city of Mosul in advance of the Iraqi offensive to retake the city from ISIL. More than 50 airstrikes specifically targeting ISIL in Mosul have been conducted in the last two weeks. Iraqi ground troops, including special forces units, are reportedly taking up positions in areas south and east of the main city.

The Islamic State (ISIL) executed 58 members of its own organization who allegedly were part of a plot to aid the Iraqi military in retaking the northern city of Mosul. The victims are said to have been drowned and buried in a mass grave outside of the city.


Libya:

On Monday, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) released a statement saying that US air forces launched 36 airstrikes against ISIL in the city of Sirte over the weekend, bringing the total number of conducted airstrikes to retake the city to 324.

The Presidential Guard of Libya released a statement on Sunday saying that they would no longer support the UN-backed Presidency Council as they had failed to uphold their promises. Instead, they confirmed their backing of the General National Congress. The High Council of State vowed that those from the Guard who cease support for the government will be arrested.

The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, has condemned the attempted coup in the country where a rival administration to the UN-backed government seized control over several key government buildings. The rebels behind the attack proclaimed a former administration as the legitimate regime. Martin Kobler called for cessation of hostilities for the sake of the people.


Nigeria:

Over the weekend, Nigeria’s restive ‘middle-belt’ once again became a flashpoint for communal violence as a mob of farmers attacked a group of Fulani herdsmen, killing 14 people. The violence broke out between the Muslim Fulani herdsmen and primarily Christian farmers over disagreements on the use of land for either farming or pastoral purposes.

The same faction of Boko Haram which released 21 of the roughly 200 girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok in 2014 last week has announced they are willing to negotiate over the release of an additional 83 of the girls. Rifts in the movement have recently come to the forefront as the group has apparently divided over adherence to orders from ISIL. Over the past week, the group has come under renewed pressure from a Nigerian government offensive on one of its last strongholds in the Sambisa forest.


South Sudan:

Rebels loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar attacked government troops during the weekend, resulting in the deaths of at least 60 fighters, according to a spokesman for the SPLA. The clash took place near the city of Malakal, which is the town closest to the oil field in the region and brings in a lot of revenue for the government. After the attacks, the government decided to deploy extra troops by the oil field. A spokesperson for the rebel group denied the accusations, saying they only target government troops.

Riek Machar said he is prepared to go back to full-scale war if the peace deal with the government from August can not be revived. In an interview, Machar said his movement is reorganizing itself to launch an armed resistance against President Salva Kiir and his government. On Tuesday, speaking from South Africa, Machar stated his intention to return to South Sudan sometime in the near future, maybe as early as next month, iterating his belief that rebels in the SPLM-IO loyal to him could still come to terms with the South Sudanese government. President Kiir has stated he is open to Mr. Machar’s return to South Sudan under the condition that Machar make a pledge to renounce violence and fully support the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. The spokesman for the president added that Mr. Machar should not return to South Sudan before the 2018 elections.

Officials from the South Sudanese government earlier accused the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) of harbouring rebels in sites designated for the protection of civilians. On Tuesday, the mission released a statement expressing their concerns over how such suspicions discredit the neutrality of their operations. The statement stressed that the mission only follows its given mandate and that strict security measures are in place to make sure people who enter such sites are not carrying weapons of any kind.

Hervé Ladsous, the UN peacekeeping chief, told the UN Security Council (UNSC) this week that the deployment of 4,000 additional peacekeepers to UNMISS is being delayed as much as possible by the South Sudanese government. He called for an arms embargo to be implemented as both sides in the conflict are violating human rights. The Russian representative, whose country holds veto power in the UNSC, replied that Russia will not support an arms embargo on South Sudan.


Sri Lanka:

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Ms. Rita Izsak-Ndiaye, has called on the government of Sri Lanka to put in place “some urgent, important and concrete measures to clearly demonstrate its political will and commitment to better protect the dignity, identity, equality” of minority populations in the country. Ms. Izsak-Ndiaye’s ten-day visit to Sri Lanka follows complaints by Tamil and Muslim minorities of rights violations, and claims that little has changed in the former war zones in the north and east of the country.


Sudan/Darfur:

Amnesty International has launched a new initiative, the Decode Darfur Interactive Platform, which will enable volunteers to review and analyze satellite imagery in areas of Sudan which are suspected to have been subject to chemical weapons attacks. Anyone with an internet connection is now able to conduct comparative analysis of vast areas of the Jebel Marra region. Concrete evidence of the attacks is extremely difficult to come by as the Sudanese government staunchly restricts media and humanitarian access to these areas.

A failed peace attempt last week between the Ma’alia and Rizeigat pastoralist tribes hasstirred fears that violence is imminent in East Darfur. Livestock theft is a major contributing cause to the conflict and has led to several deadly clashes that have occurred in recent years.


Syria:

Political developments
Multilateral peace talks, which included the US, UK, Russia, Turkey, Qatar and Iran, ended in Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday without reaching any resolution to the conflict in Syria. Key points of contention, such as the continued bombardment of Aleppo by Russia and the Syrian regime, as well as the lack of civilian access to humanitarian aid, have prevented talks from moving forward. The US and UK have threatened to impose new sanctions on Russia and Syria should indiscriminate attacks on Aleppo continue.

The humanitarian situation
Russia announced plans on Monday for a “humanitarian pause” in its bombing campaign of rebel-held areas of eastern Aleppo for eight hours in order to allow for civilians and rebel opposition to vacate the city, which went into effect on Thursday morning as Syria and Russia announced the opening of two exit corridors in northern Aleppo. The announcement of the pause was welcomed by the United Nations, however no deal has yet been reached to deliver food and water to areas ravaged by fighting. Opposition rebels say they are preparing for an offensive to break the current siege on the city.

The US and UK have rejected Russia’s offer for a temporary ceasefire in Aleppo to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to ravaged areas as well as allow for the safe departure of civilians and rebels from the city. The US State Department described the proposal as “too little, too late”, while the United Nations noted that a longer cessation of hostilities would be necessary to adequately deliver humanitarian aid throughout the city.

Security developments
An attack on a primary health care facility in Hama killed five people, including two children and two women, on Saturday. The facility, which was providing an estimated 900 monthly consultations, is now out of service as a result. More than 90 attacks on health facilities have occurred in Syria this year.

Airstrikes carried out by Russian or Syrian warplanes once again targeted the M10 hospital in eastern Aleppo late last week. There were no deaths reported in the “bunker buster” airstrike, however, two doctors and a pharmacist were injured in the attack. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad referred to the aerial campaign over Aleppo as a “cleaning” of the city to use it as a springboard to retake other regions of the country in a recent interview with Russian media.

Fourteen members of one family, including eight children and two women, were killed by Russian air strikes over Aleppo on Monday. The aerial attacks occurred in the al-Marja district of the city.

Twenty members of the Islamic State (ISIL) were killed in Syria by US-led coalition airstrikes between Monday and Tuesday. The targeted attacks destroyed two ISIL-held defensive positions and three vehicles.

Turkish airstrikes killed at least 200 Kurdish militia members in two areas north of Aleppo on Wednesday. The strikes targeted shelters, ammunition dumps, and the headquarters of Syrian Kurdish forces, which were all destroyed in the attack.


Yemen:

Representatives from the UK and the US met on Sunday to discuss the situation in Yemen and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. The decision came following the bombing on a funeral ceremony for a rebel commander last weekend where more than 140 people died. Saudi Arabia first denied involvement in the bomb, but admitted that misinformation and abuse of procedure had been the reason for the incident. The British minister for the Middle East stated that the bomb was due to a “deliberate error made by an individual” and he added that disciplinary actions would take place. As the crisis deepens it is “causing increasing international concern” and the international community has called for the two sides to lay down their weapons and join at the negotiation table. Saudi Arabia agreed to a ceasefire as long as the Houthi rebels will accept freedom for the country.

On Monday, the UN announced that a 72-hour ceasefire would go into effect in Yemen starting at 23:59 local time on Wednesday and would be open for possible renewal. The announcement of the ceasefire came in the wake of strong international pressure from the US and the UK. It is hoped that the truce will make it possible for humanitarian actors to deliver aid and for peace talks to be resumed. An official from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stated that the organization will focus mainly on reaching previously unreachable parts of the town of Taiz to deliver relief to the many people in need.

Heavy fighting erupted hours before the ceasefire began as the Saudi-led coalition launched several airstrikes on heavily populated regions. The bombs killed and wounded a large number of civilians, according to the official media wing of the Yemeni Republican Guard. As of Thursday afternoon, the ceasefire was said to have been holding, although all eyes will be on the parties to see whether they will keep to the truce, since previous attempts have been deemed unsuccessful.


What else is new?

On 8 September, the ICRtoP, the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung and the Stanley Foundation hosted a panel discussion, entitled “Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing R2P”. The event was a follow-up to the eighth annual UN General Assembly informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect and focused on how RtoP is implemented on the ground and how actions taken by local stakeholders can actively strengthen and reinforce national and international efforts to uphold RtoP. The conversation also sought to identify and reflect on recommendations for the international community to implement to improve preventive measures and enhance civilian protection. To read the full summary of the event, please click here.

On 14 October, the UN Development Programme released its annual report on its Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Work in the Asia Pacific for the year of 2016. The report highlights and summarizes how the consolidation of Governance and Conflict Prevention initiatives has led to a multitude of diverse regional initiatives.The full report can be read here.

The UN’s Organisation for Migration (IOM) has released a new report detailing the ordeal of migrants arriving in Europe by boat from North Africa. The IOM’s survey found that nearly 70% of all migrants who travel the overland north African route to reach Europe have become victims of human trafficking, organ trafficking, or exploitation. The full report can be read here.

On 15 October, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Francois Lounceny Fall as his acting special representative for Central Africa and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). UNOCA has the responsibility of assisting Member States in the region in consolidating peace and preventing future conflicts.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has released a new special human rights report, which has found that the suicide bombing attack on a peaceful demonstration in Kabul deliberately targeted civilians and could amount to a war crime. The attack, which killed 85 people and injured over 400 others, is the single deadliest civilian casualty incident in Afghanistan since 2009, when UNAMA began documenting civilian casualties in the country. Furthermore, the report found that the attacks seem to have been targeting “persons belonging to a specific ethnic and religious community.” To read the full UNAMA report, please click here.

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Filed under RtoP, Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 11 – 15 July 2016

      Untitled

Renewed clashes in South Sudan results in urgent calls for action to protect civilians 

 “This is the time to massively reinforce UN action. When a Government cannot or will not protect its people, and when warring parties seem more intent on enriching and empowering themselves at the expense of their people, the international community has a responsibility to act.” —UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking to reporters on the situation in South Sudan, 11 July 2016.
The Secretary General’s condemnation of the violence in the South Sudanese capital of Juba as well as his call for increased action by the UN and international community has been echoed in several corridors. While a ceasefire declared on 11 July by President Salva Kiir and his rival, Vice-President Riek Machar, has largely held, the international community is debating the proper course of action to ensure not only a return of violence but a transition to a legitimate and fruitful peace.

On 8 July, an argument between soldiers of the SPLA, loyal to President Kiir, and soldiers of the SPLA-IO, loyal to Vice-President Machar, at a checkpoint in Juba started a gunfight, which soon spiraled out of control into six days of fighting and violence. Over 36,000 people have been displaced from their homes, with at least 300 killed, including civilians “reportedly targeted based on their ethnicity.” Additionally, UN personnel and compounds also came under fire in actions that may amount to charges of war crimes.

The Secretary General is urging the Security Council to take action on three fronts: the imposition of an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan; targeted sanctions against individuals attempting to derail the peace process; and for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to be reinforced. African regional organizations have gone even further, with the African Union Peace and Security Council and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) not only calling for an increase in troops from the region but also the creation of a force-intervention brigade.

In lieu of the threat of a return to the devastating civil war between the SPLA and SPLA-IO from 2013-2015, which left over 100,000 dead, the UN is urging both parties to move forward with the implementation of the peace agreement signed on 27 August 2015. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has urged “the Transitional Government of National Unity of its responsibility to protect its populations, irrespective of their ethnicity or political affiliation…[and] the urgent need to end impunity in South Sudan and bring to justice all those responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”, reminding both parties to the conflict of their agreement to establish a hybrid court to prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as well as other serious crimes under international law.

Civil society organizations, including Amnesty International and The Global Centre for R2Pamong others, have  reiterated and strengthened the calls for a decisive response to the violence, with GCR2P stating  that “both parties must uphold their responsibility to protect and adhere to the cessation of hostilities.” Among the points made calling for action in the face of the violence, Amnesty International advocated for the African Union to undertake the measures needed to establish the hybrid court as a means for accountability and “to end the culture of impunity that continues to feed this cycle of violence.”


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Cote d’Ivoire
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


 Burma/Myanmar:

Myanmar nationalists protested in the streets of Yangon on 10 July, urging the government to refer to the Muslim Rohingya population as “Bengali.” Recently, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi banned officials from referring the the Islamic population of the Rakhine state as either “Rohingya” or “Bengali” to avoid ethnic tensions.

On 14 July, Myanmar’s Minister for Religion warned the ultra-nationalist Buddhist group, Ma Ba Tha, to refrain from hate speech against Muslims. The anti-Muslim nationalist group is losing its influence as Myanmar’s elite religious council denounced themselves from Ma Ba Tha, and several senior members left the extremist group.


Burundi:

On 13 June, an unknown gunmen shot and killed former Member of Parliament and BBC journalist Hafsa Mossi in Bujumbura. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the assassination, reiterating “the need to intensify efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the crisis in Burundi.”

Peace talks were stalled in Burundi when five major political parties boycotted a second round of talks in Arusha, Tanzania on 12 June. Representatives from the parties disapproved of the decision to invite certain Burundians accused of human rights violations during the attempted coup last year.


Central African Republic:

France announced on Wednesday that it will suspend its peacekeeping operation, Operation Sangaris, in the Central African Republic. The three-year-long military campaign will end in October.

At the Security Council, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, noted that CAR faces a “security climate that remains fragile and reversible,” despite considerable progress over the recent two years of political transition. The latest Secretary-General’s report recommended updates to MINUSCA’s mandate, particularly regarding the protection of civilians. Ladsous welcomed the CAR government’s efforts in tackling impunity and developing a mutual accountability framework.

UNHCR stated that more than 6,000 people from the Central African Republic have fled into neighboring Chad and Cameroon since mid-June. This year’s fighting has affected an additional 25,000 to 30,000 people in CAR.


Cote d’Ivoire:

The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human RIghts (OHCHR) have released a new joint report, which has found that some progress has been made in the fight against rape in the country, but it is “not enough”. The report calls for the strengthening of prevention measures and greater accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The government of the DPRK has closed its only direct diplomatic channel with the United States (its mission to the UN in New York) following the sanctions that the US imposed on Kim Jong-un and other leading DPRK officials for human rights violations last week.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

UN Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) Jan Eliasson briefed the Security Council late last week and warned that political tensions are rising and the democratic space is shrinking in the DRC as a result of the electoral impasse and delays in the electoral process. DSG Eliasson argued that credible and inclusive political dialogue amongst DRC stakeholders is the only realistic way to defuse the situation.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israel opened a major Gaza Strip crossing on Wednesday for the first time in nine years. The Erez crossing, the second border crossing in Gaza, will allow for the transfer of vehicles carrying goods. An Israeli defense ministry spokesman said “The measure has been taken to facilitate the work of Palestinian importers and thus help the economy of the Gaza Strip.”

This week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Michael Lynk, is visiting Amman, Jordan to gather information on the situation of human rights in Palestine for the first time. Israel has failed to respond to Lynk’s request to travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Israeli government approved a budget of $13 million for the construction of more Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are considered illegal under international law and have been repeatedly condemned by the UN.


Iraq:

In what has been considered the key first step to retake Mosul, Iraqi forces captured the Qayyarah Airbase West, about 60 kilometers south of the city. Iraqi forces then captured the town of Ajhala, north of the airbase. In doing so, they managed to link up along the Tigris river with troops from the Nineveh Liberation Operation, which had started its offensive on the opposite side of the river in March.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced this week that the US would be sending an additional 560 troops to Iraq to help in the offensive. However, the U.S. also signed a memo with the Peshmerga defence forces of the northern autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq to directly give them financial and military aid, skirting Baghdad as the middleman. The aid is said to include directly paying the salary for many Peshmerga fighters, who have not been payed for several months.

Human Rights Watch released a new report detailing the daily horrors of Iraqi villagers living under ISIL occupation for 21 months. The report describes a system of control predicated on summary executions, torture and collective punishment of villagers.

On 11 July, powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced plans for a “massive” protest on Friday to demand the establishment of a technocratic government, replacing the current system where ministries are given out based on party affiliation. The next day, the Iraqi government called for a cessation of anti-government “reform” protests over fears of being unable to provide adequate security.

On 12 July, a car bomb in the northern Baghdad Shia neighborhood of  al-Rashidiya killedeleven people and wounded a further thirty-two. Another ISIL-car bomb killed at least eight people at a police checkpoint in the al-Rashidiya district, north of Baghdad on Wednesday.

Two days later, ISIL confirmed that Omar al-Shishani, the group’s Minister of War, has been killed in Iraq. The group claims he died  “in the town of Sharqat as he took part in repelling the military campaign on the city of Mosul”. The date of his death has not been given but it is considered a blow to the terrorist organization, with Omar “the Chechen” being considered one of their most prized strategists and propaganda pieces for foreign recruitment.


Libya:

The UN Special Envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, said on 13 June that Libya’s new army could be regionalized. The decentralized army is aimed at easing tensions between the UN-backed unity Government of National Accord (GNA) in the West and the rival governmental forces led by General Khalifa Hafta in the east. Formation of separate military councils in Libya’s west, east, and southern regions is being discussed.

A mass grave and secret prison used by ISIL was found by Libyan forces in the town of Sirte.


Mali:

On Tuesday, violent protests in the city of Gao in Northern Mali left four civilians dead and 31 others wounded. Malian authorities had banned the demonstrations and security forces reportedly fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the protesters. Some involved claimed to have been demonstrating to call for justice in the implementation of the Malian peace process and to denounce the interim government and measures taken in which former militants are integrated into the regular Malian military. On Wednesday, protesters once more took to the streets, but this time to call for the resignation of the state’s governor and the national security minister in light of Tuesday’s incident. The government vowed to open an inquiry into the events. The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) released a statement condemning the violence and encouraging the government to ensure the population is better familiarized with the peace agreement.

Gunmen killed two soldiers and stole a military vehicle over the weekend at a military checkpoint near the Malian border with Burkina Faso.


Nigeria:

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report this week detailing the “famine-like conditions” in Borno State, which were recently discovered by humanitarian convoys bringing aid to the hard-to-reach areas, including some still experiencing conflict. The report found that there are emergency levels of severe acute malnutrition in the region, especially for 275,000 people living in 15 satellite camps across the state. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have accused the UN of failing to respond to the food crisis in Borno State quickly enough to save lives. Hundreds of people are reportedly already dying each day in the region where Boko Haram attacks have devastated farming, which was feeding Nigeria prior to the insurgency. A majority of the displaced people living among the community in the state capital of Maiduguri are without any access to food or medical aid.

The fight against Boko Haram
At least 25 suspected Boko Haram militants died during an attack on a Nigerian military battalion in northern Borno State on Tuesday. One soldier died in the fighting and 11 others were wounded as the army successfully repelled the attack.

A vigilante group reportedly discovered and captured six suspected Boko Haram terrorists, including a senior leader, in Lagos late last week. This subsequently led to their arrest and a transfer of custody to Nigeria’s Department of State Services on Monday.

Cameroon has decided to reopen its border with Nigeria after reporting that the threat of Boko Haram attacks in the region has subsided enough to return to commercial activities.

Inter-community violence
Gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen have killed at least 81 people in attacks on farming villages in Benue State in Nigeria within the past two weeks. The state government is currently working with security agencies to stem the violence between the herders and mostly Christian farmers over grazing lands which has gone on for decades.

Nigerian President Buhari has decided to send a special military task force of around 1,000 troops to the northern state of Zamfara to combat the growing threat of cattle rustlers in the region. The groups of cattle rustlers are allegedly to blame for the deaths of hundreds of people in the region within the past three years.

The Niger Delta
Security sources have reported that the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) have blown up ExxonMobil’s Qua Iboe crude oil terminal, the largest crude oil stream in Nigeria. However, Exxon Mobil Corp has denied these claims.


Sri Lanka:

US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski visited Colombo this week and commended Sri Lanka’s recent steps towards “democratization and reconciliation”. He cited the bill establishing an office to investigate missing persons, the release of lands previously held by the country’s military, and the ratification of the convention on disappearances, among others.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 9 July, the former chairman of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) Tijani al-Sissiannounced that the presidential decree which would end the mandate of the DRA and establish commissions and mechanisms to complete the remaining items of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) would be made soon. The DRA’s creation came about through the DDPD, signed by the Sudanese government and  former rebel Liberation and Justice Movement, and the Justice and Equality Movement-Dabajo in 2011 and 2013, respectively. It had a four-year mandate to implement the DDPD, being extended by one year, but its remaining commissions will soon be overseen by the presidency.

On 10 July, 2 people died in an air raid in northern Darfur. The village of Tereng saw multiple barrel-bombs – barrels packed with explosives and shrapnel – dropped on it during the assault.

On 12 July, the International Criminal Court (ICC) referred both Djibouti and Uganda to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir while he was on their respective territories. President Bashir currently has a warrant issued by the court and, as members of the court, both Djibouti and Uganda bear responsibility for fulfilling the warrant, which they failed to do. The UNSC has the capability to sanction both countries over the matter. Meanwhile, President al-Bashir will travel on 16 July to the 27th African Union Summit in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has stated that his government will not arrest President Bashir and that “President al-Bashir is welcomed in Kigali at any time. He will be free in his second home country. We will not respond to the ICC calls to arrest him. We will not take any action of such type against him.” Rwanda, though not a member of the ICC, has obligations to cooperate with the court as a member of the UN.

As a result of the recent violence in neighboring South Sudan, on 12 July, the Sudanese government began to make preparations for what they expect will be a new and large influx of South Sudanese refugees. Sudan already hosts 221,000 South Sudanese refugees, with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calling on all of South Sudan’s neighbors to keep their borders open to all those who may soon be seeking asylum.

On 13 July, Sudan’s Minister of Information Ahmed Bilal Othman stated that Sudan is willing toreschedule the final session of the general assembly of the National Dialogue, currently set for 6 August, for a later date, if those groups that oppose the Dialogue are willing to sign the AU Roadmap for Peace. This move would allow rebel and opposition groups currently excluded from the peace process to now be included.


Syria/Iraq:

Developments in the Fighting

On 8 July, ISIL shot down a Russian helicopter near Palmyra, killing 2 Russian pilots. There have so far only been twelve reported deaths of Russian forces operating in Syria. That same day, a combination of shelling and airstrikes in north-west Syria left over 60 civilians dead. Thirty-four civilians died, as well as a further 200 injured, when rebels began shelling government-held areas of Aleppo in response to having their supply-line into the city cut off. At least twenty-two civilians died in government airstrikes in the town of Darkush, with a further six dying on the Castello Road leading into rebel-held Aleppo.

On 9 July, Syrian government forces captured the town of Maydaa, east of Damascus, after a two-week long campaign. Maydaa had been, up until its capture, the easternmost portion of territory held by the rebels in their pocket in Eastern Ghouta.

The next day, a rebel attempt to retake their supply line into Aleppo, the Castello Road, failed as the government repelled the attack, killing at minimum twenty-nine rebels. The Castello Road leads into the rebel-controlled eastern half of Aleppo, which has effectively been under siege since last Thursday when government forces secured the surrounding hilltops overlooking the road. There are estimated to be 200,000-300,000 people still living in the eastern half of Aleppo. On 12 July, the UN began calling for humanitarian access as well as to be allowed to start evacuating civilians warning of the possibility of a severe humanitarian crisis. Currently, the UN and several other agencies only have enough food stored to feed145,000 people for one month. Having as of yet failed to reopen their supply lines, rebel-groups launched an offensive inside the city of Aleppo at dawn on 11 July, with a barrage of over 300 shells being fired into government-held Aleppo. However, gains have been minimal as they have come up against heavy air support on behalf of the Syrian government.

On 11 July, airstrikes in a diesel market in northwestern Syria killed 8 people.

On 12 July, Syria extended its original 72 hour ceasefire for another three-day period. This is the second such extension of the ceasefire and comes despite continued fighting on the ground in several areas leaving it with little actual effect. Later that same day, eight peopledied in airstrikes on a refugee camp near the Jordanian border. The airstrikes are believed to have mainly killed family members of the Eastern Lions rebel group, which is fighting ISIL. While no claim of responsibility has been made, Western officials have stated it appears Russian aircraft committed the attack, with cluster munitions believed to have been used.

Eleven civilians, including three children, died in airstrikes in the town of Ariha Idlib province on 13 July. The town is under the control of the Army of Conquest, a coalition of islamist rebel groups that includes al-Nusra.

UN Delivering Aid
On 10 July, the UN started an airlift campaign of humanitarian aid to the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, bringing in forty tons of food on the first day. There are 250,000 people living in the city, who have gone without access to food or other materials for 6 months, due to the area being labeled as a “hard-to-reach-area” by the UN. Over the next month the UN expects to make a total of 25 flights delivering aid to the city.

On 14 July, the first aid convoy in over a month reached the besieged al Waer suburb of the city of Homs.

International Developments
On 10 July, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad met with a delegation of members of the European Parliament, laying the blame for terror attacks in Europe at the feet of western governments’ actions in Syria. Speaking to the delegation, headed by the Vice Chairman of the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee Javier Couso, Assad stated “The problems Europe faces today of terrorism, extremism and waves of refugees are caused by some western leaders’ adoption of policies which do not serve their people…Especially when those leaders give support and political cover to terrorist groups inside Syria.”

On 12 July, Physicians for Human Rights and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), in a joint-release, stated that sixty-five people have died from starvation in the Syrian government’s year-long siege of the town of Madaya, with another twenty-one dying from landmines, sniper-fire and easily-treatable chronic diseases. Despite five UN aid convoys having reached the town since January, the report states that twenty-seven people have still died from starvation in that time-period as the Assad regime has made frequent deliveries impossible while regularly raiding the aid convoys before allowing them in the city. The UN has been unable to access the town since April.

That same day, a newly released British parliamentary report stated that “there is historical evidence [that ISIL] received funding from within Arab Gulf states.” While not claiming that any states directly donated to ISIL, the report concludes that early on many of the Gulf States had a lax policy of allowing individuals, including some close to royal families in the region, to donate to the group, with early views casting them as protectors of Sunnis in Iraq and Syria.

On 13 July, Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), demanded to know from the government of Syria why it has four undeclared warfare agents, with indications of an additional five, despite previous statements declaring the destruction or removal of the country’s chemical stockpile. In January, the OPCW had announced that all of Syria’s  declared chemical weapons stocks had been destroyed.

President Assad gave a rare interview on 13 July, sitting down with NBC News. The interview covered the war in Syria, ISIL, the United States, and his own legacy, with Assad claiming  “it won’t take more than a few months” for his forces to retake the whole of Syria, further dismissing the role of the US in Syria and claiming the country had no real intention of tackling terrorism. The full interview can be seen here.

On 14 July, US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Moscow where he will be meeting with Russian officials in hopes of brokering a new military pact between the two nations in Syria. If approved, the pact would dramatically change the dynamic of the relationship between the two countries actions in Syria. The two powers would operate out of a joint-command center in Amman, Jordan, where they would share intelligence and targeting information, and coordinate their actions, with Russia only bombing “vetted” targets, and certain areas being established as off-limits. Russia would further be expected to pressure Assad to stop his own bombing campaign against what the US sees as moderate rebels, and into allowing aid unfettered into besieged area. The full text of the proposed agreement can be read here.


Yemen:

On 8 July, Yemeni government forces seized a ship off the coast of Somalia loaded with weapons and ammunition believed to be bound for the Houthi-controlled Al-Mukha District.

Human Rights Watch released a report on 10 July accusing the Saudi-led coalition of deliberately targeting civilian economic infrastructure, including multiple factories, warehouses and power stations. The report details airstrikes on 13 facilities since March 2015 that killed 30 civilians, destroying stockpiles of food and medicine. HRW stated that  “taken together, the attacks on factories and other civilian economic structures raise serious concerns that the Saudi-led coalition has deliberately sought to inflict widespread damage to Yemen’s production capacity.”

On 12 July, the Houthi rebel coalition announced that they would be returning to Kuwait for the resumption of peace talks on 15 July. They further announced that they will do so without asking for any preliminary conditions. In contrast, Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Malik al-Mekhlafi of Yemen’s internationally recognized government reiterated the position made by President Hadi over the previous weekend, stating that they would not return to peace talks in Kuwait without a timetable and guarantees for a political transition already made. President Hadi has threatened to boycott the resumption of peace talks, claiming their current structure legitimizes the Houthi rebels who overthrew his government. United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has requested a personal meeting with President Hadi in hopes of salvaging the peace process.

On 12 July, a landmine killed a Saudi soldier patrolling along the Kingdom’s southern border with Yemen. Roughly one hundred Saudi soldiers and civilians have died along the border since March last year. In response, Saudi forces launched several artillery barrages and air strikes on Houthi positions along the border, while moving more troops to the border and attacking on the ground in several positions.

On 13 July, forty-four people died in fighting across the country over the previous twenty-four hours as  Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed touched down in the capital of Sanaa to meet with the Houthis before the resumption of peace talks in Kuwait. The fighting took place on multiple fronts across the country, with forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government edging close to Sanaa.


What else is new?

On 28 June, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and The Brookings Institution held the second annual Madeleine K. Albright Lecture on Global Justice. The lecture featured former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, who reflected on the development of RtoP, interrelated themes, and the state of global affairs. Watch the full video from the lecture here.

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#R2PWeekly: 4 July – 8 July 2016

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UN Warns of Increased Likelihood of  “Full-Throttle Sectarian Violence” in Iraq

In the backdrop of the devastating ISIL bombing on Sunday that killed 250 people, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, warned of the possibility of a new chapter of sectarian violence in Iraq. Speaking on 5 July, Mr. Zeid stated, “ISIL needs to be defeated, and defeated soon.” However, Zeid continued, “The way we react, in Iraq and elsewhere, will in many ways decide whether ISIL benefits from its indiscriminate acts of mass murder, or is ultimately destroyed by them.”

Mr. Zeid’s concerns for a return of sectarian violence do not solely lie in the rubble of the Karada market but in the graves of the dozens of Sunni Iraqis believed to have been killed recently by Shia militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). On 1 June, over 8,000 villagers escaping the village of Saqlawiyah reached government lines held by the Kataaib Hezbollah militia of the PMF. Among those who fled, 900 have gone missing and 49 are believed to have been immediately executed or died under torture by Kataaib Hezbollah. 

 
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Reports of abuse by the elements of the PMF have been rampant. Their tactics allegedly include kidnappings, torture, executions, massacres, and forced evictions. In January, Human Rights Watch accused the PMF of committing war crimes in the fight against ISIL and noted that “again civilians  are paying the price for Iraq’s failure to rein in the out-of-control militias”.

As the Iraqi government formally incorporated the PMF into the state security apparatus on 7 April 2015, it shares responsibility for its behavior. The Prime Minister of Iraq has set up a special human rights committee to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the PMF, although Mr. Zeid has urged for more serious measures to end impunity and hold those who are responsible for the abuses accountable. Such a step — as well as others intended to curb sectarian violence, such as building the capacity of the Popular Mobilization Commission tasked with overseeing the PMF — could help Iraq to fulfill its primary responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing.

For more information on the reported abuses of Shia militias, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other 


Burma/Myanmar:

A mob burned down a Mosque in Rangoon on Sunday. This is the second such attack in under a week in predominantly Buddhist Burma. Authorities have reportedly made no arrests.

Nineteen NGOs demanded increased action to combat hate speech and religiously motivated violence in Burma.


Burundi:

On Tuesday, the government of Burundi rejected a claim made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al Hussein as “negative” and “false”. Zeid had reported that the violence in Burundi was ethnically motivated and could escalate into a conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi populations.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Burundi’s intelligence services have tortured dissidents, including beating prisoners with hammers. HRW urged the Security Council to deploy international police to the country and set up an international commission of inquiry.


Central African Republic:

On Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’as Al Hussein warned that the situation in CAR was worsening, notably due to recent unrest in Bangui and other parts of the country.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

On Wednesday, the United States announced that it was imposing sanctions on leading North Korean officials, including Kim Jong-un, for human rights violations. The designations follow a report from the US State Department naming individuals most responsible for the abuses, which include forced labor, extrajudicial killings, and torture. The US Treasury Department blacklisted the officials, freezing their assets and blocking them from any transactions with American citizens.

The UN has named Argentine lawyer Tomas Ojea Quintana to succeed Marzuki Darusman as its new Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The DRC has selected the digital security firm, Gemalto, to supply the country’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) with 22,000 mobile biometric voter enrollment kits in order to support an update of the national registry of voters.


Iraq:

On Sunday, 250 people died in an ISIL suicide-bombing in the Karada market district of Baghdad. The attack is the single deadliest in Iraq since 2003, with hundreds more injured. In the wake of the attack, the outburst of public anger has brought Iraq’s security measures into question, causing Iraqi Interior Minister Mohammed Ghabban to resign and new security measures to be ordered. Also on Sunday, ISIL reportedly killed 8 of its own fighters as well as 7 residents of the city of Hawijah in southwestern Kirkuk. Later, an attack on the al-Salam camp for internally displaced persons, located south of Baghdad, killed 3 and left fifteen wounded.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government announced the capture of several villages from ISIL in its push to the airbase at Qayara, 40 miles south of Mosul. However, in the wake of seizing Fallujah from ISIL, the Iraqi government’s capture and occupation of the city has reportedly begun to take on sectarian undertones. Despite orders and pledges to the contrary, Shia militia members who aided in the siege of Fallujah, have been seen freely moving in the city center, while Shiite banners, graffiti, and posters have been plastered on the main highway overpass in Fallujah. Some Iraqi commanders in Fallujah have come forward with accusations that the militia members burned houses to the ground in the city, bringing to fruition the fears of the Iraqi government.

On 4 July, Minority Rights Group (MRG) warned in a new report that Iraq may be facing the disappearance of its minorities. Tens of thousands of minorities have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled after thirteen years of civil war and sectarian conflict. The report pays particular attention to the Iraqi Christian population, which has declined from 1.4 million in 2003 to 250,000 today, while also highlighting the plight of the Yezidi, Kaka’i, Shia Turkmen, and Shabak peoples.


Kenya:

In Nairobi on Monday, around 300 people protested the killings of a human rights lawyer, Willy Kimani, and two other men. On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters gathered once more in Nairobi and set a police station on fire, where Kimani and the others were originally held after their abduction and where they were later killed. Four police officers based at the police station are currently in custody and the site is being treated as a crime scene.


Libya:

In a new report this week, Amnesty International detailed the horrors experienced by migrants and refugees at the hands of Libyan traffickers. Victims were predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa, and their testimonies include stories of death, sexual violence, religious persecution, torture and starvation.

On Friday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) released its monthly report for June 2016, stating that 49 civilian casualties occurred last month, including 18 deaths and 31 injuries.


Mali:

According to Malian authorities, two gunmen killed two gendarmes and wounded a soldier late Friday night in Menaka, a town in northeastern Mali.

850 peacekeepers from Burkina Faso, including 21 women, are set to join the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), according to the country’s defense ministry.

An accident during a MINUSMA training exercise killed two Dutch soldiers and wounded another on Wednesday in Mali. This brings the total deaths of peacekeepers in Mali to at least 103 since the deployment of the mission in April 2013.


Nigeria:

Late last week, the UN warned that tens of thousands of children would die of malnutrition this year in northeastern Nigeria if they do not receive aid soon.

On Monday, suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers oil militant group blew up two pipelines in southern Nigeria belonging to the US-based Chevron and the Nigerian state oil company. President Buhari pleaded with the oil militants and others in a statement on Wednesday to “give Nigeria a chance”, promising to keep the country together regardless of the divisions across the country.

The Nigerian military shot and killed two female suicide bombers on Tuesday in the town of Monguno in northeastern Nigeria as they attempted to detonate their explosives in the vicinity of people displaced from the fighting in the country. Although the soldiers killed the women, some of the women’s explosives did detonate, injuring two civilians. A third bomber in another area was successful in exploding her bomb, but the blast resulted in no other casualties. The military also killed four suspected Boko Haram fighters in an unrelated ambush the same day around Kukawa, also in the northeast of the country.


South Sudan:

On 5 July, South Sudan’s armed opposition (the SPLA-IO) warned that recent killings of its members could derail the peace agreement signed in August 2015. The SPLA-IO listed and detailed five cases in which its officers allegedly died at the hands of government agents.

The government’s official narrative on the source of recent fighting in Wau state is being challenged, with reports now surfacing, which place the blame on the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA). Eyewitnesses to the violence have begun reporting that members of the SPLA and youth from an ethnically Dinka neighborhood began attacking neighborhoods belonging to the Fartit ethnic group. The official narrative states that the violence was due to a new rebel group attempting to seize the town. The UN estimates that 70,000 people have been displaced by the fighting that left at least 43 dead, including 39 civilians and 4 police officers.

On 2 July, the newly appointed Governor of Wau state, Andrea Mayar Achor, made public his plans for how to restore stability to the area, which saw massive levels of fighting on 25 June that forced tens of thousands to flee. The plan calls for three stages: 1) stabilizing the security situation in order for the displaced to return, which includes free movement for humanitarian organizations; 2) the holding of public dialogues on what happened during the civil war and how the community can move forward; and 3) the start of a reconciliation process.


Sri Lanka:

Following the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ comments last week expressing his concerns about Sri Lanka’s slow progress in the investigation of war crimes and human rights abuses during the country’s civil war, the Sri Lankan government announced on Wednesday that it would set up a special court to hear allegations of wartime abuses by next year.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 5 July, the EU released a draft proposal of how it will divert 100 million Euros of development aid into military border control measures in migrant transit countries such as Sudan. The money would likely go to the Sudanese government militia, the Rapid Support Force (RSF), who currently serve as border guards. Part of the Sudanese national and intelligence security services, the RSF largely consists of former members of the Janjaweed, a Sudanese Arab militia responsible for taking part in the genocide in Darfur.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has announced it has serious concerns over the four month ceasefire in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states. The SPLM-N views the ceasefire, announced on 17 June,  as the result of US pressure and as only “a declaration of intent”, as a true ceasefire would require monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.

On 4 July, a subset of the Sudan Liberation Movement proposed a new ceasefire in Darfur to be monitored by the UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The rebels have put forward the ceasefire proposal in hopes of having humanitarian aid delivered to the region of Jebel Marra, which has experienced several months of intense fighting.

Also this week, in a reversal from earlier statements, the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, stated that the opposition groups comprising the umbrella group Sudan Call forces will likely sign the African Union High Implementation Panel’s Roadmap Agreement for Peace in Sudan in several days

On 4 July, fighting broke out between the Sudanese military and Rizeigat Savannah militiamen in east Darfur. The fighting left several casualties.


Syria:

On 5 July, the Syrian Kurds and their Arab allies declared the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli to be the capital of the new federal system they are establishing in northern Syria. Elections are currently planned for three months after the approval of the social contract, which is already leading to increased tensions with the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad put forward the composition of the new Syrian government, to be headed by former Electricity Minister Imad Khamis. Despite changes in personnel in over half of the positions, there has been no trace of inclusion of any opposition figures or groups in the composition of the new government.

Amnesty International released a brief accusing five rebel groups in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo of committing war crimes and multiple other violations of international humanitarian law.

On 2 July, a two year old local truce between rebels and the Syrian government collapsed in the town of Jayrud with airstrikes that killed 43 people. The truce had led to the area becoming a safe haven, with thousands of internally displaced Syrians living there. Meanwhile, on 6 July, the Syrian government announced a 72 hour ceasefire would go into effect at 1:00 AM on Wednesday to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Nevertheless, the government cut off the sole rebel supply road into Aleppo the next day.

The SDF has opened up a trade corridor in northern Aleppo province between those territories it controls and those under the rule of ISIL. Territories held by the parties are separated by a 2 km long neutral area. The SDF claims that the decision, reached on 25 May, is one that will allow civilians under ISIL-rule to move freely out of their territories and ensure that they receive enough food and supplies.

On 2 July, al-Nusra took the leader of a Western-backed rebel group, the Jaish al-Tahrir brigade, hostage along with 40 of his troops in northern Syria. The brigade had formed in February as a coalition of Free Syrian Army groups in order to stop the push of ISIL near the Turkish border. al-Nusra has targeted the leaders of Western-backed groups in the past, in the hopes that the groups would then dissolve.

On 4 July, the estimate of civilians who have fled the ISIL-held northern Syrian city of Manjib reached 13,000. Moreover, on Monday ISIL repelled an attack by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) near Manbij and managed to retake previously lost territory in the counter-attack.


Yemen:

On Monday, the Saudi government intercepted a ballistic missile, believed to be fired by the Houthi rebels at the southern Saudi city of Abha. This marks the fourth attempt to fire a ballistic missile into Saudi territory since the ceasefire agreement in April.

A suspected drone strike in the south Yemen province of Shabwa killed three al-Qaeda fighters on Saturday. Meanwhile, rocket fire, believed to be from Houthi rebels, allegedly killed seven children in the central Yemeni city of Marib on Monday. The city is currently held by the internationally recognized Yemeni government, while the Houthi rebels continue to control the hinterland to the west and north of the city.

At least 26 people died in an al-Qaeda attack on a Yemeni military base attached to the international airport in the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday. Six Yemeni soldiers and 20 militants died.


What else is new?

21 African civil society groups and international organizations with a presence in Africa released a short but compelling activist video today entitled “AU: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC.” Some African leaders have repeatedly charged the ICC with targeting Africa and, in the past year, the African Union has been discussing possibly calling for African ICC States Parties to withdraw from the Court. As Ibrahim Tommy, a Sierra Leone activist, says in the video: “The big clash [these days] is over African leaders, the powerful few, who really want impunity for themselves, versus the vast majority, in fact all of the victims of Africa’s continent who want justice every day.”

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#R2PWeekly: 27 June – 1 July 2016

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EU’s New Global Strategy Highlights RtoP and Support for Limiting Use of the Veto in Situations of Atrocity Crimes

This week, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, presented the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy. She outlines five main priorities for the Union, namely 1) security; 2) state and societal resilience to the EU’s East and South; 3) an integrated approach to conflicts and crises; 4) cooperative regional orders; and 5) global governance for the 21st century.Description: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/8758bcde31bc78a5c32ceee50/images/79b62621-5c88-4ede-86d4-c8b56ebf00c8.png

Of particular interest are two declarations included under priority 5, in which the EU promises to “promote the responsibility to protect, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international criminal law” and to encourage wide acceptance of the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. Additionally, the strategy asserts that it will continue to call upon members of the UN Security Council to not vote against “credible draft resolutions on timely and decisive action to prevent or end mass atrocities.”

The EU has recently taken a number of steps in support of the RtoP norm and initiatives to limit the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes, of which the Global Strategy is the latest. Last year, the EU appointed a Focal Point on RtoP, while all 28 current members of the EU support the “Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes”, with 25 also supporting the French/Mexican political declaration on the use of the veto.
To see which countries support these initiatives, check out our map here.

 


Catch up on developments in…

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

 


Burma/Myanmar:

As part of her visit to Myanmar, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, met with Muslim community leaders in Sittwe, the capital of the Arakan state, on 23 June. Yanghee Lee inquired about the community leaders’ views on the government’s ban of the term “Rohingya,” as well as the government’s recent citizenship verification drive.

Over 200 villagers in central Myanmar destroyed a local mosque following an argument between Muslim and Buddhist neighbors on the construction of a new Muslim school on 23 June. The attack forced 70 people to take refuge in a small local police station.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on 29 June on the criminalization of peaceful expression in Burma titled “They Can Arrest You at Any Time.”


Burundi:

On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al Hussein, issued areport on the “tragic and comprehensive deterioration of human rights of the people in Burundi.” Since President Nkurunziza’s re-election in April 2015, 348 people have died in extrajudicial killings, according to the report. Perpetrators of the killings and arrests includedsecurity and intelligence forces as well as members of the armed group Imbonerakure.


Central African Republic:

On 24 June, a UN peacekeeper from Senegal was shot dead in Bangui in an attackcondemned by the UN Secretary-General. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reported that 18 peacekeepers serving in MINUSCA were killed by a Central African Republic police unit between April 2015 and March 2016. The head of the police unit has been removed, but human rights groups are calling for his prosecution related to 13 of the 18 cases.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

DRC authorities have arrested 74 militiamen and their alleged leader, Frederic Batumike, a provincial deputy, on charges of murder and the repeated rapes of around 30 young girls in the South Kivu province.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Celestin Kanyama, the police chief in Kinshasa, accusing him and the police force under his command of creating a “climate of fear” ahead of the country’s upcoming presidential elections in December. The US has accused the police force under Kanyama’s control of having used violence to quell protests against current Congolese President Kabila, which resulted in the deaths of at least 40 people. Furthermore, at least 50 men and boys died and 30 others disappeared after the police raided the homes of suspected opposition members in Kinshasa without a warrant.

The UN Security Council has urged President Kabila to stay in line with constitutional requirements to hold elections by the end of this year as the Council expressed concerns over the arrests of members of the opposition weeks earlier. The government has said that it is unlikely that the DRC will be able to hold these elections within the allotted timeframe due to logistical reasons, but the opposition has claimed that this is a way for President Kabila to try to remain in office past his constitutional limit. The European Union Parliament also votedon a resolution which calls for an end to the violence and human rights violations in the DRC, which has escalated in the run-up to the elections.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces shot and killed a female Palestinian after she ran her car into another car outside an Israeli settlement, injuring two people.

Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian fisherman on 27 June off the coast of Gaza. The shots fired prevented fishermen from fishing farther than the designated range of five nautical miles. No injuries were reported, but the fishing boats were damaged, forcing the fishermen to retreat.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the Israeli blockade of Gaza following a one-day trip to Palestine and Israel on 27 June. He called the “suffocating” blockade “collective punishment for which there must be accountability.” Ban Ki-Moon stressed a two-state solution “remains the only viable option to prevent perpetual conflict and to achieve the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

A Palestinian teenager stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli girl in her sleep in a West Bank settlement on Thursday. Israeli forces later shot and killed the Palestinian.


Iraq:

The Head of High Committee of Recognizing Shingal Genocide warned of the need to undertake measures to protect the mass graves of the Yezidi massacred by ISIL. So far, thirty mass graves have been identified, with an estimate that it might take three years to properly identify everyone in the graves.

On Sunday, Iraqi forces successfully captured the last district of Fallujah still held by ISIL, after having declared victory in the offensive to retake the city on 17 June. The following day, Iraqi forces launched a new offensive to clear the farmland to the west of Fallujah of ISIL fighters who have been hiding there since they fled the city.

Iraqi forces continued to successfully press an offensive against ISIL, started two weeks ago, to the south of Mosul, capturing the village of Telol al-Baj. Iraqi troops are now 45 km from the strategic airbase at Qayara, currently held by ISIL, which is expected to be the base of operations for the government offensive on Mosul. The Iraqi Defense Minister, Halit el-Ubeydi, put the estimate at the number of ISIL fighters killed in a recent Iraqi government offensive to the south of Mosul at 1,300.

A suicide bombing in a mosque in Abu Ghraib killed 12 people and wounded at least 32 on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a bomb attack in western Baghdad killed one and injured several others. On the eastern side of Baghdad, unidentified gunmen stormed into a house killing three women and a 6 year old girl.

On Thursday, the British government announced it will send a further 250 troops to Iraq in order to help the Iraqi government fight ISIL. They are expected to be teaching basic infantry skills, first aid, and how to dismantle homemade bombs as well as helping the Iraqis to build military infrastructure.


Kenya:

According to at least 10 local and international human rights organizations, evidence hasshown that Kenyan police are responsible for the disappearances of a human rights lawyer, Willy Kimani, and two other men, Kimani’s client, Josphat Mwenda, and a taxi driver. The evidence suggests that they were abducted last week as they were leaving a court where Mwenda was facing drug-related charges.


Libya:

A car bomb outside a Benghazi area hospital killed four and injured 14 on 24 June. The World Health Organization (WHO) condemned the attacks, which had damaged already crippling infrastructure, estimating that “nearly 60% of public hospitals in conflict areas in Libya have shut down or are inaccessible.”


Mali:

Infighting over land between residents of the Mopti region killed at least 14 people on Saturday, according to Malian police.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution which will increase the number of peacekeeping troops in the UN’s mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in the aim of countering the recent increase in Islamic extremist attacks on both peacekeeping forces and civilians. The increase in troops and a decrease in extremist attacks will also provide a more stable and conducive environment for the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and other signatory groups. The resolution also extends the mandate of MINUSMA for another year, lasting until 30 June 2017.


 Nigeria:

The Niger Delta Avengers have called for a referendum on dividing up the Nigerian federation. The group also included a map via social media, with a suggestion on how the country could be divided into five separate countries. Experts had already predicted that the oil militant group could be encouraged by the surprising results of the recent British referendum to leave the European Union.

The Nigerian military has rescued over 5,000 people held hostage by Boko Haram after the army completed an operation to clear four remote villages in Borno state. The operation reportedly killed one civilian and at least six Boko Haram militants.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released $13 million to provide life-saving assistance to 250,000 people in northeastern Nigeria who have recently become accessible.

Two suicide bombers in Abuja reportedly exploded their devices prematurely, killing themselves and not harming anyone else. City residents suspect that Boko Haram is behind the blasts, which occurred around midnight on Sunday, as people gathered for special Ramadan prayers. However, this has not yet been verified.


South Sudan:

On 25 June, clashes between the South Sudanese government and rebels in Wau uprooted thousands and left 50 dead. The South Sudanese government has stated that the gunmen are part of the militia of Ali Tamin Fatan, a militia leader trying to seize control of territory on the South Sudanese border with the Central African Republic. This new rebel group is said tohave a radical Islamist position.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir refused to sign resolutions to establish designated cantonment areas for the forces of his first deputy, Riek Machar. The decision comes in spite of a consensus being reached on the matter three weeks ago and is being heavily criticized for fear of destabilizing the peace process. The President also refused to agree to terms to establish a committee to review how many states South Sudan should be comprised of, a further point of contention between the President and the opposition.


Sri Lanka:

Journalist and human rights defender Nirmanusan Balasundaram released an opinion piece this week detailing the ways in which the Sri Lankan government has been backsliding in the post-war reconciliation, accountability, and human rights commitments it made in the October 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution, which Sri Lanka co-sponsored with the United States.

On Wednesday, UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein spoke to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva about the current reconciliation process in Sri Lanka, statingthat the government must speed up the judicial process assessing war crimes allegations from the country’s civil war, accelerate the processing of those detained during and after the conflict, and help those still displaced to return to their homes. The Commissioner also acknowledged that the government has made some progress, but stressed that Sri Lanka must come through on its promise to involve foreign judges and other international experts in the judicial process.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government announced that it had withdrawn all of its armed forces from its shared border with South Sudan for the first time since South Sudan’s independence in 2011. On 4 June, the two nations had agreed to pull their troops from the area in order to begin construction on a road which would eventually lead to the creation of a firmly established and permanent demilitarized area between the two nations in hopes of ending mutual accusations of supporting rebels in either country.

On 24 June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had to postpone ascheduled prisoner transfer from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) to the Sudanese government. Despite having been invited by the Sudanese government to act as the intermediary, the ICRC was denied permission to fly the prisoners out at the last moment.

The Governor of South Kordofan State, one of the two regions where fighting between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N has persisted, announced that the Sudanese army was on the outskirts of Kauda, despite a recent ceasefire. The Governor went on to claim that 90 percent of the State’s territory is now in the hands of the government.

On 27 June, gunmen attacked several villages in Northern Darfur, leading to one woman being killed and another raped.

The Sudanese government informed the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan that it would reject any proposal to amend the AU’s Roadmap for Peace in Sudan. The opposition has proposed a supplemental agreement to the Roadmap, which they have yet to sign out of fears that it will legitimize the Sudanese government.


Syria:

On Wednesday, the besieged towns of Zamalka and Erbin received their first aid shipments since 2012. The two towns, home to 20,000 people, had been the only besieged areas, out of the UN’s list of 18 to not yet receive aid shipments.

Syrian and Russian airstrikes allegedly killed at least 25 people and injured dozens more in the town of al-Quria in Deir al-Zor province on Saturday. The majority of the province is under the control of ISIL, with the strikes having been said to have hit both a crowded marketplace as well as a mosque. On 27 June, 5 people died and a further 15 were wounded in a series of suicide-bomber attacks in the predominantly Christian Lebanese village of Qaa. ISIL fighters forced the New Syria Army, a rebel group directly funded and created by the US to fight ISIL, alongside with several other rebel factions, from several positions they had captured in their assault on the city of Al-Bukamal the day before.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Ambassador to Syria, Alexander Kinshchak, told reporters that he does not see assaults on either Aleppo or Raqqa by the Syrian government happening in the near future. Last week, Syrian government forces were expelled from Raqqa province by an ISIL counter-assault, losing in three days what had taken them over three weeks to capture. However, Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy in the fight against Islamic State, stated to a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate, would be the next target of the international coalition after the Syria Democratic Forces seize Manjib from ISIL in northern Syria.

On 27 June, the Syrian opposition negotiating at Geneva, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), stated that the European Union should enact a sanctions regime against thoseRussian companies which are supporting the Assad regime’s war effort in Syria.

24 NGOs asked by the UN to help facilitate and support the Syrian peace talks in Geneva threatened to quit the peace process all together. The NGOS wrote that the threat is due to the inability to halt the fighting on the ground and the continued attacks on civilians and NGOs operating within Syria. The letter calls for an actual ceasefire to be implemented, one that has the ability to be enforced and includes specific measures to protect civilians, airdrops of aid for besieged areas, and the creation of a war crimes tribunal for Syria.

On 27 June, the US sent Russia a proposal for the establishment of a new military partnership for the two countries in Syria. The new partnership would see the two nations cooperating at an as of yet unseen level, with the US pledging to cooperate in the planning and targeting of al-Nusra with Russia while the Russians would in turn pressure the Assad regime into halting attacks on certain US-backed rebels in Syria. Recent sources within the Russian government have reported that Russia would agree to Assad stepping down as President of Syria, but only in the event of a suitable replacement being found that would not cause the Syrian government, as well as its alliance with Russia, to collapse.


Yemen:

The UN Secretary General lambasted both sides in the Yemeni civil war, citing a number of gross violations of the ceasefire in place by both the government and the Houthi rebel alliance. The Secretary General has personally intervened into the peace negotiations this past week in hopes of stemming the continuing violence. Despite Ban Ki-moon’s efforts, negotiators in Kuwait from both the Yemeni government and the Houthi alliance released that they are preparing to release a joint statement announcing the suspension of peace talks until mid-July. The suspension of peace talks has been called a move from both sides to save face in light of having reached an impasse.

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has announced that this break would herald a new phase of the negotiations after the submission of his Roadmap for Peace, which includes steps for the formation of a unity government as well as ideas on how to  break past the disagreements once the suspension of talks is over.

Highlighting the continued tension, former President Saleh, who has allied himself and troops loyal to him with the Houthis, announced he would refuse to accept the currently internationally recognized Yemeni government of President Hadi and would attempt to move forward with his own peace plan.

On 26 June, 41 people died in fighting between the Houthi rebel alliance and the Yemeni government across the country. The fighting comes in the wake of the deaths of a further 31 people on 24 June in what has become a steady intensifying of the conflict. ISIL killed 43 people in a series of attacks across the southern city of Mukalla. Additional clashes between the Houthis and Yemeni government killed 80, including 37 civilians.

On 30 June, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International demanded that Saudi Arabia be removed from the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) in response to both their domestic human rights record as well as their military campaign in Yemen.


What else is new?

On 27 June, the Fund for Peace released  its annual Fragile States Index for 2016. 178 countries are ranked annually in the Index, based off of their perceived stability and the current and future dangers that they face.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect held their sixth annual Global Meeting of R2P Focal Points.

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Filed under Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 20 – 24 June 2016

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Secretary General Appoints New
UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect

On 23 June 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that Ivan Šimonović has been appointed as the new UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect. Mr. Šimonović will be the third individual to assume the post, following Dr. Edward Luck and Dr. Jennifer Welsh. He will take up the post on 1 October 2016.

Mr. Šimonović is currently the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, a post through which he has shown his dedication to preventing gross and systematic abuses of human rights. In his six-year tenure at the United Nations, Mr. Šimonović has underscored that RtoP is a “human rights friendly” concept, including as a panelist at the 2012 General Assembly Dialogue on RtoP, at which he stated that RtoP is “the idea that people are entitled to be protected from the worst forms of human rights violations, from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes.”

As UN Special Adviser on RtoP, Mr. Šimonović will be responsible for the conceptual, political, and institutional development of RtoP, as well as for building consensus to assist the General Assembly to continue considering the norm. Such a mandate entails, among other duties, engaging with UN actors, Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations, and civil society to implement and mainstream the norm; as well as conceptualizing the UN Secretary-General’s annual reports on RtoP.

The ICRtoP looks forward to working with Mr. Šimonović, as well as the entire Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, to continue consolidating support for RtoP and advocating for early action to prevent and respond to the threat of atrocity crimes. In this regard, the ICRtoP will continue efforts with the Office to enhance the relationship between civil society and the UN system to strengthen collaboration, cooperation, and information sharing on atrocities prevention and response.

See statement here.

See the UN News announcement here.

Read more about the mandate of the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect and the work of the Joint Office.  For more information, see the ICRtoP’s page on the Joint Office.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will make an official visit to the country from 20 June until 1 July. Ms. Lee will monitor the situation of human rights and assess the work of the new government during its first 100-days in office. A report on the visit will be presented to the UN General Assembly in October. On 20 June, following the Special Rapporteur’s meeting with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the government of Myanmar decided to no longer use the term “Rohingya” or “Bengali” to describe the Muslim community of the Rakhine state. The ethnic term has been a point of contention in the conflict between nationalist Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. The terms were also avoided in the Special Rapporteur’s meeting on 22 June with the Arakan State Chief Minister Nyi Pu.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, issued a report urging the Burmese government to take concrete action against the systematic violations of human rights of the minority groups in Myanmar. The report, released on 20 June, documented widespread human rights abuses, including denial of healthcare and education, forced labor, restrictions on freedom of movement, and more, that could possibly amount to crimes against humanity. The Rohingya Muslim community was noted to receive the worst treatment. High Commissioner Hussein acknowledged the work of the new democratic government in signing a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last year as well as establishing a Central Committee on the Implementation of Peace, Stability, and Development of Rakhine State. However, the Commissioner’s report urged for more concrete steps to be taken by the government to facilitate the transition to peace. The government has criticized the report, stating it is biased.

report by the UN Refugee Agency stated Burmese citizens made up the eighth-largest population of refugees in 2015. More than 451,000 people fled Myanmar last year as a result of ethnic violence between multiple armed groups.

Nearly 1,000 people in the Kachin State protested against the killing of a teen by a Burmese Army soldier on 21 June. The unarmed 19-year-old student was “mistakenly shot” by the soldier during a fight between two soldiers and a group of Kachin University students on the night of 20 June. The events leading up to the shooting are unclear, but they are said involve the soldiers escorting female university students claiming to be harassed by their male peers.


Burundi:

Following their second visit to Burundi last week, the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) called for concrete action to be taken to end the violence in the country. While the number of executions has decreased since last year, the UNIIB noted that mass arrests are still occurring, including the recent detainment of 11 children for defacing pictures of the President. “For Burundi to move away from violence and conflict, it needs a truly inclusive political dialogue that will address the roots of the political crises,” said one expert from the UNIIB.

Burundi is reconsidering its membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC), claiming the ICC did not take into account the principle of complementarity, which provides that the court can only investigate crimes if national courts cannot do so, when conducting preliminary investigations into post-electoral killings in Burundi.


Central African Republic:

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum, has urged the Central African Republic’s government to take robust measures to stop violence and ensure the protection for civilians. Ms. Keita Bocoum met with several government representatives and civil society members on her seventh visit to the country and she stressed the need for enhanced security and justice reform, particularly with the establishment of the Special Criminal Court. She also expressed concern over the allegations of sexual abuse within the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and will address the Human Rights Council about the issue on 28 June. Her final report on the Central African Republic will be submitted in September.

A new wave of violence in the northwest has left 10 people dead and forced thousands to flee. Armed attackers entered the city of Ngaoundaye on 16 June, shooting at residents and torching homes. The attack, carried out by Fulani herdsmen and ex-Seleka militiamen, is the worst bout of violence in the country since the political election in February. MINUSCA has strengthened security measures in response to the attacks and reaffirmed its mission to promote peace and security in the CAR.

A driver for Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) was shot and killed while driving to transport medicine and fuel from Bangui to Bangassou on 17 June. The Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic, Dr. Michel Yao, strongly condemned the attack and reminded all parties that “ violence against humanitarian workers and humanitarian assets is a violation of International Humanitarian Law and must stop.” Dr. Yao also called for the attack to be investigated and for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

On 19 June, ex-Seleka rebels abducted six policeman in the capital city of Bangui. Security Minister Jean Serge Bokassa stated, “We demand the liberation of the officers who were taken hostage. The government will do everything possible to free them.”


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The field-based office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, located in Seoul, has begun stepping up its investigation into the country’s human rights violations ahead of the one year anniversary of the office’s establishment on 23 June. The UN opened the office in line with recommendations from the UN Commission of Inquiry report on the human rights record and has been conducting interviews with defectors.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Clashes between former rebels in a camp for demobilized militia groups and government soldiers preventing them from leaving the camp resulted in nine deaths, including six of the former rebels and three soldiers. A government official admitted the clashes took place, but denied that soldiers had killed anyone. A former rebel claimed that soldiers had killed 10 of his fellow ex-fighters and claimed that their protests demanding to be returned home were peaceful. The former rebels held in the camp are ex-M23 fighters belonging to the minority Tutsi group in Rwanda.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli troops shot two Palestinians on 21 June, leaving a 15-year-old Palestinian boy dead when the car he was in came under gunfire by the Israeli army after several Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli cars on a highway in the West Bank.

The West Bank is in “full crisis mode” due to Israel’s water cuts reducing the water supply to Palestinians in the northern West Bank. Residents have been receiving 30 to 40 percent of their normal water allowance. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Palestinians in the West Bank have access to just 73 litres of water a day, compared to the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum of 100 litres. The water crisis has left some Palestinians without water for almost a week.


Iraq:

On 17 June, Iraqi forces surged into the ISIL-held city of Fallujah. Several hours later, Prime Minister Al-Abadi declared victory over ISIL in Fallujah. This comes after several months of tightening the knot on the city, which has led to tens of thousands of civilians being trapped in an ever growing humanitarian crisis. However, declarations of complete victory have been premature, as a week later Iraqi forces still have only gained control of roughly 80% of the city. When Iraqi forces began their assault, ISIL forces retreated to the edges of the city, forming “a defensive belt” which the Iraqi armed forces continued to pick apart throughout the week.

ISIL fighters have killed fifteen members of the local security forces in an assault on several villages east of the town of Tuz Khurmatu. The town is 160 kilometers north of Baghdad and, while technically falling under the purview of the central government, has recently been under the control of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who claim it as part of Kurdistan. The following day, a car bomb, planted by ISIL, killed four people in Tuz Khurmatu.

On 20 June, attacks across Iraq left nine people dead. Three soldiers died in a suicide bombing in Ramadi, while six civilians died in several separate attacks in Baghdad.The next day, a suicide-bombing killed five Shia militia members and wounded over 35 in the northern town of Al-Dor.

An Iraqi tribal leader has accused a Shia militia of recently executing fifty Sunni prisoners in northern Iraq. The massacre allegedly took place at the Amerlin prison in Saladin province as revenge for the killing of a senior police officer in the fighting with ISIL near Amerli the previous week.

In order to provide aid to the thousands of people fleeing the fighting in Fallujah, the UN had to withdraw $15 million from its emergency fund this week. In one month, more than 85,000 people have been driven out of the city by fighting. The UN has warned that its supplies are nearly empty, as the emergency fund to provide aid to vulnerable Iraqis has not received two-thirds of its needed funding and projects have been shuttered. In light of this, the US State Department has released $20 million in aid to the Iraqi government. The UNHCR released a statement detailing the needs of the UN in aiding those Iraqis displaced from Fallujah.

Senior Pentagon officials are preparing to give approval to submit a request for a larger US military presence in Iraq to President Obama. Currently, the US has 4,100 troops in Iraq, including 217 that were recently deployed in April. At that time, it was stated that the military would request more if the current number of troops failed to aid the Iraqis in retaking Mosul.


Kenya:

Early this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a brief reporting that police gunfire killed at least five people and wounded 60 others as Kenyan police used live ammunition and excessive force to attempt to break up two recent protests on 23 May and 6 June. The brief includes allegations that police used unnecessary lethal force and even shot or seriously injured uninvolved bystanders and passersby, including students. According to HRW, one witness also claimed to have seen police shoot a man leaving a bank and then take his money. HRW has called for Kenyan authorities to investigate these actions, which appear to violate both Kenyan law and international protocols for law enforcement officers’ use of force.

One person died on Monday after an ambulance hit a landmine while en route to pick up a patient in northeastern Kenya. The incident, which also seriously injured two others, took place in Garissa county, which has recently been the target of attacks by suspected al-Shabaab militants. The same day in nearby Mandera county, suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a convoy, killing five Kenyan police officers escorting a passenger bus.


Libya:

blast at an ammunition depot in the Libyan city of Garabulli left 30 people dead and 30 more wounded on 21 June. It is not clear what triggered the explosion, but a dispute between locals and protestors from an armed group occurred beforehand. Meanwhile, east of Garabulli in the former ISIL-stronghold of Sirte, fighting between ISIL and government-backed Libyan fighters also left 30 people dead, resulting in a total of 60 people killed in just one day. The fighting also wounded around 140 militants.


Mali:

At a UN Security Council meeting discussing the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Malian Prime Minister Modibo Keita, called on the Council to strengthen the peacekeeping mission in the country and to impose sanctions against those impeding the peace deal. The head of MINUSMA and UN envoy for Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, presenting the UN Secretary-General’s report on the developments in the country since March, also called for better training and better equipment for peacekeepers and said “losses could have been avoided” if these had been provided earlier. He also added that, despite the slow process and the skepticism surrounding the Agreement, the situation has improved since 2012 and noted that the successful establishment of eight cantonment sites allowed for the disarmament process to begin.

On the one year anniversary of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement commending Malian President Ibrahim Boubakar Keïta and the government for their commitment to peace. Mr. Ban also welcomed the signing of the new Protocole d’Entente on the interim authorities and other arrangements by the government and other signatory parties. He called this and the government’s appointment of Mr. Mahamadou Diagouraga as the High Representative tasked with following up on the Agreement “important steps forward”.


Nigeria:

Late last week Boko Haram fighters shot and killed at least 18 women and may have captured others who were attending a funeral in the village of Kuda in Nigeria’s restive northeast. According to witnesses, the militants rampaged through the village shooting randomly at will and setting houses on fire. Witnesses counted 18 women’s bodies after the attack, but some women are currently still missing.

The Nigeria Air Force (NAF) recently launched “Operation Gama-Aiki”, under which the NAF completed its first major air campaign, killing 15 Boko Haram militants in Borno state.

On 21 June, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) visited the town of Bama in Borno state for the first time since its liberation from Boko Haram’s control by the army in March 2015. MSF found 24,000 people living in a camp on a hospital compound in the town, including 15,000 children (of which 4,500 are under five years old). According to MSF, over 1,200 people have starved to death or died of illness at the camp and of the 800 children examined, around one in five were acutely malnourished. The group also reported that they had found around 1,233 graves dug in the last year near the camp and at least 188 people have died in the camp since 23 May – amounting to almost six people each day.

In the southeastern Niger Delta Region, Nigerian officials reported late last week that the government has reached a 30-day truce with militants, including the Niger Delta Avengers, who have carried out devastating attacks on oil pipelines and facilities in the region in recent months. Another official added that although a truce had been reached, talks working towards a final resolution are still on-going. However, the Niger Delta Avengers issued a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, stating that they had never agreed to a ceasefire with the government. A security expert based in Nigeria has said that he believes that the government may have been holding talks with the wrong people.


South Sudan:

On Tuesday, the UN completed an investigation into violence that occurred at a UN compound housing 50,000 civilians in Malakal. Over the course of 16-18 February, fighting between ethnic groups killed 30 civilians and 130 others. On 18 February, armed men, including members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), burst into the camp and began shooting civilians and burning down housing complexes. Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers, mandated to use force to protect civilians, stood by, taking over 16 hours to react to the incursion into the compound. The report, obtained by several news agencies, but unlikely to be made public, details how the UN responsewas one beset by confusion, with peacekeepers fleeing their posts. Some, like Human Rights Watch, have pressured the UN to release the findings to the public, follow the investigation’s recommendations, and hold those responsible to account. In response, the UN has announced that it will be sending home peacekeepers that were found to have not appropriately responded during the situation. Meanwhile, a report by Doctors without Borders noted that, in addition to the UN failing in its duty to protect civilians, UN security rules interfered with efforts by humanitarian actors to respond to the needs of those affected by the crisis.

UNICEF has released a report highlighting the continuing use of child soldiers in South Sudan. The report, aided by the work of the UN mission in South Sudan, states that there are still over 16,000 child soldiers in South Sudan. This figure is in spite of the government’s 2008 South Sudan Child Act, which sets a minimum age of 18 for any conscription or voluntary recruitment into armed forces or groups. Furthermore, the release of all child soldiers is a stipulation of the peace agreement in South Sudan.

On 20 June, fighting erupted once again in the South Sudanese town of Raja, which saw clashes last week when armed men stormed and temporarily seized the town. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the fighting,with the International Committee of the Red Cross sending in two planes to evacuate the wounded.


Sri Lanka:

Newly uncovered evidence seems to confirm reports that the Sri Lankan armed forces may have used cluster munitions against civilians in the end stages of the country’s 26-year civil war. Testimonies from de-mining groups working in Sri Lanka have also claimed that they have discovered munitions in government-declared “no fire zones”, where authorities had told around 300,000 people during the war to gather for safety until the war’s resolution.

According to a former asylum seeker now living permanently in Australia, the group of 44 stranded Tamil asylum seekers in Indonesia, who arrived by boat on the island of Aceh on their way to Australia, were previously tortured in Sri Lanka and would certainly be persecuted once again if they return. Their compatriot in Australia identified several of the asylum seekers in Indonesia from photos as those who were allegedly tortured alongside him during his time in prison in Sri Lanka.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 17 June, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a 4-month ceasefire in the Blue Nile and South Kordufan areas, which went into effect over the weekend. Rebel fighters with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and government forces have been engaged in fighting that has left both sides in a perpetual stalemate since 2011. The SPLM-N is the northern counterpart of the movement that brought South Sudan forward into independence and they have been fighting against their region’s continued inclusion in Sudan. Fighting has recently intensified in the area as a truce, negotiated at the end of 2015, has broken down. The SPLM-N has conditionally agreed to the ceasefire and is calling for negotiations to immediately start in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. This is the third ceasefire declaration by the Sudanese government in the past year.

After a three-day meeting in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, Sudan Call (the umbrella representation of the Sudanese opposition) stated on Sunday that they will propose a supplemental document to the Roadmap Agreement for peace in Sudan. As of yet, only the Sudanese government has signed the Roadmap crafted by the African Union High level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). The opposition has declined, stating the document only deals with a ceasefire and humanitarian access. The supplemental document, they allege, would ensure the Roadmap leads to fruitful political dialogue. The opposition currently recognizes the government-controlled dialogue process as a basis for the national constitutional dialogue and claims it lacks trust-building measures.

On 19 June, Sudan requested a meeting with Martin Uhomoibh, the head of the international peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), after the UN recommended a one-year extension of the mission’s mandate in the region. The joint AU-UN mission currently has 20,000 troops and policemen in the region. The report, presented to the UNSC last week, stated their presence is still needed due to an overall lack of progress in the peace process and continued violence, which the Sudanese government has publicly contended and disagreed with.

On 20-21 June, attacks in central Darfur killed and injured 18 people. Eyewitness reports allege that the attacks were carried out by members of the government-sponsored Janjaweed militia, which has already made several attacks looting the area’s major market and torching a multitude of shops and homes.

The following day, six student activists were released by the Sudanese security forces after being detained for a month without charges. The arrest and detention of the students, who were arrested for leading protests against government policy, sparked a wave of demonstrations and clashes with security forces.


Syria:

Developments in the fighting

On 18 June, Turkish border guards allegedly killed 11 Syrian refugees as they fled across the border into Turkey. The incident is alleged to have taken place near the village of Khirbet al-Joz in Idlib province. This is not the first time accusations of Turkish soldiers shooting fleeing Syrians have appeared, with HRW releasing a scathing report earlier this year.

On 20 June, an ISIL suicide-bomber killed three people in Qamishli. The bomber was attempting to sneak into a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Armenian genocide.

Despite earlier gains against ISIL this week, the extremist group has managed to force Syrian government troops into retreat from Raqqa, ISIL’s de-facto capital. The Syrian government had advanced as close as six miles to the town of al-Tabqa, which lies to the west of Raqqa, but has now been pushed back over 40 kilometers from Tabqa.

On 21 June, the SDF entered the ISIL-held city of Manjib in northern Aleppo after having successfully repelled an attempt by ISIL to break the siege earlier in the week. This has allowed the first humanitarian corridor into the city to be opened, allowing hundreds to flee.

Later the same day, a car-bomb killed six Jordanian soldiers near a Syrian refugee camp on the northeastern Syrian-Jordanian border. The attack is the first of its kind since the start of the Syrian civil war. More than 50,000 Syrians are living in the refugee camp there in deplorable conditions, with Jordan citing security concerns for not allowing them out the camps. Jordan has responded by announcing that there will be no new refugee camps built in the country.

On 22 June, 25 civilians are reported to have been killed in air raids in Raqqa. The strikes also injured dozens more, with the death toll expected to rise. As of yet, no party has claimed responsibility.

Delivering Aid

The UN was able to deliver deliver aid into the besieged areas of Ein Tarma, Hamouria, Hazeh, Beit Sawa and Eftreis in rural Damascus on Monday for the first time since April. This brings the total number of besieged areas reached up to 16 out of the 18 the UN has requested. However, the UN is still facing difficulties as the Syrian government continues to deny unfettered access and, in many cases, the amount of aid delivered has been restricted.

International Developments

On 16 June, the New York Times received a draft version of an internal dissent memo from the US State Department, signed by fifty-one individuals, that called for US airstrikes against the Assad regime. The memo is exceptionally critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in Syria, particularly detailing the continued use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime in a campaign that is both in violation of the ceasefire and mainly targeting civilians. According to the memo, continued military pressure by the United States is the only way to stop the gross injustices being committed in Syria and force Assad to the negotiating table.

Late last week, Russia’s state-run RT network accidentally ran a segment on the Russian campaign in Syria that showed Russian planes in Syria armed with cluster bombs. While Russia has not signed the international treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, they have consistently denied using such indiscriminate bombs in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry has denied accusations that it bombed the US-backed New Syrian Army rebel group in southern Syria. US and Russian officials held a video-conference over the weekend to discuss the airstrikes, which are believed to include cluster munitions and which killed several rebels near Jordanian border.

On 21 June, several countries debated the issue of prosecuting alleged perpetrators of serious crimes in Syria as a UN panel, called First Cracks in the Syria Impunity Wall. The panel discussed whether or not third party countries should prosecute persons accused of committing atrocities in Syria. The push for prosecution is being made by several European countries, particularly Germany, France, Sweden and Finland. The panel follows the vetoing, by Russia and China, of a UNSC resolution that would have referred Syria to the ICC.

Norway’s parliament gave approval for the deployment of Norwegian troops to Syria on Wednesday, including the nation’s special forces. The troops will join the forces from the US and other members of the anti-ISIL coalition on the ground in training the Syrian Democratic Forces.


Yemen:

Developments in the fighting

On 18 June, reversing reports of the United Arab Emirates pulling out of the war in Yemen, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, stated that remarks to that end have been taken out of context and that the UAE will continue to take part in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

The U.S. military has announced that it is planning on continuing its ongoing mission in Yemen against al-Qaeda.  The U.S. now plans on keeping a small, twelve-man, Special-Operations team in Yemen to assist Gulf State forces on the ground. The team was originally sent in April for a limited operation. The U.S. had previously established such a team in Yemen but withdrew it in 2014 in light of the deteriorating situation.

On 21 June, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen claimed to have intercepted a ballistic missile fired at the city of Marib, which is controlled by the coalition. Seperately, a coalition airstrike in the mountainous area of Lahj province is said to have killed eight civilians. The airstrike is alleged to have taken place during a three-day battle for the mountain range that overlooks Yemen’s largest airbase, which has apparently left 45 dead and the Houthi rebels in control and overlooking the base.

On 22 June, 13 people died in renewed clashes, in the central city of Taiz, between the Houthi rebels and Yemeni government forces. Both civilians and fighters have been counted amongst the dead in the fighting, which has continued despite an agreed upon by ceasefire by both sides. The next day Houthi rebels allegedly killed seven civilians while in pursuit of a pro-government militia leader. The Houthi’s have claimed that the raid, which took place in central Yemen, was in pursuit of a “terrorist cell” and that they had killed eight members of al- Qaeda. While reports have been increasing of al- Qaeda militants fighting alongside the Yemeni government in central Yemen, the Houthis commonly characterize all the militias that oppose them as al-Qaeda. On the same day, local residents in the south of the country reportedthe return of  al-Qaeda to their towns after an absence of a month. Al-Qaeda had previously retreated from many major population centers in the area following tribal negotiations.

Developments in the peace process

On 18-19 June, the largest prisoner swap yet in the conflict in Yemen took place, with 224 prisoners being exchanged by the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government in the city of Taez.

Highlighting
 the contention at the peace talks in Kuwait, the Houthi delegation announced on 22 June that they would refuse to sign onto any peace agreement which did not include an agreement on a consensus President to lead Yemen through its transition period. Concurrently, the Yemeni delegation has demanded that the Houthis withdraw from all  territory captured since 2014 and give over control of political institutions to the Yemeni government before negotiations. The demands are in light of the submission of a Roadmap for Peace for Yemen by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.


What else is new?

Responding to worrying developments such as the revocation of citizenship for over 250 individuals since July 2014, including most recently Sheikh Issa Qassem, among other human rights violations, the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, released a statement on 22 June expressing concern for the situation and calling in the government to recommit to national dialogue. See full statement here.

Monday, 20 June marked World Refugee Day, with a report released by the UN Refugee Agency entitled Global Trends showing that a record high of 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes due to conflict and violence in 2015. The Global Trends report shared staggering findings, including that 1 in every 113 people in the world is an asylum-seeker, internally displaced person, or refugee, with 24 people displaced per minute in 2015. To put the vast numbers of displaced persons in perspective, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect has produced a new infographic showing what displacement in countries experiencing atrocity crimes means in other terms.View the infographic here.

On Sunday 19 June, the first International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the time of impunity for the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war is over. He cited several landmark court rulings convicting and sentencing former political and military leaders for their involvement in conflict-related sexual violence, including in the convictions of two former Guatemalan military officers in a national court in Guatemala, the International Criminal Court’s first sexual and gender-based crimes conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba, and the conviction of former Chadian President Hissène Habré in the Senegalese judicial system for rape and sexual slavery earlier this year. The latter is the first time in history that a former Head of State has been convicted and held personally accountable for the commission of rape as an international crime. The ICC also sentenced Bemba on 21 June to 18 years in prison for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape. A summary of the ICC’s decision in the Bemba case can be read here.

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#R2PWeekly: 16 – 20 May 2016

Untitled

RtoP: Looking Back and Moving Forward 
Civil Society Perspectives on the First Decade of the Responsibility to Protect

With the belief that civil society organizations are central to the advancement and implementation of RtoP, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect used the 10-year anniversary as a timely opportunity to engage its global membership and partners to garner civil society perspectives on RtoP’s advancement thus far, and the measures that need to be prioritized in the next decade. Soliciting input from over 100 organizations working across sectors and in all regions, this report articulates the views of civil society as they reflected on the successes and challenges of the past ten years, shared their views on new factors facing atrocities prevention, and provided recommendations for policy and institutional change going forward.

Read the full publication here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Burma’s newly elected democratic government is facing criticism after submitting a draft bill that would punish protesters spreading any “wrong” information, allow only pre-registered chants at gatherings, and refuse the right of non-citizens to protest. In practice, such a bill would have the largest impact on the rights of the stateless Muslim Rohingya minority.

The Burmese government has announced charges against student leaders, who led an interfaith “peace walk” of almost 100 people in Rangoon last Saturday.. The peace walk, avowing interreligious tolerance, was held against an environment of increasing Buddhist ultra-nationalism.

The US declared that it would be renewing the majority of its current sanctions against Burma when they expire at the end of the week. However, some modifications will be made in order to boost investment and trade. The US has stated that the continuation of sanctions against Burma is a reflection of serious concern over “human rights issues, including ongoing attacks against ethnic minorities, as well as the military’s extraordinary grip on key institutions of power.”

China has announced it would begin deporting Kokang refugees back to Burma if they did not leave of their own volition immediately. In 2015, over 100,000 Kokang fled to China after months of violence between the Burmese government and  the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), a Kokang ethnic armed group. It is estimated that there are still 20,000 refugees living in makeshift camps on the Chinese side of the border.

Fighting broke out last week in the northern Shan State between the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) and the Burmese army, reportedly killing 28 government soldiers. The SSA-N is one of a dozen rebel groups that refused to sign last year’s national ceasefire agreement. Meanwhile, on May 11, the Burmese Army and Border Guard fought with a Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) splinter group in Karen State. Unlike the SSA-N, the DKBA had signed the ceasefire agreement.

More violence erupted on Wednesday, when bombing raids by the Burmese government were reported in Kachin and Shan states. The bombing raids in Shan state were complemented by attacks by the Burmese army and militia on SSA-N outpost outside Pein Hsai.


Burundi:

A confidential report to the UNSC has accused Rwanda of training, financing and providing logistical support for Burundian rebels fighting against the government through 2016. These claims, made by a panel of six independent experts, counter claims from western officials that such aid had already ceased  and have also been denied by the Rwandan government.

Burundi officials said that Rwanda has expelled more than 1,300 Burundian refugees after they refused to move to refugee camps.

After the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights released a report on continuing human rights violations in Burundi, the AU stated that it would conduct in-depth investigations into the ongoing violations.

Around a hundred people were arrested in the Burundian capital, adding to a series of crackdowns on opposition strongholds. The authorities have stated that the arrests were necessary in order to control the movement of people. Dozens of arrests were also made in Mugamba, a town to the south of the capital.

On 19 May, Burundi’s government announced that it would attend regional peace talks in Tanzania. Burundi’s leading opposition party, the CNDD, will also participate the talks, but other opposition representatives have yet to confirm their presence.


Central African Republic:

Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, asked the court for a 25 year sentence for Jean-Pierre Bemba for crimes his troops committed in CAR, citing deterrence as one of the main factors behind the long sentence. Bemba was already found guilty of war crimes and  crimes against humanity in March. However, the Court has yet to determine the length of his sentence.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UNSG, said the UN has received 44 allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers and that 41 investigations were underway.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

UN experts reported that North Korea has been delivering arms to the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite the being an arms embargo on North Korea forbidding it from exporting weapons.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that those responsible for human rights abuses in North Korea would be held accountable and that the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the country is continuing to gather evidence of these violations.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

UN experts have further accused a Congolese General, Muhindo Akili Mundos, of aiding attacks that resulted in the deaths of more than 500 people. According to a confidential report for the UNSC, a Congolese general recruited, financed and armed elements of a Ugandan Islamist group aiming at killing civilians. The report also revealed that other Congolese army officers are involved in the killing of civilians.

Police fired teargas and threw rocks at of protesters in Lubumbashi. Thousands of people had gathered outside the prosecutor’s office, where authorities were questioning Moise Katumbi, a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, the UN reported that Congolese police arrested four protesters and injured three others at a peaceful protest in Goma.

Opposition leaders in the DRC have urged the United States to impose sanctions on President Joseph Kabila. Olivier Kamitatu, a leader of the G7 opposition coalition, said:“We believe that the imposition of sanctions will force Joseph Kabila to reconsider his position and to leave power on the 19th of December.” Civil society groups, in a letter to the President Joseph Kabila, urged to take the needed steps to stop the massacre of civilians, underscoring their concern over the deteriorating situation.

Islamic militants killed about 50 Christians including women and children in the DRC, causing thousands to flee the area.


Gaza/West Bank:

Human Rights Watch called for Jordan to ease travel restrictions it is currently imposing on Palestinians from Gaza that wish to travel to third countries, stating that such restrictions hinder access to education and professional opportunities for Palestinian youths who are already in a precarious situation.

Robert Piper, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, condemned Israel’s demolition and confiscation of humanitarian aid intended for the West Bank, the Israeli authorities having demolished seven homes and confiscated the materials for three others.


Iraq:

The UN Security Council expressed condemnation about the three terrorist attacks that occurred last week in Baghdad, which resulted in at least 93 deaths and a large number of injuries. The Security Council urged all States to actively cooperate with the Iraqi authorities in order to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice, highlighting that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of its motivation and wherever, whenever and by whomsoever it is committed, and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

In a continuation of the violence, ISIL carried out three bomb attacks and one suicide bombing in Baghdad killing 69 people and injuring over 100 others on Tuesday.

The Pentagon released a statement outlining how much territory ISIL has lost in Iraq, which estimated that ISIL had lost slightly upwards of 45% of the territory that it once controlled. ISIL still controls important Iraqi cities, including Mosul and Fallujah.

On Thursday, Iraq announced that it has recaptured the western town of Rutba, which had been seized by ISIL in 2014. The town is situated in western-Anbar province and serves as a linkage between ISIL controlled areas on the Syrian and Jordanian border and the rest of Anbar province.

The US military stated that an airstrike on 13 May had resulted the deaths of two senior ISIL commanders, one of which was responsible for launching chemical weapons against Iraqi and allied forces.


Kenya:

Kenyan police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters who gathered outside the offices of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to demand the resignation of the electoral body. The protest was the third of this kind in less than a month and opposition leaders said more would follow. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a leading rights group, has accused the police of beating protesters with clubs and using “gruesome violence” to break up the protest even after the protesters were “subdued”. On Tuesday, 15 opposition supporters pleaded guilty to charges of participating in the illegal protest in the capital, but they denied charges that they were armed and had breached the peace. Kenya’s police chief said that they will hold an internal inquiry into the allegations against the police, but he maintained that officers intervened in order to rein in “lawlessness”.


Libya:

On 16 May, the United States and more than 15 other nations announced that they were willing to supply Libya’s internationally recognized government with weapons and training to fight ISIL. In this regard, these states plan to ask the UN to lift the arms embargo on Libya.

In a recent report, the International Migration Organisation (IOM) has said that the number of displaced people in Libya has reached 417,123, a total which is a result of three waves of displacement: the first taking place in 2011; the second from 2012 to mid-2014, and the third and largest, which began in mid-2014.

HRW released a report detailing the horrors occurring for Libyans living under ISIL control, citing kidnappings, crucifixions, executions, food shortages and forced prayer as examples of what they are forced to endure.


Mali:

Gunmen killed five Chadian peacekeepers with MINUSMA in a shootout following an ambush on their convoy on Wednesday. After the attack, MINUSMA captured three suspects and reported that they would be transported to the “relevant authorities”.

China has announced that it would deploy 395 peacekeeping troops to MINUSMA by the end of this month. The force will include medical workers, security officers, and military engineers.


Nigeria:

Amina Ali Nkeki has become the first of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls found in two years. She and other abducted girls were reportedly forced to convert to Islam and made to marry some of their captors and have their children. Other abducted women have reportedly been “brainwashed” by Boko Haram and forced to fight for the group.

The U.S. announced that it is prepared to sell at most 12 light attack aircraft to Nigeria in an attempt to aid Nigeria’s efforts against Boko Haram. This comes after the blocking of a sale of American-made attack helicopters from Israel less than two years ago due to human rights concerns. Human rights groups have criticized the proposed sale, claiming that President Buhari has not done enough to end the abuses and corruption in the military which were rampant during his predecessor, former President Goodluck.

Nigerian military forces have arrested several suspected Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) militants, who are thought to be behind the recent violence against oil pipelines in the country’s oil producing southern region.


South Sudan:

Two weeks after having formed the Transitional Government of National Unity with the rebels, ceasefire monitors say President Salva Kiir’s forces are still not cooperating with security monitors in implementing the security arrangements set forth in the peace agreement. Government forces have both refused to declare their numbers both in and outside of Juba.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramphosa landed in Juba on Monday to learn firsthand about the progress being made in the implementation of the August peace agreement.

On Monday, Ethiopian officials confirmed that dozens of children previously kidnapped by a South Sudanese militia group have been returned home after negotiations with the armed group. The children has been abducted several weeks ago in a cross-border raid into Ethiopia wherein 200 people were killed and 125 children were abducted. A further 32 children had been rescued by the South Sudanese government several days earlier. The Gambella region of Ethiopia, where the raid took place, is currently home to 280,000 South Sudanese refugees since 2013.

The UNHCR has released a statement noting the continued flow of Sudanese refugees into South Sudan. In the first two weeks of May, 2,114 refugees arrived in South Sudan from South Kordofan State, Sudan. This represents a 124% increase over the previous two weeks, with the UNHCR highlighting hunger, aerial bombardments, and ground attacks as the main reason given by those who fled.


Sudan/Darfur:

The UN and African Union officials urged Sudanese authorities to investigate recent attacks on an IDP camp that resulted in the killing of five people, including two children. The UN also stressed the importance of maintaining UNAMID’s mandate, which prioritizes the security and protection of civilians across Darfur, including the displaced.

Burkina Faso has announced that it plans to withdraw its troops deployed with UNAMID in Darfur in light of concerns over growing security threats in the Sahel-Saharan region. Currently, Burkina Faso has one battalion of 850 soldiers in Darfur.

The implementation of a security arrangement with 145 ex-rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement has begun in North Darfur. The rebels reported to a military training base in North Darfur, where they will will hand in their weapons and be compensated.

On Monday, the Sudanese government publicly welcomed a proposal put forward by two rebel groups to include Qatar in mediations currently being led by the African Union between the two opposing sides. Both the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) believe the inclusion of Qatar will allow for dialogue on certain topics relating to Darfur that the Sudanese Government has yet refused to discuss. However, later in the week, President Bashir publicly rejected the call to merge the African and Doha forums. He claimed it was an attempt by the rebel groups to circumvent the African Union peace plan, to which the two groups (JEM and SLM) are not party.

On Thursday, a Sudanese government official announced that Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, has applied for a US visa to attend the next United Nations General Assembly. It would be his first visit since his indictment by the ICC in 2009, having previously applied for a visa in 2014.


Syria:

On Tuesday, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which comprises the United States, the Russian Federation, the UN, the Arab League, the European Union, along with 16 countries, failed to come to agreement on a new date to resume the Syrian peace talks. Despite this, the ISSG remained firm on meeting the objective of meeting the target date of August 1, set by the UNSC, for the warring parties to reach an agreement on a framework for political transition. At the same time, the ISSG called on the World Food Program (WFP) to carry out a programme for air bridges and air drops for all areas in need, starting 1 June, if the UN is denied humanitarian access to any of the designated besieged areas.

Despite claiming to have begun a withdrawal of its forces from Syria in March, the Pentagon has stated that the Russian military remains firmly entrenched in the country and is even expanding in some areas. The Pentagon further noted that Russia is currently building a forward operating base in the ancient city of Palmyra.

On Wednesday, an aid convoy reached the besieged town of Harasta, where 10,000 people awaited the first aid delivery in four years under siege. This comes in light of the Syrian government previously denying an aid convoy to the besieged town of Daraya earlier in the week.

Violence escalated over the past weekend, as the fragile truce in Syria was strained in several locations. The Syrian government shelled several residential neighborhoods of the Daraya suburb of Damascus over the past weekend. Additional shelling and sniper fire took place in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Khan Eshieh, where 12,000 are currently trapped. Further fighting broke out in both Idlib province and around Aleppo.

Syrian government forces retook a hospital in Deir al-Zor after it was taken the day before by ISIL. ISIL controls the over-whelming majority of the eastern province and has been laying siege to the government controlled portions of the city since last March. ISIL has so far made several significant gains in the offensive, which if successful would end the presence of the Syrian government in eastern Syria. There are currently 200,000 civilians trapped in the besieged government controlled portion of the city.

On Wednesday, a Syrian regime air strike killed 13 civilians in Rastan, one of the last rebel strongholds in the central province of Homs.  Rastan has been under siege from government forces since 2012.

On Thursday, the Syrian government, in collaboration with Hezbollah as well as other allies, seized a large area southeast of Damascus in Eastern Ghouta. The seizure included the rebel-held town of Deir al-Asafir, which could serve as a bridgehead for further government advances into the province.

According to a senior Israeli official, Syria’s regime has used sarin nerve gas for the first time since 2013, dropping bombs laden with sarin on ISIL fighters outside Damascus. The use of the nerve gas is claimed to have happened roughly three weeks ago in order to halt an ISIL offensive set on seizing two air-bases located north-east of Damascus. If demonstratively proven, this use of sarin would show that  the Assad regime has retained the ability to gas its enemies, despite an agreement that supposedly disarmed Syria of its chemical arsenal.


Yemen:

Ten Yemeni journalists who are being detained by Houthi forces started a hunger strike to protest their maltreatment and torture.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, stated that the two parties had reached consensus on certain issues during the continuing peace talks in Kuwait. The parties have thus far discussed security arrangements and the political process needed to reach an agreement. However, on 17 May, Yemeni Foreign Minister, Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi, announced the suspension of peace talks, highlighting the Houthis refusal to abide by a UNSC resolution and stating “the talks are a waste of time and only used to amass forces of the militias.” Mr. Al-Mekhlafi called on the international community to step in to resume peace talks.

ISIL killed 31 police recruits in a suicide attack in the port of Mukalla, which was reclaimed by the Saudi-led Coalition last month.

John Ging, Director of Operations in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has reported that more than 13 million people are in need of immediate, life-saving assistance in Yemen.

Amnesty International has reported that Houthi rebels carried out arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances of their opponents, including political opposition figures, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and others between December 2014 and March 2016.


What else is new?

The U.S. government released a new Executive Order on the Atrocity Prevention Board, which “continues in place the Board established in 2012 as I [President Obama] directed in PSD-10, sets out the support to be afforded by executive departments, agencies, and offices, and updates and memorializes the terms on which the Board will continue to operate in the service of its important mission.”

To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the 2001 birth of the RtoP principle, the Canadian Centre for R2P is releasing a journal entitled “R2P Dispatch” in autumn 2016. For more information on the guidelines to submit your RtoP-related piece for consideration in the inaugural journal, please click here.

 

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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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