Tag Archives: UN Security Council

#R2PWeekly: 12 – 16 September 2016

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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


Burundi:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:
 

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

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


Iraq:

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

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


Libya:

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

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


Mali:

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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


What else is new?:

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

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

 

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#R2PWeekly: 22 – 26 August 2016

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UNGA to hold interactive dialogue on RtoP

On 6 September, the United Nations General Assembly will meet for its 8th annual UNGA Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect. The informal, interactive dialogue was first convened in 2009, following the Secretary-General’s first report on RtoP. Member States have met each year since that date to discuss the latest annual report and reflect on the advancement of the norm. This year, Member States, regional organizations, and civil society groups will meet to discuss and reflect on the Secretary-General’s latest report, focusing on a vision for collective action in the future implementation of the norm.

General Assembly Discusses Responsibility to ProtectThis year’s report, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: The next decade of the responsibility to protect,” is Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s eighth and final report on RtoP. In it, Mr. Ban highlights the accomplishments made in the advancement of the norm and takes note of the international community’s failures in preventing and responding to atrocity crimes. He also points out that the world is facing an increasingly challenging context, where both State and non-State actors pose threats to populations. However, the Secretary-General also suggests a range of recommendations for actors at all levels with which these obstacles might be overcome, so that the international community can work together to better protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanityinto the next decade of RtoP.

Read the Secretary-General’s full report here.

Read ICRtoP’s summary of the report here.

View ICRtoP’s page on key developments on RtoP at the UN here.


Source for above photo: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi

CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq

Libya
Mali
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria

Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On Thursday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing women’s participation in peace efforts in Burma and the harmful impact war has had and continues to have on women. HRW encourages the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups to ensure that women actively participate in efforts to end the country’s recurrent armed conflicts.


Burundi:

The Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission chairman has announced that the views they collected from across Burundi have shown public favor for removing the two-term limit attached to the country’s presidency. The Commission is made up of 15 members, including religious and political leaders and civil society representatives, and they are set to submit their findings in a report to Parliament for approval. However, President Nkurunziza will make the final decision.


Central African Republic:

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)imposed sanctions against Salim and Ali Kony, the sons of the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. These sanctions seek to restrain the notoriously violent rebel groupaccused of abducting 498 civilians in the Central African Republic between January and June 2016.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The trials of 215 alleged members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) accused of massacring civilians began in the DRC over the weekend. 80 alleged ADF members were present in court on Saturday and the rest of the suspects are to be brought in at a later date. Six of the accused allegedly participated in the machete attack which killed scores of civilians near Beni last week.

Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday in order to protest fears that President Kabila will delay elections and remain in power past the constitutionally allowed date at the end of this year. The resulting strike crippled the capital city of Kinshasa where shops were mostly empty. Police also used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators who gathered in Kinshasa to protest.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Sunday, Israeli forces bombarded the northern Gaza strip in the worst assault in the area since 2014. The attack was in retaliation to a rocket fired from the enclave into southern Israel. The Arab League and Turkey have both condemned the attacks, which have widely been labelled as disproportionate.

On Wednesday, Israel absolved its army of any wrongdoing for an airstrike during the 2014 Gaza War that struck a UN school. The incident resulted in 10 civilian deaths outside the school, causing international outrage.


Iraq:

Developments in the Fighting
Over the weekend, the Iraqi military and local militia successfully liberated the last ISIL-held portion of the island of Khalidya in western Iraq.

On Monday, six Iraqi civilians died fleeing the town of Hawijah when they hit a roadside bomb planted by ISIL. The past several weeks have seen several thousand people fleeing the area for government lines 140 miles north of Baghdad.

Iraq announced the complete capture from ISIL of the city of Qayyarah on Thursday after Iraqi troops stormed into the city center on Tuesday and secured the outskirts of the city the following day. Located to the south of Mosul, the city and its airbase will serve as the staging ground for the inevitable assault to retake Mosul from ISIL.

The Humanitarian and Political Solution
On 21 August, Iraq executed 36 men for their alleged roles in the deaths of over 1,700 Shia Iraqi air force recruits during the massacre at the Speicher military base near Tikrit in June 2014. Several of the accused had claimed that they had been forced to confess under torture or had not even been in Tikrit at the time of the massacre, with these claims echoed by Amnesty International. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has publicly expressed his disappointment with the executions, highlighting concerns over due process and fair trials.

On Tuesday, the UNHCR warned that it expects hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced by the oncoming Iraqi and Kurdish assault to retake the city of Mosul from ISIL. The total number of people expected to be displaced could reach as high as 1.2 million.

A new Special Report from Reuters, has determined that Shia militias in Iraq, operating under the Iraqi government-sanctioned and supported banner of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), detained, tortured and killed significantly more Sunni civilians in the assault on Fallujah in June than US authorities have publicly admitted. In total, with over 700 Sunni men and boys still missing, the report uncovered that over 1,500 faced abuse at the hands of the PMU, while at least 66 Sunni males died by torture or execution.


Libya:

On 22 August, the eastern-based parliament of Libya voted to reject the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed attempt at a unity government for Libya, dealing the GNA a major setback in its attempt to reunify Libya. One of the main points of concern is that of military appointments, with many in the east backing renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, currently engulfed in his own campaign against Islamists and his other opponents, and fearing that the GNA leans too heavily on the support of extremist-oriented militias. The GNA has stated it will continue to seek approval of the eastern-based parliament  and will be changing cabinet proposals for the unity government in order to gain their support.

On Sunday, Libyan fighters continued their push to complete the capture of the center of ISIL’s operations in Libya, Sirte, capturing the city’s main mosque as well as a jail run by the terrorist organization. ISIL’s area of control has now been restricted to a small residential area in the center of the city.

Over the weekend, the US military, for the first time, acknowledged the use of AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters, flown by US marines, in the fight against ISIL in Sirte.


Mali:

The trial of Ahmad al-Fadi al-Mahdi began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week. He is charged with the destruction of cultural heritage sites – a first for the ICC – for his alleged participation in the destruction of mausoleums and a mosque in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu. On Monday, al-Mahdi pleaded guilty to ordering the destruction of the sites – another first for the ICC. Many have lauded the landmark case, while others have criticized the ICC for not also holding al-Mahdi accountable for his alleged involvement in the rape, murder, and torture of civilians in Timbuktu during the same time period.


Nigeria:

Nigerian authorities have reported that airstrikes carried out by the country’s military are believed to have killed senior Boko Haram fighters and fatally wounded Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the violent extremist group.

Later in the week, Boko Haram militants attacked Nigerian troops near the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, but the soldiers repelled the attack and killed two senior Boko Haram commanders and several other militants.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech in the Nigerian city of Sokoto, stating that the overall success of Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram depends on if the country can overcome the reasons people join Islamist militant groups and if the government and military are able to build the public’s trust.

As Nigeria’s military has advanced its campaign against Boko Haram in the northeastern region of the country, it has exposed the “catastrophic” suffering of the people who have previously been out of reach from humanitarian aid organizations for months or even years. Estimates suggestthat at least 65,000 people are facing “famine-like” conditions in the recently liberated and yet inaccessible regions of Yobe and Borno states. Furthermore, at 4.5 million, the number of those facing a need for food aid in the northeastern regions of the country has almost doubled since March of this year. There have also been reports of human rights violations, including forced disappearances and recruitment, murders, sexual violence, and others, in the region. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 49,000 children will die in Borno State this year if they do not receive aid.


South Sudan:

Developments in the Fighting
This past weekend saw intense fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, leaving over 250 dead. Later, on 20 August, fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in the northern Unity State left seven SPLA soldiers and three members of the SPLM-IO dead. As the fighting continued sporadically through the week, thousands have become displaced.

On 21 August, several regional commanders of the SPLM-IO defected to the SPLA in Unity State. They are believed to have taken with them 11,000 soldiers stationed in the Guit area of Unity State to the SPLA and South Sudanese government. However, officials with the SPLM-IO claim only 80 soldiers joined the commanders in defecting.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
On 21 August, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir gave the governor of Wau State permissionto establish peace deals with any members of the armed opposition in the area who are willing.

The newly appointed South Sudanese First Vice President Taban Deng Gai visited the Sudanese capital of Khartoum earlier this week and met with Sudanese President Omer al- Bashir. They discussed both the continuing security disputes between the two nations as well as Sudan providing immediate humanitarian assistance in South Sudan. Mr. Gai publicly called on the SPLM-N, who are currently fighting the Sudanese government, “to obey the call for peace”.

Speaking on Monday during an official trip to Kenya, US Sec. of State John Kerry warned both the South Sudanese government (SPLA) and the opposition (SPLM-IO) to fully implement the peace deal agreed to last year or be prepared to suffer sanctions and an arms embargo.

On Tuesday, the Sudanese government confirmed that former South Sudanese First Vice President Riek Machar is currently in the country, days after Mr. Machar had emerged from several weeks of hiding in the neighboring DRC.  The Sudanese government further announced that Mr. Machar is in the country for urgent medical attention, but is currently in stable condition. The South Sudanese government has issued a warning to Mr. Machar, urging him to denounce violence and agree to censor himself from politics.

On 23 August, the UN announced that retired Dutch military officer Major General Patrick Cammeart will take the lead in an independent investigation to determine whether or not UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians during the fighting in Juba in early July.

A peace conference has been announced between the rival communities of the Dinka Bor and Murle in Jonglei state in an attempt to put an end to rampant child abduction and cattle raiding between the two peoples in hopes of stabilizing the region. The peace conference is currently planned to start on 30 August.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government has announced that peace talks with the armed groups who recently signed the African Union-brokered Roadmap Agreement for Peace for Sudan will resume in September. The talks originally collapsed soon after they began due to distrust and discord over the particulars of humanitarian access and a cessation of hostilities in the Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

The Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association has announced that it will not join the umbrella opposition organization, the Sudan Appeals forces, and thus, will not join the two-track peace negotiations taking place.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting
On Tuesday, after several days of increasingly intense clashes and after having seized most of the city, Kurdish forces agreed to a truce with the Syrian government in the north-western city of Hasakah. Government control in the city has now shrunk to a small cluster of buildings in the city center. The truce outlines a ceasefire, prisoner exchange, and the withdrawal of all armed forces from the city.

On Wednesday, following the several days of shelling and the gathering of rebels on the Turkish side of the border, Turkish armed forces and forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) jointly entered Syria to launch an assault on ISIL-held Jarabulus. Titled Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that its aim is both at ISIL and the Kurdish fighters of the YPG. The combined-offensive marks the largest military effort by Turkey in the Syrian civil war and Turkey’s first offensive ground incursion into Syrian territory. Syria has condemned the incursion but offered no resistance.

Later that same day, ISIL launched an unsuccessful attempt to storm a US-backed FSA camp near the Jordanian border. The attack on the Forces of Martyrs Ahmad al-Abdo rebel group base is believed to have left at least 33 dead, including a majority of ISIL fighters.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
In a softening of its position on Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated over the weekend that while still holding firm to the belief that Assad cannot be a part of Syria’s future, Turkey would be willing to see him stay on in a transition period if it helped to facilitate an overall end to the conflict. The Prime Minister went on to urge all powers involved in the conflict to “turn a new page on Syria”  and unite to stop the violence and form a country that maintained its territorial boundaries and represented all Syrians, highlighting Turkish concerns over growing Kurdish aims in Syria.

On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “one way or another” US-Russian discussions over cooperation in Syia are coming to an end. Mr. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on Friday in Geneva where their meeting will heavily focus on Syria.

On 24 August, a joint investigation by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined that the Syrian government is responsible for two of the gas attacks it investigated under its mandate, while ISIL is responsible for another one. A further three attacks hinted at the Syrian government being responsible but could not be definitively proven. The joint investigation was established by the UN Security Council to look into chemical weapons use in Syria.

On Wednesday, on a visit to Turkey, US Vice President clarified the US’s position on the YPG and the current Turkish offensive into Syria, stating that Turkey had the US’s full support and that the YPG must retreat to positions east of the Euphrates to keep receiving US support.

On Thursday, Russia agreed to the UN’s plan for weekly 48-hour ceasefires in Aleppo to allow humanitarian access to the city. UN officials, however, are waiting for guarantees of security and agreement from the all belligerents present on the ground before they begin humanitarian operations.


Yemen:

On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes in Sana’a near where an earlier pro-Houthi demonstration of thousands had taken place in the capital’s central square.

The Control Arms Coalition has condemned the United States, United Kingdom, and France for their arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The sales were deemed “illicit” due to the high number of civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes.

On Monday, a joint report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) detailed the displacement of over 3 million refugees as a result of the conflict in Yemen.

The UN’s human rights office has requested an inquiry into the civilian deaths in Yemen, stating that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60 percent of the killings.

On Thursday, during his visit to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for a new initiative to reignite peace talks between Yemen’s government and the Houthi rebels. Additionally, Kerry pledged $189 million in U.S. aid towards the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

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#R2PWeekly: 11 – 15 July 2016

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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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Filed under Weekly Round-Up

#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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#R2PWeekly: 6 – 10 June 2016

Untitled

Crimes against Humanity Occurring in Eritrea

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


 South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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


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

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#R2PWeekly: 30 May – 3 June 2016

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Habre Conviction Provides Hope for Victims
and Historic Precedent for Ending Impunity
 

 

On 30 May, in a landmark case, the Extraordinary African Chambers (CAE) in Dakar, Senegal found Chad’s former dictator, Hissène Habré, guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, rape, and sexual slavery during his rule, sentencing him to life in prison for these crimes. This marks the first time that a judicial system of a foreign country has tried a former ruler of a different country for human rights crimes and it has had a monumental impact for both the victims of Mr. Habré’s crimes and for international justice. Highlighting the impact of the verdict, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that “in a world scarred by a constant stream of atrocities, the ramifications of this verdict are global.”

Mr. Habré ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990 when he was ousted by current president, Idriss Déby Itno, and fled to Senegal. Estimates suggest that during his time in power, the country’s security services under his command killed 40,000 people and arrested over 200,000. For the past 25 years since his overthrowing, victims groups and civil society organizations have fought ardently, first in Senegal and then in Belgium, for the prosecution of Mr. Habré for these crimes, but Senegal repeatedly refused to either prosecute or extradite him. Victims and human rights groups continued their campaign until finally in late 2012, the African Union (AU) put pressure on the country and supported measures to create the CAE. Six months later, Mr. Habré was arrested in Dakar and in July 2015, he made his first appearance before the court. A second series of hearings to determine damages for the civil parties and other victims are set to begin in June or July of this year.

Bringing Mr. Habré to justice for his crimes has undoubtedly emphasized the importance of universal jurisdiction in ending impunity for international crimes, but it has also represented a notable breakthrough in the international prosecution of sexual crimes. Mr. Habré was convicted of the rape and sexual slavery of women forced to serve his troops and of having personally raped a woman, marking another historic international first for the proceedings; it is the first time a former dictator has been convicted personally for rape.

Overall, Mr. Habré’s case has provided an international precedent to inspire hope for victims and to present a daunting promise to past and future perpetrators that, as Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, said, “Safe havens are no longer safe for those suspected of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity or other crimes under international law.”

Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

On May 30, the government of Myanmar announced  State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will chair a new high-level committee on the Arakan State, home to the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority group. Violence in 2013 and 2014 left nearly 140,000 Rohingya displaced, with only a small amount resettling since then. The new committee will be called the Central Committee for Arakan State Peace, Stability and Development. The committee has not been given a clear structure and purpose yet, but early indicators state it will have two thematic areas: resettling internally displaced persons (IDPs) and “social development”; and coordinating the activities of UN agencies and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs). The Burmese government plans to spend $5.9 million to help develop the impoverished state.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported a growing population of Burmese refugees in Thailand are seeking assistance to return home. Of the 120,000 refugees on the Thai-Burmese border, a large number are expected to return during the dry season next year. The UNHCR will facilitate large-scale returns as long as refugees’ repatriation is voluntary.


Burundi:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed last week’s meetings of the political dialogue for Burundi in Arusha. He has also commended former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, the East African Community (EAC) facilitator of the talks, for his decision to also meet with those stakeholders not in attendance in Arusha. In his statement, he emphasized a solution could only be found through an inclusive dialogue process which upholds the Burundian Constitution and the principles of the UN-backed Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi.

The UN food relief agency estimates around 4.6 million Burundians are facing food insecurity, with over 500,00 people requiring urgent emergency food assistance. A report from the World Food Programme (WFP) stated that 265,000 Burundians have fled the country since 31 May into neighboring countries, with as many as 1,000 leaving per week. Refugee camps in surrounding states are currently only 28% funded and still require $127 million more in order to just meet basic needs, according to the UNHCR.

The EU has pledged an additional 10 million Euros in humanitarian aid to Burundian refugees in neighboring countries such as Tanzania, which houses the highest population of Burundian refugees with 139,000. The supplementary aid is purposed for supporting basic necessities for refugees in resource-strained camps in Tanzania. The EU has terminated its direct support to the Burundian government due to its human rights violations.


Central African Republic:

Rwandan peacekeepers conducted a medical outreach camp in Bria City in eastern Central African Republic on Sunday in partnership with the CAR Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation in honor of International UN Peacekeepers Day, celebrated annually on May 29. The Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) medical personnel are part of the UN mission in CAR. Free medical services were offered to the population, including vaccinations against measles, medical consultation services, and support to the regional and university hospital in the city with specialists.

joint effort between the UN Office of the Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Burundi, and Gabon is investigating allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. With allegations dating back to 2014, teams are conducting interviews of more than 60 of the 106 complaints of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers. The majority of complaints have been made against French soldiers from Operation Sangaris.

The Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Central Africa, released 1 June, stated the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR “documented incidents involving 915 victims, including 53 women, 48 boys and 30 girls.” It noted that 269 of the documented human rights violations were perpetrated by members from the anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka fighting groups, among others.


Cote d’Ivoire:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released its latest brief on the trial in Côte d’Ivoire of the former first lady Simone Gbagbo for crimes against humanity during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis in the country when Mrs. Gbagbo’s husband, then-president Laurent Gbagbo, refused to cede power, resulting in violence and the deaths of at least 3,000 civilians. HRW has warned that the trial must be “credible, fair, and followed by other trials that target high-level rights abusers from both sides” of the crisis. Other human rights groups have refused to participate in the trial on behalf of the victims, citing an incomplete investigation looking into Mrs. Gbagbo’s role in the abuses committed and the breaches of the country’s criminal procedures during trial preparation.

The UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, at the end of her three day visit in Côte d’Ivoire, has welcomed the progress the country’s authorities have made, especially the national armed forces, in taking steps to combat and respond to sexual crimes and conflict-related sexual violence.


Gaza/West Bank:

On 1 June, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated he is ready to commence in dialogue with the newly-appointed Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman should Israel accept the two-state solution. Members of the Palestinian executive committee stated the peace initiative should be “attached with practical steps of action,” including pulling out of settlements. With hopes of moving towards a peaceful two-state solution, the multilateral peace meeting with Israel will begin June 3. While Palestine will not be present, Arab States have noted they will represent the Palestinian authority during the meeting.

The European Union (EU) has warned against Israel’s continued demolition of Palestinian homes, whose construction the EU has funded. At least 900 people have been displaced due to the recent demolitions in the Bedouin community of Jabal al-Baba. Home demolitions, along with increasing Israeli settlements, make Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution questionable, according to the EU.

The World Bank recently reported that 90% of water reservoirs in the West Bank are contaminated, making the water there undrinkable. In addition to the 60% youth unemployment rate, about 40% of Gaza’s residents live in poverty, making a humanitarian crisis in the area imminent.

On 2 June, the Israeli military infiltrated the Gaza border into Palestinian-owned farmland near al-Bureij Refugee Camp. Four Israeli army tanks and three bulldozers razed the land, firing indiscriminately in all directions. No injuries were reported.


Iraq:

The Kurdistan Regional Security Council (KRSC) announced on Wednesday that a recent Peshmerga offensive, backed by international coalition airstrikes, has liberated nine villages north and east of Mosul in an operation that took place over the past two days.

On 30 May, Iraqi forces began the so-called ‘final assault’ to recapture Fallujah from ISIL. The announcement of the offensive comes in the wake of Iraqi forces completing their ensnaring of Fallujah on Sunday, surrounding the city on all sides and seizing control of all entrances. ISIL is believed to have 1,200 fighters in Fallujah and retaliated with three bomb attacks in Baghdad and the surrounding area.

The top Shi’ite Cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has requested caution from the Iraqi government and its allied Shia militias in the fight to retake Fallujah. The Grand Ayatollah expressed concern over the plight of the 50,000 civilians estimated to be trapped in the city, noting the potential for a large civilian death toll to play into ISIL’s narrative and create further sectarian conflict.

On 1 June, UNICEF issued a warning about the estimated 20,000 children still trapped in Fallujah, stressing that children may be forced to fight for ISIL, now that Fallujah has been surrounded by Iraqi armed forces. The statement also called for Iraqi armed forces to ensure the creation of a safe-corridor for both children and all trapped civilians to escape through.

Heeding these calls from domestic and international quarters, Iraq has temporarily postponed its assault on Fallujah over concern of the fate of civilians. However, while Iraqi forces remain outside the city, shelling, airstrikes, and gunfire could still be heard on Wednesday in the city.

The UN has put the number of Iraqis who have fled from ISIL-controlled Mosul to Syria at 4,000 since May. Furthermore, the UN is anticipating this number to increase to over 50,000 as the Iraqi government plans an offensive against the city and as reports have surfaced from Fallujah that ISIL has increased executions of boys and men in the wake of the recent government offensive.

The U.N. World Food Progamme (WFP) director of Iraq, Jane Pearce, announced the WFP is working on contingency plans for expectations that up to 700,000 people could become internally displaced by a planned Iraqi government offensive to retake Mosul. The WFP is already aiding 1.5 million people in Iraq and the most recent contingency plan is being drawn up to meet a further 900,000.

A monthly report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) stated 867 people were killed and 1,456 injured in Iraq in the month of May. The report does not include casualties in the northern Anbar province, the site of the increasing battle between the Iraqi army and ISIS around Fallujah.


Kenya:

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has called the government’s recent claims that the opposition has committed “acts of treason” and is supported by foreign governments to foster instability in the country “reckless and irresponsible.” The KNCHR went on to add that the government should have conducted investigations into the allegations before making such claims.

Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Nkaisserry has announced that Kenya will close the Dadaab refugee camp, home to 300,000 Somalis, in November. He also said that Kenya will work in close cooperation with the UN and Somali authorities to repatriate the Somalis living in the camp, which he insisted would be conducted in a humane way.


Libya:

Arab ministers met on 29 May, urging the international community not to intervene in Libya and instead to assist the Libyan army in fighting terrorist threats, such as ISIL and Ansar al-Shari’a. They emphasized the need to support the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in its efforts to combat the spread of terrorism and in lifting the arms embargo in place since 2011. The UN Special Envoy to Libya called on Libya to unite in the fight against all armed militant groups.

Italy has announced that it stands by its “transitional” decision not to send troops into Libya, but is prepared to train and provide weapons to Libyan forces to protect their interests in Libyan oil fields in danger from terrorist group attacks. Russia also stated it would be ready to supply the Libyan government with weapons as soon as the UN arms embargo is lifted.

An armed force with the responsibility of protecting Libya’s oil ports captured the coastal-town of Ben Jawad from ISIL on Monday as it moved west to secure more of the coastline. The forces’ efforts have pushed ISIL’s control to only around 60 miles of Libya’s coastline. As they continued their offensive, the Petroleum Facilities Guard forces also captured a second town, Nawfiliyah, located east of the ISIL stronghold of Sirte. Five people were killed and 18 wounded in the attacks.

On Wednesday, forces backed by the UN unity government in Libya seized control of Sirte’s power plant 20 miles west of the ISIL stronghold, as forces continue to advance towards ISIL’s recruitment and training camp in the city.

The latest report from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on ISIL, which has not been publicly released yet, stated that the group is raising money from capturing oilfields in Libya and then distributes the funds to groups around the world. While ISIL is losing offensives in Iraq and Syria, the group’s threat in Libya remains high. The UN report also noted that ISIL has been utilizing Libya as a base to spread and diversify its presence in the African region.


Mali:

An ambush on a the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) killed five Togolese peacekeepers and injured another on Sunday outside a town in the Mopti region. The head of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, released a statement condemning the “heinous act of terrorism”.

On Tuesday, two other separate attacks targeting UN or UN-contracted personnel in the Gao area killed four people, including one Chinese peacekeeper, two Malian security guards, and one French expert working for a local service provider with the UN’s mine-defusing agency. Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The UN Secretary-General has expressed his concern and outrage over the latest attacks as well as his condolences to the victims and their families. He also called on Malian authorities to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable. Mr. Ban stressed the UN’s strong support for the peace agreement and stabilization of Mali and announced that he intends to make a proposal to the UN Security Council to strengthen MINUSMA’s capabilities and make sure that peacekeepers in Mali are adequately equipped to handle the dangerous environment there. He has recommended that a deployment of 2,500 more peacekeepers should be sent to Mali. The UN Security Council, in a separate statement, also condemned the attacks and expressed their support for the implementation of the peace process and MINUSMA.


Nigeria:

On Monday, separate clashes in Nigeria’s southern oil-rich Niger Delta region between the country’s security forces and both oil militants and Biafran secessionists killed at least 20 civilians and 2 police officers. Community leaders from the town of Oporoza, an area reachable only by water or air, have accused soldiers of firing on a speedboat evacuating civilians from a military siege on the city and of wounding and beating civilians in their search for Niger Delta Avengers, a new group that has claimed attacks on key oil pipelines in the country. The Avengers’ recent attackshave cut the country’s oil production in half and they have issued a 31 May deadline for the oil companies to leave the region before “something big” will happen.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari canceled a trip planned to the restive Niger Delta region at the last minute on Thursday and gave no reason for the cancellation. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made the visit in his stead. The Avengers have accused the president of overlooking local problems.


South Sudan:

On 27 May, South Sudan’s Transitional Government on National Unity (TGoNU) passed a resolution establishing areas where the armed-forces of the opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) in Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr el Ghazal will be cantoned. The cantonment will be carried out by the Joint Monitoring Ceasefire Committee  (JMCC), with the move being considered a breakthrough in the peace process.

Later that same day, South Sudan’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management admitted that South Sudan does not have a plan in place for resettlement and repatriation of the country’s internally displaced and its refugees. The Minister stated further consultation is needed with the UN to assess the needs of the displaced, while the UN urged international donors not to leave South Sudan in the dark.

On 31 May, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) renewed the sanctions regime in place against a number of individuals who have been implicated in attempting to sabotage the peace process. Furthermore, the UNSC resolution congratulated the South Sudanese parties on the forming of the Transitional Unity Government several weeks ago, but also recognized the continued lack of political will to move further on several sticking points, including continued non-cooperation with the in-country UN mission and the continuing danger facing humanitarian workers.

The South Sudanese opposition forces, under the leadership of the Vice President Riek Machar, have accused Uganda of redeploying troops inside the country. If true, this deployment would be in breach of the August 2015 peace agreement, in which the withdrawal of all Ugandan troops from South Sudanese soil was stipulated, apart from those Ugandan troops in Western Equatoria State under the African Union (AU) mandate to keep searching  for members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The South Sudanese Army has denied claims that it had engaged in a policy of detention wherein detainees, including civilians, were placed in shipping containers. Claims of this method of detention were made in a recent report released last week by Amnesty International.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 30 May, talks began in Doha on how several groups, including the JEM and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) rebel groups, can join the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). Signed in 2011 and 2013, the DDPD serves as a blueprint for eventual peace in the Darfur region between the government and various rebel groups operating there.

Amnesty International has reported that eight human rights activists have been held in detention by the Sudanese security services for the past week. Those being held include six staffers, a volunteer with TRACKS, an organization providing training in human rights, and a representative from Al-Zarqa, an organisation engaged in human development.

Human Rights Watch has released a report highlighting that Sudanese authorities deported at least 442 Eritreans, including six registered refugees, this past May. Prior to this deportation, the UNHCR was consistently denied access to these peoples.

The Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Abdel Wahid El Nur (SLM-AW), claims to have killed dozens of government troops and their allied militia in recent clashes in the western Jebel Marra region of Darfur.


Syria:

On 26 May, the U.N. special envoy for Syria announced that no new peace talks will take place for at least two to three weeks. The lack of significant humanitarian access and the breaking down of the ceasefire were noted as sticking points, with progress needed on both fronts before talks resume. Four days later, the chief-peace negotiator for the Syrian Opposition in Geneva resigned, stating that his decision to quit was over the failure of the international community to stop the government-led atrocities.

Preparations to begin airdrops into the besieged areas of Syria began on 1 June as the first aid in nearly four years reached the besieged Damascus suburb of Darayya on Wednesday. A local 48-hour truce came into effect, allowing vaccines, baby milk and medical goods to be brought into the beleaguered city. The plan calls for the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) to begin airdrops to 13 designated areas in the event that the Syrian government still refuses to allow over-land deliveries. While the air drops are “not imminent,” as Ramzi Essedine Ramzi, UN deputy special envoy for Syria warned, the overall process that will lead to drops has begun.

Airstrikes killed 23 people in the rebel-controlled city of Idlib, on Monday. The strikes are said to have hit areas in several residential neighborhoods as well as near a hospital, closing it down. The following day, further airstrikes took place against Ahrar al Sham’s main camp in Idlib province, leaving many dead. By 1 June, the airstrikes had killed at least 58 people and wounded almost 300. Russia has denied any and all implications in the airstrikes.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced, on 30 May, the extension of the scope of its offensive against ISIL, with the assault now including ISIL positions to the west of Raqqa, in particular an airbase used by ISIL. The airbase links Raqqa with other pockets of ISIL territory around Aleppo. Coinciding with this announcement, the SDF began a new, major offensive on a portion of northern Syria known as the Manbij pocket. The aim of the offensive is to push ISIL out of a strip of territory which it controls along the Turkish border and has been noted by US officials as the terrorist group’s “last remaining funnel into Europe.”

Fighting in Northern Aleppo between ISIL and various rebel factions has left roughly 8,000 people trapped, and is risking to spill over into nearby IDP camps, the UN stated on Tuesday.The town of Marea saw scores killed over the previous weekend as ISIL tried to wrest control of the town from rebel forces, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights noting this ISIL offensive to be the single largest gain of territory in two years of fighting in Aleppo. The rebels, for their part, have been clashing with fighters of the SDF as well as issuing directives ordering their fighters not to allow any more people fleeing the ISIL advance into the territory they control. The UN stated that the SDF forces in the area have been engaging in the same policy in retaliation for rebel shelling of a Kurdish controlled neighborhood in Aleppo.

Two UN experts have urged the international community to take action to provide immediate protection for the thousands of civilians in the Aleppo region who have been affected by this recent upsurge in fighting. The experts warned that a massive new displacement of people could take place and that trapped civilians may be at risk of becoming targets. UN Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani stated that around 165,000 IDPs are still stranded at the Turkish border, where their settlements continue to be bombarded by airstrikes and shelling, killing and injuring dozens of civilians this year.

On 2 June, a bomb blast killed several people near a mosque in the coastal city of Latakia, killing and wounding several people, with official numbers not yet released.


Yemen:

On 27 May, the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting in Yemen pushed back against accusations that it was disregarding humanitarian law in its campaign in the country. The coalition command released a statement that it “respects the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights in all its military operations” in its campaign, despite a report by Human Rights Watch recently implicating the coalition in mass humanitarian abuses.

On 30 May, observers of the Yemeni peace-process in Kuwait noted great forward progress, with the UN envoy receiving a list of 6,930 detainees, prisoners and missing persons to be reviewed for their validity and a hopeful mass prisoner release. This led to Yemen’s warring parties swapping prisoners on Wednesday, moving forward on their agreement to free half of the prisoners within 20 days.  The exchange encompassed 16 troops from the Popular Resistance Fighters, a pro-government militant group, and 19 Houthi militants. This deal has been seen as the first major breakthrough in the peace talks.

Clashes between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces from Tuesday to Thursday resulted in the deaths of at least 85 fighters across both sides and a loss of ground for the pro-government forces in the Marib and Shabwa provinces, due to a lack of air support from the Saudi-led coalition. On Thursday, the coalition carried out airstrikes on a group of Houthis in Sanaa, which killed five people.

Despite having lost a majority of its territory in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to hold on in several pockets and gain financing from the exporting of Yemeni oil. A month after being forced out of their de facto capital of Makalla, a major Yemeni seaport, AQAP has taken to creating checkpoints and demanding ‘taxes’ on oil deliveries to the seaport from the neighboring province.


What else is new?

The German Parliament adopted a symbolic resolution on Thursday declaring the 1915 killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks a genocide, a move that was immediately rejected by the government of Turkey. The adoption of the resolution has put further strain between the two nations as they work with the European Union to manage the refugee crisis, with Turkey recalling its ambassador to Germany for “consultations.”

On 29 May, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, ICRtoP member, The Global Centre for R2P, released a statement highlighting the role of peacekeepers in upholding RtoP. The statement recognized the HIPPO report recommendations and the Kigali Principles as “practical ways to address current challenges”, as well as noted the need to use the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes as a tool to enhance atrocity prevention capacities.

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Filed under Weekly Round-Up

#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: 9 – 13 May 2016

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

 

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

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

Read the full blog here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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


Burundi:

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

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

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


Côte d’Ivoire

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya

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

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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#R2P Weekly: 2 – 6 May 2016

Untitled
Gender and Genocide 

New guest blog post by Akila Radhakrishnan of the Global Justice Center 

Akila Radhakrishnan is the Legal Director at the Global Justice Center. In her role, she works to ensure justice, accountability and equal rights to people in conflict and in post-conflict situations, and to establish global legal precedents protecting human rights and ensuring gender equality. 

“From time immemorial, rape has been regarded as spoils of war. Now it will be considered a war crime. We want to send out a strong message that rape is no longer a trophy of war.” – Judge Navi Pillay commenting on the decision in The Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s (ICTR) revolutionary decision in the Akayesu case is often cited for setting the precedent that rape could be a constitutive act of genocide. And while the precedent is incredibly important, it’s what that finding represents that’s even more significant: women’s experiences of war and conflict may be different, but they are no less important or serious.

 yazidi 1This is the same realization that underpins the Security Council’s now over 15-year old agenda on Women, Peace and Security and scaled up efforts in recent years to combat sexual violence in conflict. However, as the recent Global Studyon Security Council Resolution 1325 found, while progress has been made, much remains to be done. Gender remains an ancillary concern in many cases and serious efforts need to be made to proactively incorporate a gender lens into modern efforts to respond to conflict and mass atrocities and counter terrorism and violent extremism.

One area where the consideration of gender has historically been and continues to be mired in complexities is in the context of genocide, where the defining of the crime element pertains not to gender, but rather membership in a protected group (national, ethnical, racial or religious). In fact during the drafting of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (Genocide Convention), unlike other groups that were considered (e.g. linguistic and political groups), there was no consideration that gender would constitute a protected group.

However, while gender in and of itself is not protected, history has clearly shown us that the way that genocide has been perpetrated does have a gender dimension—an understanding of which is essential to fully understand the scope and consequences of genocide.

Read the full blog 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:

Thai and Burmese officials met this week for talks about the possible repatriation of more than 100,000 Burmese refugees currently living just across the border. The process would include refugees from nine camps and and would begin within two to three years.


Burundi:

The Burundi talks, which were initially scheduled to begin on 2 May in Arusha, have beenpostponed. The office of former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, the new regional mediator for Burundi, said that the dialogue could now begin in the third week of May. In the meantime, grenade attacks, assassinations, and other violence has continued.


Central African Republic:

CAR’s newly elected members of parliament took office or the first time on Tuesday. The new MPs have a five year mandate.

Ongoing violence, displacement and a lack of teachers in the country is preventing hundreds of thousands of children from attending school in the Central African Republic. UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, has stated that one in four primary schools are currently not functioning there.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

On Tuesday, Signe Poulsen, a representative of the Seoul office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the international community could not ignore the human rights abuses occurring in North Korea and urged the community to take strong action.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a new report ahead of the DPRK’s 7th Party Congress scheduled for 6 May, urging the leadership of the country’s Worker’s Party to address serious human rights abuses committed by the government. HRW also pointed out that the forced labor of thousands has been used in connection with the congress itself.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The DRC’s justice minister has ordered an investigation into allegations that opposition leader and possible presidential candidate, Moise Katumbi, recruited mercenaries. This comes during a time of increasing political tensions as opposition members believe that President Kabila may be looking to stay in power beyond his term, which ends this year.

The Congolese National Independent Electoral Commission has requested 16 months to organize elections, citing the need for time to register new voters and the fact that in both 2006 and 2011 this much time was also required. However, the UN Security Council stated in Resolution 2277 that the government should organize elections within the constitutional limits.

On Tuesday evening, assailants raided a village in the North Kivu province in the eastern region of the DRC and killed 16 civilians. It is believed that the attack could have been carried out by Ugandan rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces.


 Gaza/West Bank:

The UN Committee Against Torture is set to investigate how Israel treats detainees, including minors, within Israel and in the occupied territories, regardless of Israel’s previous assertions that the Convention Against Torture does not apply in occupied territories.

Israeli aircraft attacked five Hamas targets in Gaza on Wednesday in response to mortar fire, the most serious altercation since the end of the war in 2014 and putting a strain on the ceasefire between the two parties.


Iraq:

Following Saturday’s protests and the sacking of the parliament building, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for unity amongst political rivals in order for the country to be able to fight ISIL.

On Sunday, dual car bombs set off in southern Iraq killed 31 and wounded 50 others. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks in an online statement, specifying that the suicide bombers were targeting police officers. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), terrorism, violence, and armed conflict killed 741 Iraqis and injured 1,374 during April.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that it requires more assistance in helping the 3.4 million people displaced in Iraq, as the ongoing conflict continues to forces more people from their homes.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International released its latest report claiming that the Iraqi government is currently holding over 1,000 individuals, some as young as 15, in abhorrent conditions and without criminal charges.


Kenya:

Raila Odinga, the former Prime Minister of Kenya and leader of the opposition party, statedthat he would not participate in next year’s presidential election if the electoral commission is not reformed. Coming ten years after the violence of the disputed 2007/2008 presidential election, Odinga expressed concern about violence at next year’s polls. Western diplomats from 11 different countries have also issued a joint statement urging Kenyans to consider what future steps are necessary to make sure the upcoming elections are free, fair, and peaceful.

Kenyan security services have stopped a potential biological terror attack on various targets in the country using anthrax. Kenyan and Ugandan authorities have arrested three suspects alleged to be part of an East African terror network with ties to ISIL and they are still looking for two others. This comes amid worsening fears that ISIL may be trying to establish a base in Kenya from which to launch attacks against Westerners like those in Mali in recent months.


Libya:

Over 100 migrants died over the weekend while attempting to reach Italy from Libya. The dangerous route is becoming more popular with migrants since the closing of the safer route via the Balkans.


Mali:

In central Mali, local community leaders have claimed that pro-government fighters killed 13 more members of the ethnic Peuhl community, which has been accused of supporting the extremist Macina Liberation Front. A government security spokesman says that investigators are looking into the reports.

Hervé Ladsous, the head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, visited Mali this week and urged the country to quickly implement the 2015 peace agreements between the government and armed groups. Delays in the peace process have led to the strengthening of Islamist militant groups in Mali, who still pose a serious security threat in the region.


Nigeria:

Following continued recent attacks by armed herdsmen, President Buhari stated that the heads of Nigeria’s national securities agencies will take all necessary action to halt the violence by apprehending those involved.

As ‪Boko Haram‬ loses ground in the country, the extremist group has increasingly turned to using women and children as suicide bombers. The latest briefing from the International Crisis Group suggests that to defeat the insurgency and achieve sustainable peace, Nigeria must continue to work together with its regional and international partners and take advantage of the upcoming summit in Abuja to address issues such as the humanitarian situation and ensuring the return of the rule of law.


South Sudan:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lauded South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s appointment of the new ministers of the Transitional Government of National Unity and encouraged the swift establishment of all of the transition institutions. He also called for an immediate end to hostilities on all sides. The African Union (AU) also welcomed the new transitional government, which under the terms of the August 2015 peace agreement, will be made up of members coming from President Kiir’s party, as well as those of Vice President Riek Machar, the opposition, and others.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council also called on the transitional unity government to fully implement the peace deal and to end violence and rights abuses in the country, including through the implementation of a permanent ceasefire. The Council also called for the UN mission, UNMISS, to have the freedom of movement to uphold its mandate, which includes the protection of civilians and investigation of human rights violations.

Although steps are being made towards peace in the country, South Sudanese leaders are still dealing with the need to acquire justice for the victims of the violence committed during the civil war. Human rights organizations have called for perpetrators to be held accountable for their crimes, but supporters of both sides have argued the need to pursue national healing and reconciliation before moving on to accountability. However, the African Center for Transitional Justice (ACT-J) has argued, without real accountability, national reconconciliation is meaningless.

The latest numbers from humanitarian organizations show that around 54,635 refugees fledfrom South Sudan into Sudan between early February and the end of April, with an increase of around 700 people last week. Continuing conflict and food insecurity are the main drivers and more refugees are expected to flee by the end of this month before the South Sudanese rainy season begins. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP) have also issued a joint press release expressing their concerns about shortcomings in funding and how this may affect their abilities to provide assistance to South Sudanese refugees in Sudan.


Sudan/Darfur:

On Sunday, the Sudanese Air Force killed 6 children when two fighter jets bombed a residential area in South Kordofan. The children were aged between four and 12 years old.

Aristide Nononsi, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, has urged the Sudanese Government to establish a positive environment conducive to “a free and inclusive national dialogue by respecting the basic fundamental rights of Sudanese people, including the rights to freedoms of expression and association, and of the press.”


Syria/Iraq:

Surge in violence
Violence increased in Syria this week in light of the recent breakdown of the nationwide ceasefire, especially in and around the contested city of Aleppo, where over 300 people havedied in the past two weeks. A rebel coalition under the name, Fatah Halab, launched an assault on the government’s position in Aleppo on Tuesday night, but they were pushed back by Wednesday morning. The attack proved to be the most intense in Aleppo in over a year.

The US and opposition leaders, supported by claims from residents, have asserted that the Syrian government’s airstrikes have been largely focused on areas in Aleppo that were outside of the control of the Nusra Front. Instead, areas controlled by other groups, including those supported by the US and its allies, have been targeted. On Sunday night, the only road out of the rebel-held territory in the city was bombed and, if it were to be cut-off, almost 200,000 residents could be left without access to badly needed food and medical supplies, according to the opposition.

On Wednesday, the humanitarian adviser to the Special Envoy to Syria, Jan Egeland, statedthat the government of Syria is refusing the United Nations access to provide humanitarian aid to thousands of Syrians affected by the ongoing war, including those caught in the middle of the surge of violence in Aleppo. He stated that there appear to be new besieged locations emerging, with relief workers unable to move around Aleppo. The Syrian government has denied aid for half of the almost one million people besieged, and has put tremendous conditions on the remaining aid.

The Syrian Army previously issued a temporary truce around Damascus and Latakia, but did not extend the truce to Aleppo until it was agreed upon by the US and Russia late Tuesday evening. By Thursday, the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo had brought a relative calm in the city, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that he is still set on achieving a total victory over the rebels in Aleppo and throughout the country. On the same day, fighting continued elsewhere in the country as ISIL captured the Shaer gas field, the group’s first major gain since losing the city of Palmyra last month.

Meanwhile, the number of Syrian refugees at the border with Jordan has risen to a new high of 59,000, with around 5,000 Syrians arriving between 3 – 5 May alone. Jordanian authorities say 52,000 people are currently gathered in Rokban, with another 7,200 people in Hadalat. In both places, conditions are dire and aid organizations are urging Jordan to speed up entry procedures.

Response to attacks on medical facilities
Following the deliberate attacks on hospitals and medical workers, including the deadlyairstrike last Wednesday that hit the al Quds hospital in a rebel-held part of Aleppo and killedat least 55 people, civil society organizations called on the UN Security Council to act. Amnesty International called for the UNSC to impose targeted sanctions against those deliberately attacking hospitals and committing other war crimes. The organization, which has interviewed doctors and activists in Aleppo and documented attacks, stated that it has found that Russian and Syrian forces have purposefully and systematically targeted hospitals in opposition-controlled regions. Medecins sans Frontieres also called on the UN Security Council to stop attacks on all healthcare facilities, sparking a social media storm for establishing hospitals as #NotATarget.

In response, the Security Council strongly condemned the attacks on the wounded and ill, hospitals and medical facilities, and humanitarian and medical personnel engaged solely in their humanitarian or medical duties. The Council unanimously adopted resolution 2286 (2016), co-sponsored by over 80 Member States, which demands accountability for those responsible for such attacks and reaffirms that all warring parties comply with their responsibility to protect populations and their obligations under international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law. In the discussion of the resolution some Council members declared such attacks on humanitarian and medical facilities and personnel to be war crimes.

Calls to reconvene peace talks
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called upon all parties, including regional and international actors such as Russia and the United States, to immediately recommit themselves to ceasing hostilities in Syria. He also called on all parties to uphold their responsibility to protect civilians throughout all parts of the country and urged them to redouble efforts to get the warring parties back to the negotiating table. In a step forward, the United States and Russia have reached an agreement to create a new monitoring group in Geneva that will observe compliance with the Syrian ceasefire agreement 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, stated that in order for the next round of negotiations to be credible, they must be supported by real and “tangible” progress made on the ground, which includes increased access for humanitarian aid throughout Syria. Mr. Mistura said he intends to re-convene the peace talks sometime this month in order to come to an agreement on a way forward by August.


Yemen:

On 29 April, thousands of Yemenis marched in the city of Taiz calling for end to the conflict and urging rebel groups to adopt a UN ceasefire resolution. The following day, UN envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheik Ahmed, announced that peace negotiations in Kuwait ended on a positive note, commending Yemeni parties for expressing their commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 2216 (2015). However, the Yemeni government later abandoned the talks for a short time after receiving reports from the Amran governorate, but have since returned to the negotiating table.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that numerous violations of international law have been committed by all sides in Yemen and they have yet to be investigated or addressed. HRW has also pointed out that it is crucial that participants in the peace talks prioritize justice for atrocities that have been committed.

Al-Qaeda militants are reportedly pulling out of Zinjibar and Jaar, two coastal cities east of Aden after progress made by the Yemeni government in fighting the terrorist group on Thursday.


What else is new?

On 8 May, Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee of Quebec, in partnership with the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Amnistie International Francophone, and the Alliance for Genocide Awareness and Remembrance will be leading a march against genocides and for human rights in downtown Montreal. For more information, visit here.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is holding a conference, Partners in Prevention: A Global Forum on Ending Genocide, on 19 May in Washington, D.C. The event, which is free and open to the public, seeks to strengthen US policy on atrocity prevention and strengthen international partnerships on the issue. To reserve tickets visit here.

On 31 May, the Hague Institute for Global Justice will be holding a book launch for the text entitled, “Prosecuting Conflict-Related Sexual Violence at the ICTY.” The launch will include a public panel discussion featuring Daniela Kravetz – SGBV expert practitioner, former ICTY staff member and book contributor; Stephen Rapp – Former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and Distinguished Fellow at The Hague Institute for Global Justice; Patricia Viseur Sellers – Special Adviser on International Criminal Law Prosecution Strategies for the ICC, SGBV expert, and former ICTY staff member; with moderation by  Michelle Jarvis – OTP Deputy to the Prosecutor.For more information and to RSVP, visit here.

The Global Centre for R2P released a report from a workshop convened from 18-19 February, entitled, UN Perspectives: The Future of Civilian Protection and the Responsibility to Protect, which brought together UN representatives, civil society actors, and academia to discuss pressing challenges facing the United Nations. Read the report here. The organization will also be holding an event on 11 May entitled, The Future of Civilian Peace Operations Endorsing and Implementing the Kigali Principles. Visit the GCR2P website to learn more about the event, including how to RSVP, as they will be updating with more information.

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#R2PWeekly: 25-29 April 2016

Untitled

Reducing Risk, Strengthening Resilience:
Toward the Structural Prevention of Atrocity Crimes

New Brief from the Stanley Foundation, ICRtoP Steering Committee member

In a new brief by Alex Bellamy of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (also an ICRtoP Steering Committee member), the Stanley Foundation explores new ideas on how to make structural prevention of atrocity crimes a reality.

Despite the fact that prevention is often cited as the most effective and least costly way to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, structural prevention measures are seldom given enough attention or investment.

The new brief aims to assist actors to reduce the occurrence of risk factors of atrocities and increase societal resilience to such factors. Among other recommendations, Bellamy urges stakeholders to consider 1) adopting and utilizing an atrocity prevention lens to identify sources of risk and resilience; 2) connecting atrocity prevention measures with other mutually-reinforcing agendas; and 3) relating risk assessments to resource allocations, program design, and execution.

Read the full brief here and find other Stanley Foundation policy briefs here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s new state counselor, met with members of the military and representatives of ethnic armed groups. She announced that she would be taking a leadership role in the peace process, though she also named a new government mediator to monitor negotiations between Myanmar’s military and armed ethnic groups.

The Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian organization, reported that military forces near the Shan-Kachin State border targeted and killed civilians.


Burundi:

Continuing violence in Burundi killed a military officer and three others in two separate events. The military officer was a colonel who was ambushed upon arriving home. Only one day prior, Burundi’s Minister for Human Rights survived an apparent assassination attempt. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’adboth condemned the attacks, while Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gave security forces one week to find the people responsible.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has announced the opening of a preliminary examination into the situation in Burundi. Bensouda stated that her office had received a number of reports indicating “acts of killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances,” crimes which fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction.

UN officials briefed the UN Security Council Wednesday on the Secretary-General’s suggested options for the deployment of a so-called police “contribution” to Burundi. As detailed by Security Council Report, the first option is a large, visible presence of a 3,000-strong police protection and monitoring force, which would also have some ability to protect civilians. Another possibility would be the deployment of 228 police who would be responsible for enhancing monitoring capacity, but would have no power to protect. Under this option, the UN police would work with the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi and potentially AU human rights monitors. Finally, a third option would be a minimal deployment of 20-50 UN staff who would assess the Burundian police’s operational and institutional limitations and identify strategies for future UN police involvement.

The UNHCR has calculated that the number of refugees in Burundi has grown to almost260,000.


Central African Republic:

French President François Hollande has reversed his decision to withdraw French troops from CAR, saying that the Operation Sangaris forces would remain in the country to help train CAR’s military.

21 international and Central African human rights organizations urged the new President, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, to take a tough stance against impunity for serious international crimes.

Touadera announced that his government’s first priorities would be disarming ex-combatants and rebuilding the military. In order to do the latter, however, he underscored that the international arms embargo imposed on CAR in 2013 would have to be lifted.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of MINUSCA until 31 July.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Médecins Sans Frontières has initiated a project in Mambasa to provide medical and psychological support to victims of sexual violence. Mame Anna Sane, the MSF medical team leader, reported that the number of victims amounted to 123 in March alone.

The head of MONUSCO, Maman Sidikou, expressed concern about the upsurge of political tensions in some parts of the DRC. He stressed the crucial need for “all Congolese political actors to demonstrate maximum restraint during this critical period in the political evolution of their country.”


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces shot and killed two siblings, aged 16 and 24 years old, in the West Bank as they approached a checkpoint.


Iraq:

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protested on the streets of Baghdad after a month-long political crisis. Sadr and his followers were demanding that Prime Minister Abadi abide by his plan to replace ministers with technocrats. Bowing to the pressure, Abadi submitted new names of cabinet candidates to Parliament, who eventually approved six of the nominations. They will vote on the remaining nominations on Thursday.

bomb explosion in Radwaniyah at a Shia mosque killed at least 9 people and injured 25. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion, but it is similar to attacks previously executed  by ISIL.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq reported that 1,119 Iraqis had been killed and 1,561 injured as a result of terrorism and armed conflict in March alone. 575 of the fatalities were reportedly civilians. In this vein, the U.S. stated that its airstrikes in Syria and Iraq have killed 20 civilians since fall 2015. Human rights organizations dismissed the so-called effort at transparency, saying that the real tally stood around 1,100.

Heavy fighting broke out between Kurdish peshmerga forces and Shiite paramilitary forces north of Baghdad.


Libya:

Philip Hammond, UK Foreign Secretary, stated that a deployment of British troops in Libya could not be ruled out, but that any such action would require the approval of the House of Commons.

The crisis in Libya is causing hospitals to close, or significantly reduce their schedules, according to President of Médecins Sans Frontières France, Dr. Mego Terzian. Political tensions amongst the governments in Tripoli, Tobruk, and the UN-backed government have worsened the health care system in Libya. Since 2011, health care has become increasingly scarce due to damage and lack of resources.


Mali:

Ansar Dine released the three Red Cross employees it had kidnapped last week. Nevertheless, the kidnapping, together with the damage caused to MINUSMA’s airstrip by violent protests, have impeded humanitarian aid in the region, according to humanitarian agencies.

In central Mali, officials representing the Peuhl ethnic group have claimed that the military and its allies have been torturing and killing civilians accused of collaborating with the Macina Liberation Front, an Islamic militant group in the region. A government spokesman denied any knowledge of the reports.


Nigeria:

President Buhari has ordered a crackdown on Nomadic herders from the Fulani ethnic group accused of killing hundreds in clashes since the beginning of 2016. This comes after a Fulani raid in Benue State left 300 dead and tens of thousands homeless in February. Another attack on Monday on the Ukpabi Nimbo community reportedly killed at least 20 people. These Fulani raids are considered to be the country’s second biggest security threat after Boko Haram.


South Sudan:

After repeated delays, rebel leader Riek Machar finally landed in Juba on Tuesday and was sworn in as Vice President in the new unity government under President Kiir, successfully completing the first of many important steps in the peace process. President Kiir called Mr Manchar his “brother” and claimed to “have no doubt that his return to Juba today marks the end of the war and the return of peace and stability to South Sudan.”

The US has pledged $86 million in additional aid to South Sudan under the condition that the leaders engage properly with the peace process. Failure to do so, the US warned, could result in the levying of sanctions or an arms embargo against the country.


Sudan/Darfur:

The results of the Darfur Administrative Referendum show that Darfuris overwhelmingly voted to keep the region’s current administrative status, leaving Darfur divided into its initial five states. Chairman of the Darfur Administrative Referendum Commission announced that 97% of registered voters chose to keep the current system and stressed that voting was held amid stable security conditions. Representatives of the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group, declared that the “results reflect the fraud the Sudanese government continues to employ in all of its elections.” The referendum fulfilled a requirement under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur that was signed in July 2011.


Syria:

Government and rebel forces killed over 30 civilians over the weekend, a further detriment to the fragile Geneva peace talks and the US-Russia backed ceasefire. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that the interim truce established between the Assad regime and the rebel opposition in late February has now effectively collapsed. Fighting has resumed in the areas that were covered by the ceasefire over the past month, government forces specifically killing 12 civilians in Aleppo on Saturday and 13 more near Damascus. The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which represents much of the opposition, has stated that only Moscow can revive the cessation of hostilities by persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt his offensives against rebels throughout the country.

U.S President Barack Obama announced that he would send up to 250 additional special forces to Syria in order to support local combatants in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).

Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that a deadly airstrike hit one of its hospitals in Aleppo, killing at least 14 patients and three doctors, including one of the city’s last pediatricians. Local reports claim that Syrian or Russian warplanes are responsible, but the Syrian military has denied targeting the hospital.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, closed the latest round of peace talks in Geneva without setting a date for the next round to begin. However, he reported that he hoped to convene indirect negotiations and called on Russia and the US to save the talks and “revitalize” the ceasefire. A major point of contention during the latest round of talks has been the increase in violence and civilian casualties across the country, especially in the city of Aleppo. Meetings between the US and Russia this past week have yet to yield any sign of renewed political will to revive the ceasefire. Russia has defended the recent Syrian attacks around Aleppo, claiming they have been in response to rebel groups who are not signatories of the ceasefire.


Yemen:

In a major shift in Yemen’s civil war, the Saudi-backed coalition mounted its first large-scale offensive against al-Qaeda forces in the south.

The UN Security Council asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit, within 30 days, a plan on how peace can be achieved in Yemen.

The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick,urged all parties to the conflict to desist from any act of violence that would undermine the cessation of hostilities agreement. He further asked the international community to increase its support for Yemen, highlighting the urgent need for “safety, food, water, basic healthcare and education for children.”

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Campaign Against Arms Trade urgedObama to use his visit to Saudi Arabia to bring up the use of cluster bombs in Yemen, weapons which have allegedly caused numerous civilian deaths and violated international humanitarian law.


What else is new?

During Genocide Awareness Month, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has been sharing reflections on past atrocities. Click here to read their stories.

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