Tag Archives: Ukraine

#R2P Weekly:7-11 September 2015


General Assembly Holds 7th Informal Dialogue on RtoP;  ICRtoP & Partners Hold Event Exploring Priorities for Norm Over Next Decade

Tuesday, 9 September 2015, UN Member States gathered to discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Responsibility to Protect, “A Vital and Enduring Commitment: Implementing the Responsibility to Protect.” (Read a summary of the report here.)

Sixty-nine Member States spoke on behalf of 91 governments, with one regional organization (the EU) also participating. Several civil society organizations gave interventions, including the ICRtoP and three of its members (the Global, Asia-Pacific, and Canadian Centres for RtoP). Thirty delegations called for the Security Council to not block resolutions aimed at preventing or responding to atrocity crimes by welcoming either the ACT Code of Conduct or the French and Mexico political declaration. At least 16 states, as well as the Group of Friends of RtoP, showed support for a General Assembly resolution on the ten-year anniversary of the norm, while 26 others welcomed and encouraged the expansion of the R2P Focal Points initiative.

fadiICRtoP Steering Committee Member Fadi Abi Allam of Permanent Peace Movement (Lebanon) delivered a statement on behalf of the ICRtoP. The ICRtoP emphasized the need to further show how RtoP relates to other sectors; urged the Security Council to better assume its RtoP by not blocking resolutions designed to prevent or respond to atrocities; and called for the General Assembly to adopt a resolution on the ten-year anniversary of the norm.

Check back next week for a full summary of the dialogue.

The day after the dialogue, the ICRtoP, the Stanley Foundation, and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung held an event titled “The Responsibility to Protect at Ten: Perspectives and Opportunities.” The purpose of the event was to focus on opportunities to further mainstream RtoP within other sectors and enhance capacity for addressing new civilian protection challenges.

Dr. Jennifer Welsh, the UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, delivered introductory remarks, in which she reflected on key themes of the General Assembly dialogue and noted areas of opportunity for implementing RtoP in the future.

Other speakers included Erin Mooney, Senior Protection Adviser for the UN and ProCap, who spoke on how protection assistance for the displaced and refugees could be enhanced through implementing RtoP; Alex Hiniker, UN representative of PAX, who provided ideas on how disarmament/arms control initiatives and RtoP could work together to protect populations; and Alex Bellamy, Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for RtoP, who discussed how measures to counter violent extremism could impact atrocities prevention and response.

The ICRtoP and its co-sponsors will soon produce a full report on the event.

Catch up on developments in…

Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo

South Sudan


Human Rights Watch urged the government to publicly condemn the Border and Security Affairs Minister of the Mandalay Region Parliamentarian, Dr. Myint Kyu, who spoke out against gay men and transgender women and called on police to arrest them. The Burmese election campaign began on Tuesday and excluded Muslim candidates from the ballot while wiping an estimated 500,000 Rohingya from the voter list.


Patrice Gahungu, the spokesperson for the opposition party Union for Peace and Development (UPD) – Zigamibanga, was assassinated on Monday evening in Bujumbura.The Chairman of the UPD was murdered earlier this year.

Burundi, whose budget is 52 percent donor funded, formally received notifications that aid from European countries, the United States, and various key aid agencies would be suspended. Meanwhile, early in his controversial third term, reports are emerging that President Pierre Nkurunziza is deepening ties with the governments of China and Russia.

Central African Republic:

The UN established a “weapons-free zone” in Bambari to protect civilians from militant groups involved in inter-religious clashes, which have killed more than 10 people in the month of August and have displaced more than 800,000 people during  two years of violence.

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Ahead of upcoming presidential elections, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) stated that human rights violations by DRC authorities are increasing, with journalists and activists being targeted specifically.


The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, urged all Palestinian leaders and factions to use the postponement of the Palestine National Council meeting to take constructive steps towards achieving unity. Though the meeting of the Council was scheduled to take place next week in Ramallah, a new date has not yet been set for what will be the first gathering of the Council in nearly 20 years.


After the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) resumed its armed campaign against Turkey by targeting police and military officers and killing more than 100 people in the past 50 days, Turkey deployed ground forces and launched a wave of airstrikes into Iraq to pursue Kurdish militants in the first such action since the 2013 Kurdish-Turkey ceasefire.


The International Criminal Court on Thursday announced public arrest warrants against Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett on accusations of “corruptly influencing witnesses” in the case against Kenyan deputy Prime Minister, William Ruto, for crimes against humanity.


The General National Congress (GNC) called for a regional conference to deal with the “migrant” influx crisis. UN Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino Leon, reported that the talks aimed at uniting Libya’s two warring governments are entering the last round and that there is hope of signing a deal by 20 September. Later in the week, Bernardino Leon met ten leaders from each of Libya’s three historic provinces in Cairo, then headed back to Morocco for final talks aimed at naming the prime minister and two deputy prime ministers to head the new Government of National Accord.


Malian Special Forces arrested three jihadi suspects after recent attacks against MINUSMA. Despite the signing of a peace deal in June, ongoing conflict in northern Mali and consequent insecurity has increasingly threatened the livelihood of millions. UNOCHA reported that an estimated 3.1 million people are considered to be “food insecure” and roughly 54,000 people are without adequate access to potable water.


The Nigerian military arrested a number of suspects who were caught allegedly carrying fuel and drugs for Boko Haram in Yobe state. IOM released its 5th Displacement Tracking Matrix, which reported an increase in internally displaced people to over 2.1 million from  the 1.3 million recorded in June. IOM attributed the increase to the intensification of attacks by insurgents in the north.

South Sudan:

The South Sudanese parliament warned that it would reject the recently agreed to Compromise Peace Agreement if it were found to violate national sovereignty; however, when tabled later in the week, the parliament unanimously voted to adopt the deal.


ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch released a report stating that the Sudanese government’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), has gone on two episodes of killings and mass rape of civilians in dozens of Darfur villages since February of last year. HRW urged the government to end RSF atrocities and bring those responsible to justice; the abuses have found to be widespread, varying, and systematic against civilian populations and may constitute crimes against humanity. HRW also underscored that existing peacekeeping forces have not fully carried out their mandate of protecting civilians and have seldom released public reports or comprehensive documentation on abuses against civilians during any RSF counterinsurgency campaigns.

Judges at the ICC asked South African authorities to account for their failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir this summer during his travels to the country.


Syrian rebel militants from a coalition of mainly Islamist groups, including the al-Nusra front,seized key Abu al-Duhur airbase in north-western Idlib province after a two year siege.

Amnesty International reported that the Democratic Union Party (PYD)-led autonomous administration in northern Syria has been unlawfully detaining and unfairly trying peaceful critics and civilians believed to be sympathizers or members of alleged terrorist groups.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted that the UN Security Council is failing Syria due to power divisions preventing action to end the conflict. He said that Russia and China should “look beyond national interest” and stop blocking Security Council action on the conflict in Syria. Additionally, the United Nations Special Envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called for “a real discussion” to end the conflict in Syria.

After the United States and NATO warned Russia over its involvement in the Syrian conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed that humanitarian aid flights to Syria also carry military equipment. Separately, Lavrov stated that Russian military advisers have been in Syria, but that their presence has been a part of a longstanding agreement to provide the country with military aid.


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, declared that nearly 8,000 people have lost their lives in eastern Ukraine since mid-April 2014, as he released the 11th report by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. The report states that the number of civilian casualties more than doubled this past month, in comparison with the previous three months.

The Ukrainian government, though not a member of the International Criminal Court, voluntarily accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC backdated to early 2014 and accused “senior officials of the Russian Federation” and rebel leaders of committing atrocities during the annexation of Crimea and fighting in eastern Ukraine.


Around 1,000 soldiers from Qatar’s Armed Forces, more than 200 armored vehicles, and 30 Apache combat helicopters deployed to Yemen as part of the Saudi-led coalition’s fight against Houthi rebels. War planes from the coalition bombed the capital of Sanaa in the largest attack on the city in over five months.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, released an emergency fund of $15 million to help alleviate the “almost incomprehensible” scale of human suffering in Yemen, where four out of five people are lacking the most basic survival items such as clean water, food, fuel and medicines. In addition, the Secretary-General and members of the Security Council strongly condemned the suicide attack of September 2 against a mosque in the northern Jarraf district of Sana’a in Yemen that killed 30 and injured 100.

What else is new?

In a new analysis for the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory, the Asia Pacific Center for the R2P’s Alex Bellamy highlighted that “one of the most straightforward and effective measures that could be adopted in fulfillment of RtoP is the provision of safe passage and asylum to those fleeing” the Syrian conflict.

ICRtoP member International Crisis Group released a report detailing how the rise of Christian and Muslim fundamentalist movements in Cameroon is rapidly changing the religious landscape and paving the way for religious intolerance.

International Crisis Group also issued a conflict alert for Nepal, stating that  protests against a draft constitution have left 23 dead and hundreds injured in Nepal in two weeks.

War crimes prosecutors in Serbia charged eight people over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. This is the first time that a court in Serbia has charged anyone over the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys by Bosnian-Serb forces.

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Clarifying the Protection Debate in the Crimean Peninsula

Russian Intervention and Justification

Recently, the world has watched tensely as the situation in the Crimean territory of Ukraine reached a dangerous point of volatility. Upheaval that began with the EuroMaidan protests led to the ouster of Russian-backed President Yanukovych, who was swiftly replaced by an interim coalition government.  Long a strategic and symbolically important region, Russia wasted little time descending on the autonomous Crimean Peninsula.  The rhetoric of Russian authorities would suggest that the intervention was necessary for the protection of the Russian-speaking population, allegedly threatened by ultranationalist elements of the new Ukrainian government. In early March, President Vladimir Putin appealed for the use of military force in such terms:

In connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots, and the personnel of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory (in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) … I submit a proposal on using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine until the normalization of the socio-political situation in the that country,


Unidentified soldiers believed to be from Russia on patrol at Simferopol Airport in the Crimea Peninsula. Elizabeth Arrott/VOA

In the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed the protection argument:

“I reiterate, we are talking here about protection of our citizens and compatriots, about protection of the most fundamental of the human rights – the right to live, and nothing more,”

The recent referendum paved the way for an official Russian annexation of its former territory, assured to Ukraine in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum after previously being given by Nikita  Khrushchev in 1954.


Russia’s Past Misuse of RtoP vs. Current Rhetoric

Commentators in various media outlets have been quick to denounce Russia’s legal justification for the intervention. Many have likened Russia’s rhetoric to the language used to justify their actions in Georgia during 2008. At that time, Russian leaders explicitly linked their motives to the Responsibility to Protect. Then, Lavrov clearly stated:

According to our Constitution there is also responsibility to protect – the term which is very widely used in the UN when people see some trouble in Africa or in any remote part of other regions…the laws of the Russian Federation make it absolutely unavoidable to us to exercise responsibility to protect.

Such articles have rightly emphasized that, as in Georgia, Russia’s actions in Ukraine do not constitute an RtoP-style intervention. For starters, the interpretation of RtoP endorsed by all countries at the 2005 World Summit pertains only to the four mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Thus far, there is no evidence that any of these crimes have occurred or are in imminent danger of occurring in relation to ethnic Russians. Furthermore, any military intervention must also be authorized by the Security Council.  In this case, Russia has acted unilaterally.

While it is important to clarify that Russia’s actions cannot be justified in RtoP terms, it is equally important to note that Russian leaders have not made specific reference to RtoP. When they attempted this rhetorical approach in 2008, they faced strong backlash from state and civil society advocates of the norm. An examination of Russian rhetoric throughout the current crisis reveals that, instead, the language has focused on preventing violence and protecting the human rights of Russians. Explicit mention of RtoP has been noticeably absent.  In its current phase – when one of the primary challenges facing RtoP is its normalization into international politics – such discursive subtleties are significant.


Violations of International Law and the Threat to Minorities

This is not to say that Russia’s intervention is moral or indeed legal. The intervention is a flagrant violation of an international diplomatic agreement, namely the Budapest Memorandum. This agreement committed Russia and other signatories (Ukraine, The United States and the United Kingdom) to refraining from the use of force to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. Furthermore, as an occupying force Russia must abide by international humanitarian and human rights law regarding their conduct under such circumstances. Any violation committed by local authorities or proxy forces can in fact be considered Russia’s responsibility. The conditions under which the secession referendum was held has also raised questions over the validity and legitimacy of the results.

Press Conference by Permanent Representative of Ukraine, with leaders of minority groups in Ukraine.

Press Conference by Permanent Representative of Ukraine, with leaders of minority groups in Ukraine. UN Photo.

The case can certainly be made that minorities are under threat in Crimea, though not necessarily groups identified by Russian authorities. While the Ukrainian government’s decision to repeal a law ensuring Russian language rights was controversial, it has since been reinstated. However, there is a real concern that Crimea’s Muslim Tatar population – long the subject of persecution and even mass deportation under Stalin – may face backlash and discrimination for their support of the Ukrainian government, as the result of Russian annexation. ICRtoP member Minority Rights Group Internationalhas already documented incidents reminiscent of those experienced under the Soviet regime. A recent press release warned:

“Minorities and indigenous peoples, in particular the Crimean Tatars, an indigenous community of approximately 300,000 in the peninsula, are becoming more and more exposed to intimidation and violence. Recently, doors of Crimean Tatar residents were marked by X, a sign evoking memories of their 1944 deportation to Central Asia during the Stalin regime.”

The release continues to note media involvement in inciting discrimination, as well as evidence of increased militarization witnessed in the formation of Crimean self-defence groups. Human Rights Watch has also been monitoring these developments, warning of unaccountable militant groups that have been implicated in acts of torture and disappearances. Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director stressed:

“Crimean authorities are allowing illegal and unidentified armed units to run the show in the peninsula, and to commit crimes that go uninvestigated and unpunished, as if there is a legal vacuum.”

In such an environment of impunity, with ethnic tensions running high and the ever-present risk of Russian and Ukrainian military action, a peaceful settlement to the conflict is essential for avoiding an escalation in violence.


Looking Ahead: Overcoming the Security Council Impasse for Peaceful Settlement

With Russia’s involvement in the conflict, it will be difficult to pass any Security Council resolution.  A previous draft urged the protection of the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, while also committing parties to protect the rights of minorities. Unsurprisingly, Russia exercised its veto to strike down the motion. ICRtoP member The World Federalist Movement – Institute of Global Policy issued a statement to General Assembly (GA) member states regarding the use of the veto as set out in Article 27 of the UN Charter, and urged action in the face of its misuse:

79th plenary meeting of the General Assembly 68th session

A view of the electronic board displaying the votes of member states at a General Assembly Plenary Session on Ukraine. UN Photo.

The veto is not to be used when a permanent member is party to a dispute before the Security Council. The veto of 15 March 2014 is another example of permanent members using the veto contrary to the purposes and principles, letter and spirit of the UN Charter…It is imperative the larger membership instruct and confront the Security Council when it takes decisions not in accordance with the UN Charter.”

On March 27, 2014 a resolution put forward by Ukraine and 50 co-sponsors was approved by the GA, supporting Ukraine’s position and deeming the referendum that led to Russian annexation invalid.

Other measures to de-escalate the crisis have been taken by UN and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) officials. A team of UN human rights monitors have been dispatched and the OSCE has officially announced an observer mission. Furthermore, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reportedly reached a preliminary agreement with the Ukrainian government on the establishment of an international commission aimed at resolving the crisis. Such measures could contribute to a peaceful settlement and avoid wider human rights abuses.


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