Tag Archives: UK

RtoP Weekly: 10 – 14 September 2018

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This week in focus: The RtoP Weekly Reboot

Over the past few weeks, the ICRtoP team has been working hard to develop a new approach to the RtoP Weekly. We want the Weekly to be useful and informative to you, as readers, on RtoP-related news around the world, but also to be a tool for engagement, both intellectually and with other actors in the field. We will continue to feature important updates, but hope to present a wider variety of content as well, featuring members of the Coalition, work they are doing, but also grow and deepen how we understand and engage with the RtoP doctrine.

We’re excited about the changes, and look forward to refining them over the coming weeks. In this vein, we are also asking for your help through submitting your feedback on these updates in a two-minute survey by clicking here.


What to Watch:

Burma: Q&A: Justice for International Crimes in Myanmar (Human Rights Watch)

In August 2018, the United Nations (UN) Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar published a 20-page report denouncing grave breaches of international law in the country, including alleged crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes against Rohingya. In addition, the report also put forward a series of suggestions to bring perpetrators to justice, such as a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the establishment of ad hoc tribunals. Burmese authorities have denied mission’s findings, which will be presented along with the full report to the UN Human Rights Council on 18 September.

Burma: New UN rights chief wants criminal charges in Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide (AFP)

In her first discourse as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has called for the establishment of an independent international mechanism to prepare criminal proceedings for human rights violations perpetrated against the Rohingya population in Burma similar to the one created for Syria. She requested the UN Human Rights Council to consider a resolution and bring the issue to the UN General Assembly in order to successfully create this mechanism, which will, “expedite fair and independent trials in national and international courts” and improve accountability.

United Kingdom: A comprehensive atrocity prevention strategy more vital than ever, say MPs(Global Britain)

On 10 September 2018, Britain’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee issued a report on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and humanitarian intervention. In the document, the Committee analyzes the potential dire consequences of inaction in Syria and the ways in which the UK could improve its role regarding the prevention of mass atrocities. The report requests that the government develop a plan to prevent mass atrocity crimes by next April; reduce the use of veto in situations of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes; update its protection strategies in contexts of armed conflict; and clarify the circumstances in which a humanitarian intervention can be conducted so that such campaigns are well founded. Finally, the report also calls on the government to abide by the 2013 French proposal of limiting the exercise of the UK’s use of the veto in the UN Security Council in situations at risk or involving ongoing atrocity crimes.

UNSC and RtoP: The UN Security Council’s Implementation of the Responsibility to Protect: A Review of Past Interventions and Recommendations for Improvement (Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)

ICRtoP Member, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) published a policy brief this week by Jared Genser, Managing Director of Perseus Strategies. The brief explores factors that impact successful UN Security Council responses to an atrocity situation and found that freedom from government obstruction, regional cooperation, and rapid response capacities are vital for successful RtoP implementation by the Council.

UNHRC and 70th Anniversary of Genocide Convention: Human Rights Council holds high-level panel on the seventieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (OHCHR)

On 13 September, a High Level Panel Discussion was convened at the UN Human Rights Council to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. During the event, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, made a statement noting that genocide is still “a threat and a reality” and emphasizing the need for States to concentrate their efforts on the “warning signs” for the sake of prevention. Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, added that,  throughout history, “Genocide was not an accident, nor was it inevitable. It was the inaction of the international community in addressing the warning signs that allowed it to become a reality.” Moreover, High Commissioner Bachelet and other panelists highlighted the importance of accountability and transitional justice in order to end impunity and prevent recurrence. pointing to the International Criminal Court as an important body and pillar for ending impunity and contributing to prevention efforts.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, on the decision of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber on the jurisdiction over the crime of deportation of the Rohingya population from Myanmar (United Nations)
UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng issued a statement welcoming the ICC’s decision that it does indeed have jurisdiction over the alleged forced deportation of Rohingya from Burma.

Burma: UN granted access to Myanmar villages to investigate Rohingya abuses (CNN)
The Burmese government has granted four UN agencies access to the Rakhine State, as outlined in the the Memorandum of Understanding for the repatriation of Rohingya from Bangladesh.

Burundi: Burundi under fire at the UN for expelling UN human rights team (Reuters)
Burundi continues to face criticism at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva for the government’s failure to cooperate with Council-mandated investigative teams intended to collect information on alleged human rights violations in the country.

Cameroon: Cameroon Women Rally to Demand End to Violence (Voice of America)
Women marched this week to demand an end to the violence and atrocities that have been affecting their communities, calling on the government and armed groups to engage in peaceful dialogues.

Nigeria: Nigeria: Release presidential panel report to ensure transparency and accountability (Amnesty International)
Amnesty International has called on the Nigerian government to release the findings of the presidential panel investigation into alleged human rights violations committed by national forces.

South Sudan: ICRC: Cease-fire in South Sudan Appears to be Holding (Voice of America)
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reported that there has been a decrease in violence in South Sudan since warring parties signed a peace agreement earlier this month.

Yemen: Fighting resumes in Yemen’s Hodeidah as peace talks stall (Reuters)
Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Hodeidah have resumed to regain control of the city, as the Houthi delegation failed to appear at the UN peace talks in Geneva.


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After the Double Veto: International Community Must Re-Double Efforts to Uphold RtoP in Syria

For the second time since the nearly year-long crackdown in Syria began, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on the situation. The draft resolution, premised on the 22 January Arab League plan calling for President Assad’s transition from power and the formation of a unity government, was introduced by Morocco, with the support of Western and Arab states, and tabled on 26 January. Extensive negotiations and concessions, however, were not enough to prevent the veto from being employed. Given this failure to reach a consensus, actors at all levels, extending from the national to the international, must re-double their efforts to halt these gross human rights violations in Syria.

Extensive Negotiations Not Enough to Prevent Veto

The Council sat to vote on the resolution at 11:00 a.m. on 4 February. It was uncertain how the vote would unfold in the lead up to the meeting, especially with regards to Russia’s potential veto, and how China, India, South Africa, and Pakistan would vote, particularly as India and South Africa had abstained in a vote on an earlier draft resolution on 4 October 2011.

When the vote was called, 13 Security Council members voted in favour of the draft, which included Morocco, India, Pakistan, Colombia, Guatemala, France, Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States, Azerbaijan, Togo, and South Africa. Despite this broad support for the draft resolution, Russia and China prevented the Council from taking any action by employing their veto powers.

The draft resolution went through a series of negotiations between 27 January and 4 February, as supporters made a number of amendments attempting to appease the “red lines” of the Russian delegation and prevent the use of the veto.

Among the provisions dropped were explicit references to the specifics of the Arab League plan regarding President Assad delegation of power. Operative clauses that stated Member States could pursue measures like arms embargoes and economic sanctions in cooperation with the Arab League were also removed from the draft.

These amendments were included in the final draft of the resolution. Though Council Members awaited Russian changes ahead of the vote on the evening of 3 February, these amendments did not return to the Council until 4 February, moments ahead of the scheduled vote. According to Reuters, Western diplomats said that the changes were “unacceptable, and the vote proceeded without them.

Russia, China Explain Double Veto – Again

In the wake of the vote, both Russia and China have sought to defend and explain their use of the veto.

Addressing the Security Council after casting the veto, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, stated while his country had been working towards a resolution of the crisis in a non-violent manner, some other Council Members had not:

“Some influential members of the international community, unfortunately, including those sitting around this table, from the very beginning of this process have been undermining the opportunity for political settlement, calling for regime change, pushing the opposition towards power,  and not stopping their provocation, and feeding armed methods of struggle.”

Ambassador Churkin said that Russia was thus opposed to the draft resolution because it was “unbalanced” and did not reflect the amendments it had presented before going to a vote. In an interview with RT on 7 February, Ambassador Churkin stated the resolution could have passed with two or three more days of extended discussions. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, echoed this in his defence of using the veto, stating that it did not impose balanced demands on the armed opposition to cease violence, and that it would have obstructed a Syrian-led political process.

Ambassador Li Baodong, Permanent Representative of China to the UN, towed the Russian line at the Council, stating that the resolution put “undue emphasis on pressuring the Syrian government”, which would prejudge the outcome of a Syrian-led political process. Ambassador Baodong said that Council Members were still seriously divided over the draft resolution, and that hastily moving towards a vote without reflecting the amendments made by the Russian delegation ultimately led to the use of their veto. The Ambassador’s statement was quoted near-verbatim in a Xinhua report that explained China’s veto.

Supporting Council Members Condemn Double Veto

Council Members who supported the draft resolution were quick to condemn Russia and China in their addresses in the aftermath of the vote.

UK’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, said that his country was “appalled” that Russia and China would veto an “otherwise-consensus resolution” submitted and supported by a wide array of actors, including a number of regional states.

In his statement on behalf of Morocco, which tabled the initial draft resolution, Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki expressed his “great regret and disappointment” that the Council was unable to act unanimously.

US Ambassador Susan Rice said that her country was “disgusted” by the fact that the Russian and Chinese delegations continue to hold the Council “hostage” over Syria, while standing behind “empty arguments and individual interests” as they delay action in the country. Ambassador Rice called the “intransigence” of Russia and China “shameful”, as she noted that, “at least one of these members continues to deliver weapons to Assad.”

Ambassador Gérard Araud of France called 4 February, “a sad day”, and condemned Russia and China for their vetoes, stating, “They are doing this with a full knowledge of the tragic consequences entailed by their decisions for the Syrian people. They are doing this and making themselves complicit in the policy of repression carried out by the Assad regime.”

India and South Africa Voice Cautious Support

On 4 October 2011, both India and South Africa abstained from the vote on an earlier draft resolution on the situation in Syria, largely paving the way for the first Russia-China double veto. In a rather surprising move both countries voted in favour of the draft resolution on 4 February, voting separately from Russia and China in the Council. Pakistan also voted in favour of the resolution.

Explaining his country’s cautious support for the resolution, Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, Permanent Representative of India to the UN, stated that it was “in accordance with our support for the efforts by the Arab League for the peaceful resolution of the crisis through a Syrian-led inclusive political process.” Puri also noted that the resolution strictly ruled out the use of force to respond to the situation, which India stood opposed to in negotiations.

Ambassador Baso Sangqu, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN, echoed the statement made by Ambassador Puri, noting his country’s support for a Syrian-led process, the emphasis on the Arab League’s involvement, and the restriction against the use of force.

Civil Society Organizations Call Double Veto ‘Betrayal’

Throughout the course of the negotiations, civil society organizations had urged Council members, particularly Russia and China, not to employ their vetoes against the draft resolution. Later, both Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the double veto by Russia and China a “betrayal” of the Syrian people.

In a press release issued in the wake of the vote, HRW UN Director Philippe Bolopion said:

“After weeks of Russian diplomatic games-playing and in the middle of a bloodbath in Homs, vetoes by Moscow and Beijing are simply incendiary…they are not only a slap in the face of the Arab League, they are also a betrayal of the Syrian people. The Russian government is not only unapologetically arming a government that is killing its own people, but also providing it with diplomatic cover.”

Salil Shetty, AI’s Secretary-General, said in a presser that Russia and China’s use of veto was “completely irresponsible” in the face of an already-watered-down draft resolution.

What’s Next for Syria?

Despite disagreement over the draft resolution, Council members vowed to remain seized of the situation in Syria at the Council.  But with the UN Security Council sidelined by the double veto, it remains unclear how the international response to the situation in Syria will unfold. In the mean time, Syrian security forces have stepped up their efforts to quell the opposition, including shelling the city of Homs with artillery fire, leading to many civilian casualties across the country.

Russia carried through with its plan to send Minister Lavrov and Mikhail Fradkov, the head of the External Intelligence Agency, to hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. Reuters reported Minister Lavrov as saying that Assad had presented constitutional reforms in their discussions, and that the Syrian President was willing to carry them out in order to end the bloodshed. According to the BBC, Lavrov said that Damascus was ready for a larger Arab League monitoring mission to observe efforts to end the crisis. The killing continued in the wake of Russia’s meet with Assad, however, with reports of continued government shelling in Homs.

Meanwhile, Western and Arab states increased diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime. In response to the recent surge in violence, the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have expelled all Syrian ambassadors, recalled their own envoys, and called on the League of Arab States to exercise “all decisive measures” to end the bloodshed in Syria. The United States responded by closing its Embassy in Syria, and a number of Western countries, including United Kingdom and Canada, have ratcheted up diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime and Moscow.

UN Officials have also spoken out against the recent violence, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemning the assault of Homs on 7 February, calling it “totally unacceptable before humanity”, and urging the Assad regime to cease using force against civilians. On 8 February, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the Syrian government’s indiscriminate attacks against civilians, and reminded the international community of their responsibility to protect Syrian civilians.

Pillay’s reminder is all too important: Despite the failure to reach consensus at the UN Security Council, actors at all levels continue to have a responsibility to protect civilians form genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. From the Syrian authorities to regional and international organizations, all must work together to prevent further attacks against Syrian civilians.

ICRtoP Blog’s Syria Resolution Catalogue

27 January – Syria Update: Security Council Set to Discuss New Draft Resolution Amidst Continued Russian Opposition

31 January – Arab League Secretary-General, Qatari Prime Minister to Brief Security Council as Members Grapple with Recent Draft Resolution

2 February – After Extraordinary Security Council Session, Members Continue to Debate Arab League Plan to Resolve Crisis, Civil Society Urges No Veto

3 February – Syria Update: Council to Vote on Amended Draft Resolution Put “In Blue”

4 February – BREAKING: Syria Resolution Vetoed by Russia, China

Post researched and written by Evan Cinq-Mars. Editing by Rachel Shapiro and Megan Schmidt. 

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Syria: After Extraordinary Security Council Session, Members Continue to Debate Arab League Plan to Resolve Crisis, Civil Society Urges No Veto

–Updated below–

The United Nations Security Council met on 31 January in an extraordinary session on the situation in Syria, with Council members debating the recent draft resolution circulated by Morocco. The Council was briefed by the Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, and Nabil Elaraby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.

The Qatari Prime Minister expounded Syria in his address to the Council for avoiding cooperation with the Arab League and failing to implement multiple initiatives by the organization to resolve the crisis. Instead, al-Thani stated that, “the only solution available to it [the Syrian government] was to kill its own people. The fact of the matter is that bloodshed has continued and the killing machine is still at work.

Qatari PM Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani briefs the Council (UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

Both al-Thani and Arab League Secretary-General Elaraby were resolute in making clear that the draft resolution being negotiated by the Council was not a pretext for military intervention in Syria, and included no such authorization to use force in the country. Stressing the importance of a peaceful political settlement of the crisis, Elaraby urged the Council in his remarks to support the current Arab League initiative by passing the draft resolution.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Alain Juppé, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, and Ministers from Germany, Portugal, Guatemala, and Morocco also addressed the Council, highlighting the importance attached to the Council’s deliberations of this draft resolution on the situation in Syria.

In his address Juppé chided the Security Council for its “scandalous silence” on the Syrian matter. The French Foreign Minister was also the first to mention the Responsibility to Protect at the Council meeting, stating:

Each State has the responsibility to protect its civilian population. Not content with failing to protect its people, the Syrian regime despicably massacres them without restraint. This behavior has direct consequences on international peace and security: thousands of refugees are fleeing the fighting, violations of the sovereignty of neighboring states, heightened ethnic tensions, so many direct repercussions on the stability of an already fragile region. Without even mentioning the responsibility to protect, these regional consequences are enough to establish the Security Council’s responsibility.

Harold Caballeros, the Guatemalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, joined France in affirming his country’s support for the Responsibility to Protect, stating:

We understand that popular demands expressed in a pacific manner cannot be equated with a Government that uses force to address those demands. That is why, in an era when the principle of the Responsibility to Protect is being questioned, we are not ashamed to affirm that…we support that principle.

Those speaking in support of the resolution were staunch in their condemnation of the Assad regime and the continued violence in country, and put their full weight behind the Arab League plan. In attempting to assuage Russian concerns, Secretary Clinton, Minister Juppé, Minister Hague and other Ministers and Permanent Representatives were adamant that the draft resolution did not authorize the threat or use of force to intervene in Syria, and instead was focused on finding a political settlement that ended the violence and realized the aspirations of the Syrian people.

Russia, who has put up the most resistance to the current draft resolution, offered its reservations at the Council, with Permanent Representative Ambassador Vitaly Churkin asserting that the process to resolve the crisis must be Syrian-led, and must not include economic sanctions or the use of force. “The Council cannot impose the parameters for an internal political settlement,” said Ambassador Churkin, “it simply does not have the mandate to do so.”

Ambassador Li Baodong, Permanent Representative of China to the UN, affirmed his country’s support of Russia’s position towards the draft resolution, going as far as saying that it “fully supportedRussia’s draft resolution, circulated on 15 December 2011, while only “taking note” of the Arab League plan. The Russian draft, which placed equal blame for the violence on the government and “extremist groups”, was criticized by Council members as being too lenient towards the Assad regime.

Both India and South Africa echoed the concerns expressed by Russia and China, and emphasized the need for a Syrian-led process without outside interference. Referencing the intervention in Libya, Ambassador Baso Sanqu, South Africa’s Permanent Representative, also affirmed the need to avoid the use of military force.

The Council debates the situation in Syria. (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

Negotiations continued on the draft resolution on 1 February at the UN Security Council, with Permanent Representatives debating its content. Security Council Report’s What’s In Blue reported that the divisive issue, “remains the political transition process as defined by the Arab League”, while other issues that remain unresolved include:

  • Preambulatory clause pp 8 of the draft resolution, which calls on members to halt the flow of arms into Syria;
  • Operative clause 13, which calls on all States to adopt similar measures taken by the Arab League – bilateral sanctions, for example – and cooperate with the League in the implementation of those measures, and;
  • Operative clause 15, which states that the Security Council should adopt further measures, in cooperation with the Arab League, if the Syrian government does not implement the resolution within 15 days

A recent draft of the resolution, obtained and published by Inner City Press, shows the state of negotiations on its clauses amongst Council members.

As evident in the draft, preambulatory paragraph 8, which expresses “grave concern at the continued transfer of weapons into Syria” and “calls on Member States to take necessary steps to prevent such flow of arms”, has been crossed out. Although the text did not explicitly include the imposition of an arms embargo, this change reflects one of Russia’s “red lines” in the negotiations. The Washington Post reported that Russia would continue to sell arms to Syria, with Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov affirming it would honour its “obligations” to the Assad government.

Operative clauses 7 a-c – which provide for the formation of a unity government, the delegation of Assad’s powers to a Deputy, and the holding of free and fair elections – have also been dropped from the text. As a Reuters report indicates, the changes reflect both Russia and China’s uncertainty towards the imposition of a political settlement in Syria by the Arab League and their opposition of forced regime change.

However, while the draft resolution has dropped text calling for Assad to hand over power, it still supports the Arab League’s 22 January decision to facilitate a political transition. As reported by the BBC, “Western diplomats say this means that while the draft no longer mentions the details of the Arab plan, it still clearly backs the substance.

The revisions apparently reflect an effort by the United States, European Union Council members, and Arab allies to drop more the more contentious measures of the resolution in exchange for Russian support, according to The Washington Post’s Colum Lynch. The Associated Press reported Council members would continue to discuss the revised draft behind closed doors on 2 February, and it remains unclear whether the changes will be enough to garner Russia’s support despite the revisions.

With Western and Arab nations engaged in the equivalent of a diplomatic full-court press to dissuade Russia from vetoing the draft resolution, civil society also spoke out against the employment of the veto. On 1 February, Amnesty International (AI) called on Russia not to block international efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria, with the organization’s representative to the UN stating:

Russia’s threats to abort a binding UN Security Council resolution on Syria for the second time are utterly irresponsible…Russia must work with other Security Council members to pass a strong and legally binding resolution that will help to end the bloodshed and human rights violations in Syria once and for all.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) also issued a press release on 1 February, which called on members of the Security Council to uphold their Responsibility to Protect. Specifically, GCR2P called on Russia to abstain from using its veto as crimes against humanity continue in Syria.

Efforts to sway Security Council members to resolve the crisis and protect Syrian lives turned to South Africa as well, with Daniel Bekele and Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch urging the country “to do the right thing for Syria”. Noting South Africa’s opposition to the West’s implementation of Resolution 1973 in Libya and fear of a similar overreach in Syria, Bekele and Bolopion assert that the current draft resolution “provides absolutely no authorisation for military intervention in Syria.” As such, the authors call on South Africa not to settle political scores with the West over Libya, but to act in support of the Arab League in Syria.

Updates on 2 February Permanent Representative-level negotiations to come shortly. Follow this site, and our Twitter account (@ICRtoP). 

UPDATE (02/02/2012 @ 10:00 PM EST): The Washington Post reported that Permanent Representatives failed to reach a consensus on the revised draft resolution during negotiations on 2 February. According to the story, however, the document will be “put in blue” – meaning that it could be voted on within 24 hours if no further amendments are made – by the Moroccan mission and sent to national capitals of the Council members for further consideration.

Reuters reports that during negotiations, Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin allegedly threatened to veto any resolution submitted on Friday that included in the text that it “fully supports” the Arab League plan for a political transition in Syria. In the media scrum after the debate, Council members disagreed on the progress made. The Permanent Representatives (PR) of Pakistan and Togo thought that the Council was close to achieving consensus on the draft, but Ambassador Susan Rice, PR of the United States, did not share their opinions. Meanwhile, according to Inner City Press, when asked about how the negotiations went, India’s PR was quoted as saying, “not so well“.

Despite being sent to capitals, it remains unclear whether there will be a vote on the resolution before week’s end. The BBC reported that Colombia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations confirmed that negotiations would continue on Friday, 3 February.


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