Tag Archives: UN

#RtoP Weekly: 30 July – 3 August 2018

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 Coalition Member Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) Releases Report on Attacks in Southern Syria 

ICRtoP member, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), has published a report documenting the attacks occurring in southern Syria allegedly carried out by the Russian-Syrian alliance, as well as Islamic State (ISIL) forces from mid-June to 30 July 2018. The SNHR gathered and compiled photos and videos from internet sources as well as information directly from local activists in order to analyze the extent and gravity of the attacks. The report asserts that the US’ failure to intervene is an abandonment of its bilateral ceasefire agreement with Russia to maintain stability in the region.

The report calls on the international community to act on its Responsibility to Protect as long as the UN Security Council remains divided and unable to act in a timely and appropriate manner. In addition to applying pressure on the UNSC, the SNHR hopes that justice and accountability remain at the forefront of the Syrian response, by holding the Syrian government responsible for its actions, urging for the referral of the Syrian Civil War to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and for UN agencies to continue documenting human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and open commissions of inquiry and investigations.


Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Mali

Nigeria
Philippines
South Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The IOM, 19,000 refugees, and local workers built 1,150 shelters for Rohingya people, as part of a quick response plan to improve the living conditions of the Rohingya refugees living at risk in Bangladesh during monsoon season.

On 25 July, the Indian Government commissioned a project to compile a list of biometric data of Rohingya refugees who fled to India from Burma to deport them “if necessary.” Rajnath Singh, Minister of the Interior, stated that the report will be given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so deportation negotiations with Bangladesh and Burma can begin if necessary. India sees many of the Rohingya as immigrating illegally, but the possibility of forced return to unsafe conditions is of concern under the RtoP norm and refugee law.

The Burmese Government announced on 30 July it would establish a four-person commission to investigate human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya community in the Rakhine State as a reaction to the growing international calls for accountability over accusations of ethnic cleansing. The Independent Commission is formed by two local and two international members and it is considered part of Burma’s national roadmap to “address reconciliation, peace, stability and development in Rakhine”


Central African Republic:

The UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), announced 118 incidents against humanitarian workers in CAR in the second quarter of 2018, a sharp increase from the first quarter of this year. Aid organizations are being forced to reduce service delivery for already vulnerable people, and the instability continues to place CAR at the top of the list for most dangerous countries for humanitarians.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) condemned the attacks occurring against civilians and peacekeepers in Pombolo, southeastern CAR, during the month of July. These human rights violations were largely committed by members of the armed group Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) or local anti-Balaka forces. MINUSCA identified over 250 perpetrators to date, and pledges to continue working to restore security in the area.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

In a UNSC Briefing on 26 July, MONUSCO Head, Leila Zerrougui, told members that the right conditions for a free and fair Presidential election in the DRC did not yet exist. Human rights violations against protesters, opposition, and media continue to curb freedom of speech and assembly rights, in addition to arbitrary detention. In provincial elections, women only comprise 12% of candidates, and the electoral commission has yet to respond to MONUSCO’s offer to provide logistical support for the election.

Jean Pierre Bemba arrived back in the DRC for the first time in 11 years on 1 August in order to submit his candidacy for the December Presidential elections. His candidacy continues to raise questions regarding the security and credibility of the elections.


Gaza / West Bank:

Al Jazeera reported on 29 July that job cuts in the Gaza Strip office of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), partly attributed to US aid cuts to Palestinians, is a “massacre for employees.” 113 employees lost their jobs this week, and reports say that 1,000 contracts will not be renewed from December. Protests against the cuts are ongoing, with staff members noting that there is little sense in letting go of the crucial workers helping “tens of thousands of refugees in the Gaza strip.” Fears over the reduction in aid workers persist; unemployment in the Gaza strip is already at 44%.

The Daily Star reported on 30 July that a Norwegian-affiliated activist boat which attempted to breach the 11-year-long blockade on Gaza but was intercepted by the Israeli navy. The ship carried personnel and medical supplies, like many other activist groups attempts to breach the blockade with humanitarian relief for Palestinians.

Only three days after Tareq Baconi of the European Council on Foreign Relations released an op-ed in the Washington Post stating that the only way to prevent the currently looming war in Gaza is for Israel to “loosen the chokehold” on the Gaza strip and prioritize “core political drivers,” Israel has blocked entry of fuel supplies into Gaza. The move is in retaliation for the continuing use of incendiary kites by Hamas causing at least 19 fires on Wednesday, Israel reported. The Gaza Strip’s two million residents will continue to suffer from a lack of power and essential services.


Iraq:

In further post-election political fall-out, authorities charged five more election officials with corruption on 28 July, Reuters reported. Officials running election offices in both Jordan and Turkey were also fired. The May election result is not yet confirmed as ballot recounts are still underway, and  protests calling for improved government services and access to electricity, water, and jobs continue across the country.

The UN Refugee agency released new figures showing that since 2014 around 2.14 million Iraqis have been displaced in attempts to flee ISIS-related violence. Many homes have been destroyed and internally displaced persons have nowhere to return to from the camps they currently live in, Al Jazeera reported on 29 July.

On 31 July coalition member, Human Rights Watch, expressed its concern that torture allegations made against security forces in Iraq are not adequately investigated. Concern is mounting as numerous alleged ISIS members are detained and tortured into giving confessions because authorities want to “achieve convictions” to reaffirm the strong message of the group’s defeat in the country. While there is the legal infrastructure within the justice system to investigate such claims, judges and lawyers interviewed by HRW noted that it is scarcely used.


Libya:

Spanish charity ProActiva Open Arms claims that an Italian towboat rescued and returned over 108 migrants back to Libya on Monday, 30 July. If confirmed by the UN, such a return would be a violation of international law.

The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded that 1,504 people have died in attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Europe 2018 to date. This marks the fifth consecutive year where over 1,500 people have died attempting the crossing.


Mali:

NGO Acción contra el Hambre reported on 26 July a new outbreak of violence amongst the Tuareg community in northern Mali. These clashes threaten to exacerbate the food crisis already present in the country and to increase the number of displaced people.

Over 300 people have been killed so far this year in the Mopti region as a result of the increase in ethnic violence. As a result, many members of the Fulani community have been forced to move to Bamako’s outskirts. Jihadists groups are using the conflict and ethnic tensions to recruit members for their cause.

In a telephone interview on 27 July, the head of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the Sahel region told said that direct humanitarian assistance provided by international forces makes it riskier for aid organizations to carry out their work, as it makes it more difficult to distinguish armed forces from humanitarians. She also explained how Doctors Without Borders is negotiating with international actors to convince them to contribute to the construction of infrastructures or provide assistance in areas where their NGO does not work instead of implementing direct humanitarian assistance activities.

Several violent incidents occurred during Malian elections, despite President Keita deploying 30,000 security personnel throughout the country. Violence disrupted and even halted voting in some villages, with 105 polling stations closed because of security concerns. Approximately 4,000 others were affected in some way by violence. Results are still unknown, but voter turnout is expected to be low.

On 31 July, the French Ministry of Defense reaffirmed the success of its stabilizing operation “Barkhane,” which neutralized over 230 suspected jihadist terrorists in the Sahel last year.


Nigeria:

Eight people were killed and seven injured on 23 July in a suicide attack on a mosque in the Borno region, historically known as the birthplace of the extremist group Boko Haram. However, no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This incident is the last of a series of attacks to mosques that have been occurring in recent months.

The International Crisis Group reported on 26 July that the conflict between farmers and herders in Nigeria is more lethal than Boko Haram in 2018 thus far. The pastoral conflict has become Nigeria’s severest security challenge with 1,300 deaths, and displaced hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, strengthening ethnic, regional, and religious polarization.

On 29 July, the President Buhari ordered the deployment of aircraft and 1,000 troops to combat banditry in Zamfara State, which has resulted in the killing and kidnapping of hundreds in the region.


Philippines:

On 27 July, UNSG Guterres welcomed Duterte’s new legislation which grants more autonomy to Muslim communities in the Southern Philippines. SG Guterres congratulated negotiators, the Government of the Philippines, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their work, and describes the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as a “landmark achievement on the road to lasting peace”. The legislation institutionalized terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, which the the government and MILF signed in 2014.

11 people died on 31 July when a car bomb exploded in the city of Lamitan. The Philippine government condemned the terrorist attack, calling it a “war crime.” The Islamic State group has claimed credit for the attack.


South Sudan:

On 2 September, members of Nepal’s peacekeeping operations in South Sudan were accused of allegedly raping two teenage girls. UNSG Guterres’ office responded, announcing they would send in investigators as the SG has pledged to take a harder line in responding to misconduct among UN forces against members of the populations they are supposed to be protecting.


Syria:

A Kurdish-Arab alliance supported by the US is willing to negotiate with Assad’s government in the hope of working towards a “democratic, decentralized Syria.” Faced with a choice between further fighting or negotiations over the fate of the northeastern region of Syria in which they function, the alliance hopes to build a “decentralized” state working “alongside the Syrian government,” Al Jazeera reported on 28 July.

Arab News reported on 30 July that recent attacks on the Sweida province by Daesh fighters left over 200 dead and 36 women and children kidnapped since last Wednesday. At least two of those kidnapped have since died. Syrian military planes conducted airstrikes on Monday in the Sweida area against the group. Daesh holds small areas of territory in the Syrian desert in both Sweida and Daraa.

According to the Guardian, Syrian government forces took control of Daraa province, previously under ISIS control, on 31 July. Members of the White Helmets that were not evacuated last week are still appealing to be rescued, fearing the progressing government military.


Venezuela:

On 31 July, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, tweeted: “The crimes against humanity committed by the dictatorship in Venezuela will not go unpunished”. Also, he reminded the international community of its commitment to enforce freedom and justice in the country.


Yemen:

On 2 August CNN released rare drone footage taken from the capital city, Sanaa, which exhibits the destruction caused by years of siege and airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Human Rights Watch alleges that the coalition has conducted 85 illegal airstrikes in the area.

Save the Children estimates that over 6,000 residents of the port city, Hodeidah, flee “every single day” and are in “extreme danger.” Half of those fleeing are children, with their escape involving encountering “minefields, airstrikes and being forced to cross areas of active fighting.” The UN continues to hold talks between the warring parties – the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition – over the fate of the city, but Save the Children representatives describe the city as a “ghost town” with extensive destruction already clear to see. 22.2 million out of the country’s total 27.4 million (80%) of civilians require humanitarian assistance, representing a 15% increase on last year’s figures.


Other:

In an initiative lead by Rwanda, the US, and the Netherlands, 32 countries urged UNSG Antonio Guterres to take administrative actions when UN Peacekeepers violate the Kigali Principles of civilian protection. The signing states also pledged to ensure that the troops they provide peacekeeping missions take more proactive measures in mitigating potential threats to civilian safety.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al-Hussein, announced that the OHCHR would investigate the reports of human rights violations and escalating violence against the Anglophone community in Cameroon. Although violence has occurred on both sides, the Anglophone community alleges economic and political discrimination in government policies and tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries.

Following the 30 July elections, violence once again fell upon Zimbabwe, in what many hoped to be a peaceful event. The government deployed forces against unarmed and peaceful protesters in its capital, Harare, which turned violent. Prior to the official Presidential Election results, ZANU-PF, the party of former President Robert Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, had secured the necessary two-thirds vote to amend the country’s constitution in the parliamentary election. Following the instability and violence, Amnesty International called for an investigation into the army’s role and conduct against protesters.

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#RtoP Weekly: 22 – 27 July 2018

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 ICRtoP and partners release new report from CSW side event on inclusion of rural women and girls 

In March 2018, over 200 representatives of civil society, the UN, and Member States met during the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to attend a side event co-convened by UN Women and several CSOs, including the ICRtoP, entitled “Leaving No One Behind for Planet 50-50 by 2030: Every rural woman and girl everywhere.” The event included a dialogue among activists from rural areas, including indigenous women, refugees, and members of the LGBTI community, demanding gender equality, and to discuss how to ensure no woman or girl is left behind in the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals. The session included a call for greater representation, visibility, and participation of women in government, and universal application of policies enshrining the rights of women and girls.

“The fact that this Commission (CSW) is shining a light on the condition of women and girls in rural areas is very fitting, because they face some of the most daunting challenges of our time,” stated Lopa Banerjee, Director of UN Women’s Civil Society Division at the opening of the event.

Empowering women and girls in the peace and security and development processes is critical in conflict prevention and building resilient societies. The ICRtoP was excited to have the opportunity to support and give voice to the activists, policy-makers, and participants of the event at the CSW62, whose report is now available.

To read the full report, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Mali
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen
Venezuela
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) published its report update on the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis Response for the 13-19 July 2018 period. The report specifies the current situation and the actions carried out by the organization to improve the Rohingya refugees’ conditions in the areas of health, shelter & non-food items, needs & population monitoring, site management & development, protection, resilience & disaster risk reduction, accountability to affected population, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

On 19 July, the Southeast Asian human rights group Fortify Rights released a new report entitled, “Myanmar: International Accountability Needed for Military-Planned Genocide Against Rohingya.” The report highlights “reasonable grounds” that the crimes committed against the Rohingya population amount to genocide and crimes against humanity, and that Burmese authorities conducted extensive and systematic preparations for attacks against this minority. This paper also calls on the UNSC to immediately refer the Burmese situation to the ICC, as it identifies that 22 Burma Army and Police officials should be investigated and brought to justice for the roles they played in committing atrocity crimes.

The International Security Consulting Group (ISCG) released a situation report on the Rohingya refugee crisis on 19 July. The report outlines many improvements such as: (i) Continuous effort on improving the shelters in the refugee camps (90% of the target shelters were upgraded), (ii) Good work of the Health Sector which has provided a total of 2,480,273 outpatient consultations, (iii) 36,037 refugees were moved to newly developed sites, and (iv) Finally all individuals older than 12 have received an ID card and all households have been provided a family certificate.

The UN Human Rights Council reported on 19 July that the flow of Rohingya refugees still moving to Bangladesh shows that human rights violations in Burma persist. Muslim Rohingya refugees reaching Bangladesh report that Burma is still unsafe, as violence and torture persevere.

Experts at Save the Children evaluated research carried out by UN bodies finding that the Burmese Government violated at least seven key articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report addresses “indiscriminate and extrajudicial killing of Rohingya children, and the torture, ill-treatment, and gender-based violence” committed against them.

On 23 July, UNSC held a meeting regarding the situation in Burma in order to discuss a number of issues about the Rohingya refugee crisis. Both the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Myanmar and the High Commissioner for Refugees exposed their briefings about their travels there during the month of June.


Central African Republic:

The Institute for Security Studies, Africa (ISS) released a report on 23 July revealing the widespread sexual violence occurring against men and boys in CAR. The report notes that currently CAR has no judicial precedent for SV against males, and urges the special prosecutor of the new Special Criminal Court to take steps to ensure perpetrators do not act with impunity. The report notes that cultural stigmas, humanitarian workers being under-trained in recognizing male victims of SV, and a need for comprehensive rehabilitation strategies are needed not only to prevent further sexual violence but to curtail widespread human rights abuses and potential atrocity crimes.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Following Former DRC Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s announcement to run in the 2018 Presidential election, concerns about the election among opposition leaders and the international community has grown. Bemba scheduled a return to the DRC 1 August, on a passport issued by President Kabila. Possible collusion between Bemba and Kabila or a plan by Kabila to force a 3-way opposition split are among the theories spread. President Kabila’s running status is uncertain, causing increased political tension in the country.


Gaza / West Bank:

On 21 July the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, urged Hamas to end the “launching of rockets and incendiary kites.” He also appealed to the Israeli military to “avoid further inflaming the situation” in the hope that the parties will “step back from the brink” of another violent conflict.

Al Jazeera noted the “uneasy calm” over the Gaza area on 21 July as a ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli forces, which was put in place at midnight on 20 July, appeared to be holding up. However, comments from Phillis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies shared her skepticism over the deal leading to total peace in the region.

On 23 July the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, reminded all fighting parties in the Gaza strip that “any disproportionate or indiscriminate use of weapons” injuring or killing civilians is prohibited by international law, as many protesters have been targeted in recent months. He noted that parties must focus on addressing the “root causes” of demonstrations and inadequate living conditions for Palestinians living in Gaza. He also expressed concern over the Palestinian children who are detained in Israel without charge, an additional breach of international law.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, praised diplomatic efforts lead by Egypt and the UN for calming tensions between Israel and Hamas, on 24 July. He noted that further conflict would further impact the lives of civilians in the region who are already suffering from an 11-year trade blockade by Israel and Egypt and infrastructure as a result of the violence.

On 25 July Israel allowed a partial reopening of a vital commercial crossing allowing goods such as fuel, food and medicine to enter the region. Concerns this week reached a high point when fuel shortages threatened the closure of many hospitals in the area which could have resulted in death for those on life-support machines and lack of ability to perform operations, as well as the inability to provide basic services.


Iraq:

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Marta Ruedas, stated that as of 24 July, nearly 870,000 people have returned to Mosul following the liberation of numerous villages in the region from Islamic State militants roughly a year ago, following work by the UN Mine Action Service. Nearly 43,700 explosive hazards from “roads, bridges, schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, water treatment plants and municipal buildings” have been cleared, but two million still remain internally displaced.

Coalition member, Human Rights Watch, condemns the “excessive use of lethal forces” used against protesters in Basra between 8 and 17 July, which killed at least three and wounded over 40 people, including children.

Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has promised to penalize government officials who have been reluctant to carry out their jobs, providing crucial services and responding to requests to the people of Iraq, in response to the protests.


Libya:

The NGO Proactiva Open Arms expresses its disappointment over the Libyan Coastguard’s “lack of assistance in international waters” when it slashed an inflatable vessel migrants were using, before abandoning the migrants and boat last week. The NGO found the wreckage of the boat with the bodies of a woman and child who were already dead, and only one survivor. The NGO wishes to file a manslaughter charge against the Libyan coastguard due to the deaths being “no accident.”


Mali:

On 17 July, the OHCHR confirmed 289 civilian deaths in 2018 to date as a result of inter-community violence, particularly in the Mopti region. These numbers show the deterioration of the situation and increased civilian displacements.

In an OCHA report released on 22 July stated Mali is in its most critical humanitarian situation since the conflict began in 2012 as a result of the rise in insecurity and the lack of assistance. 4.3 million Malian people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and “if the necessary assistance is not offered immediately, the situation could continue to deteriorate and would require more resources than now to be addressed.”


South Sudan:

In the latest efforts to establish a peace deal for South Sudan, the government and Machar’s SPLM-IO have reached an agreement. The deal establishes a power-sharing deal with President Kiir remaining in his position, and restoring Dr. Machar to the First Vice Presidency, in addition to four other VPs, one of whom will be a woman. There are provisions for a transitional legislature as well. A coalition of other rebel groups are rejecting the decision, however, saying their concerns were not taken into account.


Sudan:

On 24 July, UN Under Secretary General for Field Support, Atul Khare, visited the Darfur region of Sudan. Talks focused on UNAMID withdrawal, the continuance of development programs, and arms collection to continue improving peace and security.


Syria:

Despite the successful evacuation of 422 White Helmets members and their families in southwest Syria over the weekend of the 21 and 22 July, the BBC is concerned over the remaining 378 facing the advancing government forces. The Syrian regime views White Helmets as supporting “terrorists” and their safety cannot be guaranteed if the government regains control over the rebel-held regions where they are currently based.

The Syrian government condemns the evacuation called for by the US, UK, and other European countries being conducted by the Israeli Defence Forces, claiming it to be a “criminal operation” and a “despicable act” because the group allegedly supports terrorist organizations.


Venezuela:

On 17 July, the Venezuelan Parliament proclaimed that it will create a commission to study children abandoned by their parents who have had to let them in the country alone in order to emigrate. There is no official count of abandoned children in Venezuela but, according to the NGO Fundana, there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of babies who are handed over to the association, many come in critical feeding situations.

The Government of Venezuela announced on 18 July that it had opened 3,000 food houses to assist the victims of the “economic war” allegedly influenced by the opposition and foreign governments by offering them free food. These food houses have already helped 626,328 people, including vulnerable groups such as children and elderly people.


Yemen:

On 23 July, Reuters reported around 8.4 million people in Yemen are on the verge of starvation. There has been a 25% increase in the level of “severe hunger” for Yemenis. UN agencies have reported famine-like conditions already existing in certain areas of the country, but “not all the criteria” has been met yet. Fears over continuing violence between Houthis and Saudi-led forces still threatens the closure of the Hodeidah port and the entrance of crucial food supplies and humanitarian goods. 


Other:

UNSG Antonio Guterres and Chairperson for the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, signed a Framework Agreement between the UN and AU, respectively, in order to address peace and security issues on the African continent. Senior UN spokesperson, Sahle-Work Zewde, underscored the need for conflict prevention and resolution efforts saying, “[the organizations] also need to recognize the critical role of sub-regional organizations, which are often the first to detect early warning signs of impending conflict, and are important partners in promoting dialogue and reconciliation.”

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#RtoP Weekly 8 – 13 July 2018

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UNGA holds Formal Debate on the RtoP

On 25 June and 2 July 2018, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened its first formal debate on “The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity” since 2009 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The debate followed the release of the tenth annual UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) report on RtoP, and the second by Secretary-General António Guterres’, entitled “Responsibility to Protect: From Early Warning to Early Action.”

Following the opening remarks by the President of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General, 79 Member States and two regional organizations (the EU and the Pacific Island Group) delivered statements on behalf of 113 States. Over the course of the debate, many countries expressed their gratitude regarding the inclusion of the RtoP as a stand-alone item on the General Assembly’s agenda to be able to discuss it formally. Member States also reaffirmed their commitments to the RtoP and supported the Secretary-General’s focus on prevention and narrowing the gap between early warning and early action. In fact, 107 Member States acknowledged that the costs to “pick up the pieces after crisis” are far greater than those that go into prevention efforts. Member States additionally supported a variety of initiatives to overcome current barriers of effective implementation of the RtoP norm. For example, support for veto restraint by members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resounded throughout the debate, with 69 Member States presenting arguments for the benefits and necessity of exercising restraint in the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes by Security Council Members. This concern also manifested itself through expressed support for the France-Mexico Initiative and/or the Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency (ACT Group) Code of Conduct.

Throughout the debate, 83 Member States also mentioned the importance of accountability mechanisms as a way to prevent recurrence of mass atrocity crimes, and subsequently acknowledged the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to counter impunity. Emphasizing findings in the report, many Member States gave support to the idea of including civil society in atrocity prevention measures and for denouncing violations and giving specific expertise at local, national, and international levels. Furthermore, 74 Member States expressed support for including the RtoP as a standing agenda item in the General Assembly to continue such discussions on these important topics.

The ICRtoP has produced a number of educational materials about the UNSG report and UNGA dialogue, including a summary and infographic for both the 2018 report and dialogue and an updated page on the UN and RtoP, which includes information on all UNGA dialogues. To view these material and all of the ICRtoP’s UNGA coverage, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
DPRK
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Nigeria 
South Sudan 
Sudan 
Syria
Venezuela 
Yemen 
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

During the week of 2 July, the UNSG visited Bangladesh and called on all countries to step up, help, and give support to the Rohingya refugees with real action. He also described the Rohingya situation as a clear case of ethnic cleansing.

The UNHCR announced on 6 July that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will start receiving credit card-sized plastic IDs in the refugee camps. This will enable the consolidation of “a unified database for the purposes of protection” and recognition amongst other things. The IDs will play a crucial role in formalizing refugees’ identities and will preserve their right to voluntarily return home when the appropriate safety conditions are in place. However, on 8 July, UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee reported that the Government of Burma made no progress in eliminating systemic discrimination against the Rohingya in its domestic law to make the Rakhine safe for their return, preventing such action in the near future.

On 11 July, the third peace conference between the Burmese government, military, and ethnic minorities began. The government allowed members of the Northern Alliance to attend as well. During the opening remarks of the conference, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing called for an agreement amongst stakeholders prioritizing peace over political demands.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock highlighted the lack of funding available to solve the humanitarian situation in the DPRK on 11 July, and is trying to raise $111 million to meet the needs of approximately 6 million people for health, water, sanitation, and food security.


Gaza / West Bank:

On 9 July, Israel announced the closing of the Karam Abu Salem commercial border, a key passageway for goods entering the Gaza Strip. The existing blockade by Israel already imposes a significant impact on the Gazan economy, and the additional closure will prevent citizens from receiving crucial resources such as clothing and construction materials. Only limited humanitarian necessities such as wheat, flour and cooking gas will be allowed. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressedconcern over this decision citing that it will likely escalate the conflict and cause more suffering of civilians in the area.


Iraq:

Save the Children released a report on 5 July entitled “Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding the Lives of Mosul’s Children After Years of Conflict and Violence,” exploring the “constant fear and intense sorrow” that children who have lived through the conflict have to come to terms with. Save the Children Iraq Country Director, Ana Locsin, noted that the successful rebuilding of the country and its future success will depend on “the development of its children into healthy, secure adults.”

Iraq began the recount of ballot votes from the 12 May election on 9 July, following accusations that vote-rigging and fraud occurred. UN representatives as well as members of political parties, embassies, and media outlets are allowed to attend the recount, which is taking place at the Baghdad International Fair.

Concerns over the high rates of prosecutions for suspected IS fighters and their suspected affiliates, including ISIS wives, remain in what are deemed to be unfair trials by many international observers. The Sun Herald reported on 9 July that over 3,000 punishments have been given in the last few weeks, with cases going through the courts at an concerningly fast rates. Unease is particularly prominent over the court’s “reliance on informants” who potentially have “personal grudges” against those on trial being considered in sentencing, and secondly the duration of some trials, which last only 10-15 minutes. One third of cases result in the death penalty.


Libya:

While General Haftar announced a couple of weeks ago that his LNA’s forces have fully captured the city of Derna, as of the beginning of July, nine women have reportedly been kidnapped in a further bid by the government military to assert its dominance in the area. Rebels deny that the LNA have control of the area. Aid groups and the UN Support Mission in Libya are concerned over the lack of acknowledgement by government forces regarding their ability to deliver basic supplies and “deliver life-saving assistance” to civilians.


Nigeria:

On 8 July, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed the importance of having women in leadership positions and their participation in peace processes in order to prevent conflicts and violent extremism. Mohammed describes women’s roles as “critical” for the future of Nigeria and the pursuit of improvement of the country’s current instability.

On 9 July, the Nigerian Army released 183 children, from the ages of 7 to 18, suspected of belonging to Boko Haram into UNICEF care. The children were arrested in several northeastern states affected by terrorist violence. They will now receive medical attention and psycho-social support from UNICEF specialists before reuniting with their families.


South Sudan:

After several rounds of discussions and cease-fire violations, South Sudanese leaders came to a power-sharing peace agreement on 7 July. The new agreement establishes four Vice Presidents, one being exiled opposition leader, Dr. Riek Machar. There are hopes that the agreement brings about an end to the four year conflict. However, days later, rebels announced that they rejected the peace deal on the basis of no formal, written agreement ever being presented to or consented by Dr. Machar. They went further stating that they also believed the agreement maintained the status quo and didn’t do enough to address the reforms they saw as necessary for the country’s success.

On 10 July, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) released a statement accusing South Sudanese government forces of pursuing a “scorched earth” policy, deliberately targeting civilians and vulnerable populations. Attacks were carried out against elderly, people with disabilities, and young children, in addition to widespread sexual violence against women and girls. UN monitors allege that the actions may amount to war crimes.


Sudan:

Fighting between government forces and rebel groups in the Jebel Marra region continue to displace hundreds of families. IDP camps saw over 450 new family arrivals since the end of Ramadan last month, with hundreds more allegedly seeking refuge in caves in the mountainous region.

The Foreign Minister voiced some criticism over actions that would delay the timeline for UNAMID troop withdrawal. The joint AU-UN peacekeeping operational timeline garnered concern from several organizations due to the ongoing instability and security situation, who called on UNAMID not to downsize, after their announcement at the end of last month. The FM sees these concerns as creating tension and doubt about the stability in the Sudan.

Peace talks have no timeline for their resumption, as of 8 July, according to the presidential Envoy. Al Bashir’s envoy said that a timeline would be discussed after consulting with the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), but each side blames the other for the deadlock in the stalled negotiations.


Syria:

The UN estimates that around 320,000 civilians have been displaced in Southern Syria since 19 June due to ongoing fighting and air strikes. The Assad Government continues to try to take hold of the parts of the Dera’a Province that are currently held by rebels, firing deadly barrel bombs and missiles on a daily basis.  Al Jazeera reports that the area has been “completely burnt to the ground” with over 20 civilian casualties recorded.

Since mid-June around 60,000 Syrians moved towards the Jordanian border in a plea for refuge from the violence. Jordanian activists continue their campaign which began on 1 July to have the border reopened, citing that they have not abandoned the Syrian people and wish to help protect them. However, the border still remains closed to Syrians, forcing them to return to conflict-stricken areas deeper within the country.

On 11 July, Al Jazeera reported that rebels in Dera’a have agreed to hold negotiations with Russian military officials regarding a potential evacuation of fighters to northwestern, rebel-held areas in Syria. Fighters and their families are currently surrounded by government troops with few other prospects of safe survival.


Venezuela:

On 5 July, 50 countries asked Venezuela to accept humanitarian aid and assistance, and to cooperate with the Council’s human rights mechanisms to combat the increase in shortages of medicine and malnutrition in the country. Following this request, the Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN condemned the “foreign interference”, singling out the United States’ role in this “aggression”.


Yemen:

Fighting continues in the port city of Hodeidah between Saudi-led coalition forces and Houthi rebels. The UN Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, continues to work towards a peace deal between the parties, proposing the Houthis turning over control of the region to the UN. He hopes that parties will show commitment to the peace negotiation process, particularly as the situation is untenable and citizens nation-wide face total famine if the port’s infrastructure, which receives the majority (80%) of food and medicinal imports for the Yemeni people, is damaged by the violence.

The UNICEF Chief, Henrietta Fore, described on 3 July that over 2,200 children have been killed and a further 3,400 injured as a result of the ongoing conflict. There is also concern over mines scattered across the city, putting civilians lives at risk.

UN News reported on 10 July that the World Health Organization (WHO) described the health situation in Hodeidah as the “most dire in the country,” which has been made even worse by the “intensification of fighting” in the area. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) continues to urge all parties to respect international humanitarian law and refrain from targeting civilians, including migrants.


Other:

On 10 July the AU and UN held its Annual Conference on the Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security. The Conference focused on regional peace and security issues and the need to achieve cohesion with national development frameworks.

Ahead of its annual meeting in August, the SADC  released a framework to mainstream women and gender into national peace and security agendas. The region continues to take steps to better increase women’s presence in decision making processes, and the Secretariat acknowledged that incorporating the WPS Agenda into its policies is beneficial to creating more peaceful and equitable societies.

Reports out of Harare, Zimbabwe seem promising, as the country is witnessing a “pre-election calm” that was not seen during former President Robert Mugabe’s tenure. The coercion, harassment, and violence against ZANU-PF opposition members and supporters, largely fueled by Mugabe himself, remains absent as political opponents agreed to an electoral Code of Conduct last month. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) meeting saw political leaders committing to prevent pre-election practices that were present in prior elections.

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#RtoP Weekly : 17 – 22 June 2018

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 RtoP in the UN General Assembly

It is a busy and exciting time at the ICRtoP, as we wrote to you in our Weekly a fortnight ago, the first formal debate on the RtoP in the UN General Assembly since 2009 will be taking place 25 June. As such we have been preparing for the debate and are looking forward to advocating for the inclusivity, importance, and perpetuity of RtoP’s inclusion on the UN Agenda.

Secretary-General Guterres has remained committed to conflict and atrocity prevention over his tenure, and the upcoming debate and side events next week in New York will provide Member States an opportunity to develop formal, on-the-record statements and encourage further dialogs on the doctrine’s domestication and implementation. As the Secretary General noted at the Oslo Forum this past week, the number of countries involved in conflict and number of people killed in conflicts increasing at significant rates, preventative action is “more necessary than ever.”

**Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly 22 – 29 June due to the Formal Debate on the RtoP in the UN General Assembly. However, we will resume publication with an update on these events, including the Secretary General’s Report on the RtoP, the debate, and the crisis situations around the world the following week, 30 June – 6 July.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya 

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

A photojournalist travelled with the UN Children’s Fund and interviewed 14 Rohingya refugee women survivors of brutal sexual violence. On 18 June, he published a photo-essay in his personal blog where he explains how the issue of rape is still a taboo in Rohingya society. The blog also highlights how the shame that rape carries decreases the prospects of victims to marry or remarry close to zero. UNICEF also collected testimonies from various victims whose children have been called the “forgotten victims of war” by Secretary General Guterres.

Prior to World Refugee Day on 20 June, a report by the UN stated that a record number of people were displaced, and noted the Rohingya was one of the largest groups of refugees.


DPRK:

On 20 June, the follow up after the historic summit demonstrated flaws as James Mattis, the US Defence Secretary, claimed to be unaware of the steps of the alleged process of dismantling nuclear weapons by North Korea, nor does know when the next meeting discussing denuclearization will be held.


DRC:

Following his release from detention at the ICC, Former VP Bemba returned to Belgium, where he owns a home, the International Justice Initiative reported on 18 June. The ICC and Belgium signed an agreement in 2014 allowing for the interim release of detainees into their territory. As part of his release conditions, Bemba had to provide his address and contact information to authorities, in addition to agreeing to surrender himself immediately if required by the trial chamber.


Gaza/West Bank:

In retaliation for the release of incendiary kites by Palestinian protesters, the Israel Defense Forces struck nine targets in Gaza in through air strikes on 19 June. Concern continues over Israel’s “excessive use of force.”

On 20 June, Palestinians in Gaza fired “several dozen rockets and mortar bombs” into Israel. No Israeli casualties were reported. Hamas spokesperson noted that the strikes were in line with a “bombardment for bombardment” policy they have implemented, and that strikes were in “retaliation for an earlier Israeli air strike.”

Injured Palestinian protesters continue to face barriers to healthcare access due to the 11 year Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza. Hospitals have extremely limited access to medical supplies and only one third of injured people had exit permits approved to travel out-with Gaza for life-saving treatment. Instead, many lacking treatment have just faced a “slow death,” Al Jazeera reports.


Iraq: 

The wives of ISIS fighters continue to face prosecution for terrorism in Iraqi courts, following the defeat of ISIS in the country. PBS reports that while Iraq wants to extradite the women back to their home countries, such as Russia, the governments are refusing to accept them. If women with children are convicted, the children will remain in prison with them until they reach school age, when they will be sent to orphanages in Iraq. Coalition member, Human Rights Watch, is expressing concern over the lack of fair trials for these women and also the lack of consideration of individual circumstances in each case, particularly as those charged face the death penalty as punishment.


Kenya:

On 19 June the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) released a report that 60 percent of sexual violence cases that were reported during the 2017 General Election were perpetrated by security officers. The KNHCR also noted that many of the crimes went unreported due to a lack of trust in law enforcement agencies.


Libya: 

Fighting continues as the Libyan National Army attempts to take over the city of Derna. The LNA claims to claims to have captured 75% of the city, DW News reported on 18 June. Over 2,183 families have fled so far, according to the UN Migration Agency. Conditions are expected to continue deteriorating as the conflict continues.

A study released by Airways and New America reports that, since October 2011, 2,158 air strikes have taken place in Libya, by US, UAE, French and Egyptian forces. The report claims that strikes killed 395 civilians.


Mali:

On 14 June, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations highlighted the importance of consolidating democracy in Mali through the upcoming Presidential elections that will be held on 29 July. He also stressed that Mali should implement the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation after the elections, as it will help towards the peaceful resolution of disputes.

On 18 June, members of local human rights NGOs informed EFE about 25 civilian bodies found in a mass grave in the region of Mopti, in central Mali. More than half of them were identified as part of a list of arrested people by FAMA, which suggests an “extrajudicial execution” committed by soldiers. AI and HRW have also recently denounced FAMA for their alleged abuses against Malian civilians with the pretext of counter-terrorist struggle. On 19 June, Mali’s defence minister Coulibaly admitted that its armed forces were implicated in the killings of the 25 civilian bodies found in three mass graves. Coulibaly instructed military prosecutors to open an inquiry to fight impunity and promote the enforcement of humanitarian conventions and international rights.


Nigeria:

On 16 June, the UNSG condemned the killing in the north-eastern Nigerian area of Damboa by six suicide bombers allegedly conducted by Boko Haram. This attack took the life of 30 people and targeted the Eid al-Fitr celebrations by Muslims which mark the end of Ramadan. Guterres reminds that attacks which affect civilians go against international humanitarian law and he demands Nigeria to find the people responsible for the massacre and that they are brought to justice.


South Sudan:

President Salva Kiir rejected an offer for his peace talks with Dr. Riek Machar to be hosted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in favor of a more neutral location, South Sudanese officials announced a week prior to the anticipated discussion. There were concerns about an IGAD country hosting the peace talks, with alleged competition and interests between Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan, as each country offered to host the negotiations. Instead, Michael Makuei, Information Minister and government spokesperson, said that President Kiir would prefer to travel to South Africa to meet with Dr. Machar, where the former has been on house arrest since 2016. In spite of protestation from the South Sudanese government, the peace talks between President Kiir and Dr. Machar took place in Addis Ababa on 20 June, though little about the discussion or its outcome is known at the time of writing.

In efforts to impose economic effects on officials, the Trump Administration announced “network sanctions” against the families and commercial ties of  South Sudan’s leaders last week. The proposal, advocated for by John Prendergast and The Sentry, urges Kenyan and Ugandan leaders to investigate ties and seize relevant assets. As of 19 July, Kenya has resisted the push from the US saying it “will only act within the context of international practices through the United Nations conventions and the Bretton Woods institutions.” The Trump Administration, which is keen to end the conflict in South Sudan, believes that officials in Nairobi and Kampala have not done enough to curb illicit money flowing through their system.


Sudan/Darfur:

Since 15 June, the Jebel Marra area of Darfur saw increased violence, including indiscriminate shelling by government forces, tribal clashes, and by villagers against displaced farmers, according to Netherlands based Radio Dabanga. In the Rokoro locality, they reported of indiscriminate shelling by government forces in addition to the detention and beating of several teenage boys. Meanwhile, a tribal conflict south of Abu Jubeiha city left two dead and dozens more wounded until police and security forces intervened and stopped the violence on 16 June. Police forces also intervened in the attacks in South Darfur, in which hostile villagers retaliated against displaced farmers hoping to settle and cultivate the land. 17 were injured. Violent attacks also wounded returnees on 19 June, when a group of over 70 armed militants fired upon farmers returning to cultivate their land, reinforcing the need for secure, safe conditions and the collection of arms if government officials are as serious about implementing a voluntary return program to Darfur.

The detention of Humanitarian Azrag Hasan Humeid on 18 June also incited protection concerns. Humeid, who started a youth initiative aimed at helping families through small enterprise ventures in East Darfur, was arrested upon the return from a trip to Khartoum and transferred to Ed Daein. An anonymous source suspects that his membership in a minority tribal group in the region, as well as the unfavorable position the leading National Congress Party has against civil society initiatives, contributed to his arrest.

ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, delivered another biannual report to the Security Council (UNSC) on the situation in Darfur. She noted that after 13 years, and 27 reports, the victims of the violence in Darfur had still yet to see any steps taken towards bringing the perpetrators of the alleged crimes to justice. She called for the UNSC to supporting the effective implementation of its own Resolution which referred the Darfur situation to the Court in the first place.


Syria:

Syria’s state-run news agency, Sana, accused a US-led coalition of conducting air strikes on 17 June which killed 52 people. The  Syrian Observatory for Human Rights verified the number of deaths. The US Operation Inherent Resolve, denies the reports, claiming that Israeli forces conducted the strikes.

The UN Commission of Inquiry released a report on 20 June accusing the Assad regime of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Eastern Ghouta earlier this year. The targeting of civilian areas, denial of food and medicine to civilians and attempts to starve 265,000 people all amount to breaches of international law.

On 21 June however, the New York Times revealed that the UN report in fact omitted crucial details that were included in an earlier draft that they received a copy of. The earlier draft placed more direct blame on the Assad regime for use of chemical weapons. A member of the Commission however stated that more evidence was required to back up claims in the earlier draft which they would continue to look into

The Citizen reported on 21 June that in the last three days alone 12,000 Syrians had to “flee their homes” as a result of continuing attacks by the Assad regime on rebel-held areas of Daraa in the south.


Venezuela:

On 19 June, Jorge Valero, Ambassador of Venezuela in the UN, rejected the report on human rights on Venezuela that the UN plans to publish. They accuse the UN of relying on unverified information and that it “lacks scientific rigor”. This coincides with the publication of UNHCR’s report on Global Trends in Forced Displacement, which ranked Venezuela fourth in the list of countries of origin for new asylum seekers in 2017. The number of Venezuelans requesting international protection was 111,600 in 2017, triple the numbers registered in 2016.


Yemen:

Despite talks between Houthis and the UN Envoy to Yemen occurring over the weekend regarding a UN administrative take-over of Hodeidah, Martin Griffiths reportedly left the country without comment. It is unclear so far whether they reached a peaceful agreement.

Reuters reported on 19 June that the Saudi-led coalition invading Hodeidah captured large swathes of the port city from Iran-aligned Houthi fighters. Residents are reporting that “water has been cut off” to many homes and “death and destruction” is everywhere.

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#RtoP Weekly : 10 – 15 June 2018

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Attacks on Hodeidah, Yemen endanger an already fragile environment

Despite intense negotiations between UN officials and members of the Saudi-led coalition forces endeavoring to peacefully resolve fighting around Hodeidah, Yemen, the coalition began attacking the city on 13 June. The attack comes as an attempt by the coalition forces to seize the Houthi-held region and return it to Yemeni-government rule. The UN and numerous humanitarian aid groups remain concerned over the attack which risks damaging the infrastructure and port that currently supplies the vast majority of food and aid to the country. Indeed, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, says that “250,000 people may lose everything – even their lives.”

Saudi-led coalition forces remained within 10km of the city while negotiations were underway.

Martin Griffiths, UN Envoy to Yemen, arrived in the country on 2 June to propose that the Houthis cede control of the city to the UN, in an attempt to avert the likely “bloodbath” attack. The war-torn country is home to hundreds of thousands of people who already face starvation and an intense cholera outbreak, what is arguably one of the severest humanitarian crises at the time.

Despite the initiation of the attack on Wednesday, The Norwegian Refugee Council reported on 14 June that the Hodeidah port remains open. The port serves as a crucial lifeline, as the “main entry point for food and aid” to the whole of Yemen.

Saudi-led coalition forces are fighting against Houthi rebel forces within Yemen, whom it accuses of acting as a proxy force of Iran. The Saudi-led coalition supports the Yemeni president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Of over 10,000 civilian casualties killed in the Yemeni civil war since 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has noted that almost two thirds were as a direct result of Saudi-led coalition air attacks. There are already 2 million internally displaced people in Yemen, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and over 20,000 people have fled the country to seek shelter refugee camps in Somalia, Jordan, and Ethiopia.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
CAR

DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali 
Nigeria
Philippines
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen
Other 


Burma/Myanmar:

On 8 June, the Burmese government held a meeting at the presidential palace to discuss, amongst others, the situation of the Rakhine State, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the UNHCR and the UNDP, national security, and international relations.

On 11 June, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that monsoon rains destroyed many refugee shelters in Bangladesh, which host one million Rohingya refugees from Burma. So far, 9,000 refugees have been affected and the number continues to grow.

Britain’s Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, stated that he had spoken with Prime Minister Suu Kyi and also urged her to implement measures for safe return as soon as possible now that Burma has agreed to the UN supervising the return of the refugees, and that an investigation be carried out on the alleged atrocities.


Central African Republic:

On 11 June, the UN announced the death of another UN Peacekeeper. The attack also left another injured during regular patrol outside of Bambari. It is the second death of MINUSCA forces in two weeks. UN Officials warned that attacks against Peacekeeping forces may constitute a war crime.


DPRK:

On 11 June, UNSG Guterres described Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump’s meeting as “a promising development for global peace and security.” Guterres also highlighted that the way towards peace and denuclearization is with cooperation, compromise, and a common goal. He also drew attention to the fact that the North Korean humanitarian situation is far from ideal, as the UN estimates that 40 percent of the population requires assistance.

On 12 June, the long-awaited historic summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump took place in Singapore. They signed a statement where Jong-un reaffirmed his commitment to complete North Korea’s denuclearization and, in exchange, Trump agreed to “provide security guarantees” to North Korea, halting military exercises with South Korea. The statement keeps the countries engaged, but it fails to resolve any issues, lacking a specific plan of action or timeline.

On 14 June, US Secretary of State Pompeo denied the sanction relief on North Korea, suggested by DPRK state media. According to Pompeo, these sanctions will not disappear until North Korea denuclearizes.


DRC:

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) DRC Country Director, Ulrika Blom, published a call to action in order to protect the people of the DRC and prevent a regional crisis. Humanitarian aid to the DRC is severely underfunded, leaving many Congolese displaced, without shelter, and without adequate food supply. Blom noted regional clashes between armed groups, tribal warfare, and unrest are causing people to flee their homes both internally, and across borders. Such large-scale displacement and instability, she warns, will inevitably affect regional politics and humanitarian aid responses.

On 8 June, the ICC Appeals Chamber acquitted Former Vice President, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Appeals Court ruled that Bemba was convicted based on crimes outside the scope of charges and that the Trial Chamber made errors in assessing whether or not he had taken all reasonable and necessary measures to prevent, repress, or punish the commission of his subordinates of the crimes that were within the scope of the case. Bemba was originally sentenced to 18 years in prison for two counts of crimes against humanity, and three counts of war crimes.

Following his acquittal on war crimes and crimes against humanity, the ICC ordered the release of Jean-Pierre Bemba on 11 June. The former VP faces sentencing in his appeals trial for witness tampering, but his release concerns many who believe his freedom could impact the elections scheduled later this year in the DRC. The judge was clear, however, that his release is temporary, pending the determination of the second case for which he stands up to five years in detention. Elise Keppler of HRW’s International Justice Initiative said that the ruling raises questions about the ICC’s credibility and may shock many who survived the violence in CAR.


Gaza/West Bank:

Coalition member Human Rights Watch called for the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry to investigate the alleged attacks on Palestinian medical workers at the Gaza border  by Israeli forces. Deliberate targeting of civilians and medical workers could amount to war crimes, particularly when targeted against civilians “who posed no imminent threat to life,” Human Rights Watch has noted in relation to the Gaza protests.

At a meeting on 9 June, the Israeli cabinet failed to adopt new decisions regarding proposals on how to deal with the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claims that Israel is the country that is doing the most, despite the 11 year-long blockade it has put on the Gaza strip, which has caused a humanitarian crisis in the region.

Meanwhile, on 13 June the UN General Assembly passed a resolution which “blamed the Israelis for the casualties” seen in Gaza since Palestinian protests began on 30 March. Despite the US and Israel being critical of the lack of inclusion of Hamas-based criticism in the resolution, it has been seen by many as a “moral victory.” Palestinian Ambassador, Riyad H. Mansour, urged that Palestine needs “protection of [its] civilian population.” While the resolution is not legally binding, and a similar legally-binding resolution put forward to the Security Council was vetoed by the US, it nonetheless displays the US and Israel’s overwhelming “isolation” relating to the conflict at the UN.


Iraq:

On 9 June, a huge fire engulfed the warehouse that is storing the ballot boxes from Iraq’s parliamentary election which took place on 12 May. The fire represents a deliberate “plot to sabotage the country and its democratic process,” says Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, as it comes just before a planned recount of all votes following accusations of election foul play.

On 11 June, the Iraqi court issued  arrest warrants for four suspected perpetrators, including policemen and an Independent High Elections Commission employee, Al Jazeera reports. Further, the current parliament proposed that nine judges take over the leadership of the Independent High Elections Commission. Haider al-Abadi is rejecting a call to repeat the elections, despite his third place election result. He reminded the country that the decision is one for the “judiciary, not politicians” and Parliament would not have the power to cancel the election anyway.

On 12 June, first and second-place election winners Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri announced their political blocs will create an alliance for the future government. They have announced that they “would keep the door open for other winning blocs to join them in forming a new government.” Their alliance is “a Nationalist one,” which al-Abadi may yet join.

The Iraqi Government has estimated that around $90 billion is required to rebuild Iraq in the wake of the previous 15 years of war in the region. At a donor conference in February, Iraq’s allies pledged only $30 billion to aid the reconstruction effort.


Libya:

Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, continue to call for General Khalifa Hiftar to open humanitarian corridors and allow civilians still trapped within the city of Derna to leave before the Libyan National Army advances further into the city. On 11 June, Amnesty released a report stating their fears that civilians would be caught up in a “bloody street battle” if advances continue.

Meanwhile on 11 June, a US Navy ship assisted and rescued a group of migrants off the Libyan coast. While Italy refuses to take migrants, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, has pledged to accept those rescued at sea, stating that “it is our obligation to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a ‘safe harbor’ to these people.”

On 12 June, the UN Security Council extended the Libya arms embargo for another year. Both of Libya’s governments have called for the arms embargo to be lifted, on the basis that they want to “create an army and police force to defend against crime” and need arms. The opposition, however, maintains that an effort must be made to seize the millions of arms already circulating among civilians and militias before any more weapons should be imported.


Mali:

The UNSG published a report on the situation in Mali which includes some of the findings and recommendations recently put forward by the independent strategic review of the MINUSMA. The report states that the protective environment, particularly in the center of Mali, continued to deteriorate during the reporting period. Indeed, during this time 43 civilians were killed and 24 were injured in targeted attacks and conflicts among communities, with many others displaced.

On 8 June, thousands of Malians protested in Bamako against President Keita. The civil opposition movement, Trop c’est trop, organized the march to denounce proposed constitutional amendments which would give excessive powers to the president.

On 9 June, security forces informed Efe International News Agency that two attacks perpetrated by alleged jihadists in Mopti killed three Malian soldiers and wounded nine others. The International Crisis Group confirmed jihadist groups are settled along the Niger-Mali border are utilizing the instability and insecurity of the country in their favor.


Nigeria:

On 14 June, President Buhari assured that “Nigeria will continue to deepen relationships with her allies, particularly those with whom her shares mutually beneficial interests.” During his meeting with the Ambassador of Ethiopia, he highlighted the importance of security and economic development for any country and that was why he has been visiting Nigeria’s immediate neighbors.


Philippines:

The House of Representatives of the Philippines approved a bill which aims to provide full protection to children in armed conflict. It declares children below the age of 18 as “zones of peace” and gives them certain rights in situations of armed conflict. These rights include, amongst others, the right to life, survival and development, special respect and protection against any form of abuse, and the right to be treated as victims.


South Sudan:

Over the past week peace talks between President Salva Kiir and SPLM-IO leader, Dr. Riek Machar,show promise with Khartoum offering to host the talks between the two leaders. Both leaders are insisting a right to self-defense, causing concern that the talks may result in escalated violence.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government denied plans to forcibly evict the internally displaced from camps in Darfur. On 9 June, the Sudan Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) has announced, however, several options for IDPs; voluntary return, integration into their local communities, or resettlement in another location of their choosing. This came along announcements of 400,000 voluntary returns of IDPs this year to date, making a total of 1.9million people residing in one of the 39 remaining IDP camps. According to the report released by ReliefWeb (linked) the HAC has not announced a timeline or plan of action for the various return and integration plans.

With the situation on the ground shifting, the joint mission between UNAMID and the AU must change, said UN Under Secretary General, Jean-Pierre Lacroix in a Security Council meeting on 11 June. Shifting its peacekeeping priorities to Jebel Marra, the location of continued conflict, and addressing the humanitarian issues as needed throughout Darfur. The newly proposed two-year strategy would continue peacekeeping operations to ensure the protection of civilians, mediation of conflicts, and humanitarian aid, but also include a shifting focus towards early recovery and development focusing on long-term projects and solutions.

An AU communique on 12 June announced the extension of the joint UNAMID mission in Darfur for 12 months, following the Joint Special Report by the AU Chairperson and UNSG. The Council also addressed the ongoing attacks in Jebel Marra, which has resulted in attacks against and the displacement of civilians. The region remains under humanitarian concern, and that security, land ownership, and public services delivery remain of concern. The communique also stressed that returns must be voluntary, safe, and in dignity, as stipulated by international standards. The Joint Special Report proposed dissolving the mission in June 2020, but the AU was clear that consideration must be given to the political and security situation, gradually paring down operations to remove the threat of a security vacuum.


Syria:

In a development for the prevention of international impunity for atrocity crimes, Germany’s Federal Court of Justice issued an international warrant of arrest for Syria’s Air Force Intelligence Chief, Jamil Hassan, on 9 June. The charges issued are in relation to his alleged ordering of forces under his command to murder, torture and perpetrate sexual violence against Syrian detainees between 2011 and 2014. Secretary General of The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) stated that “Germany is prepared to make its contribution to the legal reappraisal of these serious human rights crimes.” The principle of universal jurisdiction within international law allows the prosecution of such crimes to be pursued anywhere, regardless of where the acts were physically committed. While Syria has not ratified the Rome Statute and therefore is not under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, Hassan could theoretically be tried in the UN Court of Justice, permitting that Syria does not veto such action in the Security Council.

In a statement released on 10 June, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, expressed his condemnation of last week’s airstrikes allegedly committed by Russian Jets, which targeted the rebel-held town of Zardan. The White Helmets reported that the attacks resulted in at least 47 civilian deaths. The UN is calling for a full investigation into the strikes.

The Islamic State (ISIL) mass executed 90 of its own members in Syria due to them being “reluctant about the defense battles against Syrian army,” Iraqi News reported on 14 June. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on 13 June that while he is “giving the political process a chance” with regards the supposed liberation of the southwest region currently held by rebels, but will “liberate it by force” if diplomacy does not prove successful.

Proposals for the creation of a constitutional committee for Syria will be discussed on 18-19 June by senior Iranian, Russian and Turkish officials and UN representatives. The meeting will take place in Geneva, and is aimed to “rewrite the Syrian constitution, paving the way for new elections as part of a post-war political reform.”

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined that the chemical Sarin was in fact used in an attack in Latamina on 24 March 2017, in which at least 32 people were injured. Although the OPCW did not assign blame, but it is urged that government forces were attacking the area at the time. The OPCW did however assign blame on the Syrian government for using Sarin in a different attack in Khan Sheikhoun a few days after the Latamina attack.


Yemen:

On 14 June Amnesty expressed concern over the arrest of key human rights activist and Executive Director of Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, Abdulrasheed al-Faqih, by Yemeni security forces. They note that if the arrest is solely on the basis of his invaluable human rights work then “he must be released immediately and unconditionally.”


Other:

On 31 May ICRtoP coalition member, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) published a handbook for Parliamentarians on preventing violent extremism and mass atrocities. The handbook, written by Phil Gurski, in collaboration with the Stanley Foundation and Parliamentarians for Global Action, was born out of the November 2017 Milan Forum.

The Dominican Republic became the 117th signatory to the ACT Code of Conduct on 1 June. The Code of Conduct calls upon all members of the Security Council, in particular the P5, to refrain from using the veto in cases of mass atrocity situations. A full list of signatories can be found here.

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#RtoP Weekly: 3 – 8 June 2018

untitled

Updates from the ICRtoP: national and international atrocity prevention initiatives

It may have been a while since you’ve seen an RtoP Weekly from us. We apologize for putting our newsletter on hold, but we’re excited to announce we will be resuming of our weekly updates on RtoP-related situations from around the world.

2018 has already proven to be a busy and exciting year for the Responsibility to Protect. Recently, ICRtoP staff traveled to Kampala, Uganda to participate in the third Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes conference (GAAMAC III), where representatives of governments, international and regional organizations, relevant UN offices, civil society, and academia gathered to exchange and discuss best practices for “Empowering Prevention”. Furthermore, ahead of GAAMAC III, the ICRtoP partnered with the Ugandan National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and Mass Atrocities and Human Rights Network-Uganda to co-host a pre-GAAMAC CSO (civil society organization) Symposium, which featured discussions and panels focused on approaches in mass atrocity prevention, particularly in dealing with the past and deficits of governance, the Rule of Law, and democracy at the national level. Please find the symposium communique here.

Furthermore, in the coming weeks, the Global Network of R2P Focal Points will convene its eighth annual meeting in Helsinki and the UN General Assembly will convene the first formal debate on the Responsibility to Protect since 2009 on 25 June 2018. Both the convening of the Focal Points meeting and the formal UNGA debate provide great opportunities for Member States to engage with one another on best practices for atrocity prevention. The UNGA debate on RtoP, in particular, provides an historic opportunity for Member States to discuss the norm formally and to develop on-the-record statements, necessitating greater discourse and consideration of RtoP and its implementation within capitals and therefore outside of the UN. This should therefore raise the potential for increased implementation and domestication of RtoP.

For more information on this and all things RtoP, please visit our website here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
Philippines
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On 31 May, Burma and the UN announced deal for the return of Rohingya Muslim refugees to the country, but many are still concerned about gaps in the memo and  reported ongoing violence against the Rohingya. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees alerted that “conditions are not conducive for voluntary return yet,” but they will be working with the government to make improvements. In fact, Kunt Ostby, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Burma, stated that the two key conditions for the UN to allow repatriation were, 1) an assured citizenship for the Rohingya and 2) assurance that they will not have the fear of being attacked. Rohingya have also expressed fears that it does not do enough to guarantee their safety.

On June 6, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the Government of Myanmar, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). It addresses the UN system’s support to creating suitable circumstances in order to provide refugees a voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return from Bangladesh and their effective non-violent reintegration into the country. The UNSG Guterres also encouraged Burma to take “decisive steps to implement the agreement” and restated his call for an end to violence.


Burundi: 

In an unexpected turn, President Pierre Nkurunziza announced on 7 June that he would not run for another term, and would support the new Executive who will be elected in 2020. The results from May’s referendum on presidential term limits caused concern that Nkurunziza would try and extend his tenure to 2034, in spite of the violence and ethnic tension that resulted from his reelection in 2015.


Central African Republic:

Child Soldiers International confirmed on 5 June that many children who were released by armed groups in CAR have voluntarily joined rebel groups. While the organization believes that the majority of children are kidnapped, but many see membership in a rebel group as an option for a better life or to avenge the death of a loved one.

An attack by armed militants on 6 June resulted in the death of a UN Peacekeeper from Tanzania. Secretary General Guterres condemned the killing, and urged authorities to investigate the attack so the perpetrators could be brought to justice. He also reiterated his support for MINUSCA and its mission to protect civilians and help stabilize the country. So far four UN Peacekeepers have been killed in action this year.


Gaza/West Bank:

Al Jazeera reported on 28 May that Israeli troops are deliberately using snipers to target volunteer medical teams tending to injured unarmed Palestinians during “Great March of Return” demonstrations in Gaza. The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition also expressed concerned over “interferences with delivery of healthcare, obstruction of medical transport, and denial of impartial care to wounded civilians.” The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory released on 31 May a “humanitarian snapshot” showing the total casualties during protests.

The death of 21-year old medic, Razan Al Najjar, who was reportedly shot and killed by an Israeli sniper on 1 June, has sparked further outcry from human rights groups. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Jamie McGoldrick, reminded the international community that “healthcare workers must be allowed to perform their duties without fear of death or injury” in a recent statement. Unless there is an “imminent threat of death or serious injury,” use of lethal force is illegal under human rights law. The death toll from the demonstrations has reached 119.

Two rival UN Security Council Resolutions ascribing blame for the situation in Gaza, proposed by parties on opposing sides of the conflict were vetoed last week, The Independent reported on 2 June. Such fundamental disagreements at the UN are continuing to delay the international community’s response to the ongoing atrocities.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is set to meet with the Israeli cabinet this week to decide on an action plan for Gaza, with a view to easing the humanitarian crisis. Proposals to be discussed include a UN infrastructure reconstruction program funded by the UN and the international community.


Iraq:

Volunteers discovered over a thousand dead bodies of ISIL fighters in Mosul, as they attempt to clear up the Old City, Al Jazeera reported on 31 May. The group of around 30 volunteers is working to rehabilitate the area, although experts predict that it “could take a decade” before Mosul is fully cleared. Rebuilding efforts are hampered by the remnants of “unexploded artillery” and “complex booby traps” that still pose a potentially life-threatening risk to volunteers.

The Iraq election probe continues; on 5 June Iraq’s current Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, banned all high-ranking people working within Iraq’s election commission from leaving the country, citing that criminal charges may be pursued against some of them due to purported election rigging. Al-Abadi asserted that, while there are alleged violations by party members, the election commission “bears the largest share of the responsibility.”  On 7 June, the Iraqi Parliament ordered a total recount of the ballots and fired all officials within the Electoral Commission who oversaw the election process.

Indeed fears are being raised of expected backlash from growing tensions between Iran and the US that will potentially destabilize Iraq, Al Jazeera reports. While pro-Iran militias helped to defeat ISIL in Iraq, the US allegedly “wants to limit” Iranian influence in Iraq, including in its currently fragile politics. Iran also favors a new Iraqi government sympathetic to Iranian interests. However Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon coalition won the most election seats; he envisages an Iraq with absolutely no “foreign interference.”  With the current political unrest, formation of a government is likely to be somewhat delayed.

The New York Times plans to return “The ISIS Files” recovered from Iraq which help to piece together “how a terrorist group like ISIS was able to control such a large area for as long as it did.” Journalists involved in the removal of the documents from Iraq claimed that it was best to gather and remove the documents from Iraq, where they were “at risk of being destroyed.”

On 31 May, Antonio Guterres appointed Karim Khan to head the investigative team “tasked with collecting and preserving evidence of serious crimes committed” by ISIL in Iraq. However, Human Rights Watch expressed concern over the limited mandate of the UN investigation, which only authorizes investigation into alleged ISIL-perpetrated crimes committed in Iraq, and not anti-ISIL forces. A UNSC resolution adopted in September last year approved the investigation.


Libya: 

United Nations Migration Agency reported almost 900 individuals fled the region of Derna on 30-31 May due to continued shelling severely affecting local population, with 17 recorded dead in the area since 16 May.

On 4 June, the Libyan National Army (LNA) allegedly entered Derna to retake the town from militant group Derna Mujahideen Shura Council. The advance into several neighborhoods comes after “heavy shelling and air strikes” in recent weeks by the Libyan National Army, under the command of General Khalifa Hiftar, Reuters reports. The council is comprised of anti-Hiftar fighters and Islamists.

United Nations Refugee Agency released coverage on 1 June regarding over a dozen refugees coming from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, who were attacked and recaptured by human traffickers as they tried to escape a detention center south of Tripoli on 23 May. Survivors explained that they were subjected to “torture, abuse and exploitation” by the traffickers, some for up to three years. UNHCR Spokesperson, William Spindler, notes that this is “not an isolated case.” He claims that many refugees attempting to escape war and persecution in other neighboring African countries are being subjected to similar detention conditions at the hands of traffickers, in and around Bani Walid.

 


Mali:

On 2 June, Secretary General Guterres asked for “calm and restraint” after incidents in Mali’s capital, where the police allegedly used tear gas to break up opposition supporters who wanted to march through Bamako with the aim of calling for more transparency before the presidential elections held next month. He also highlighted the importance of inclusive political dialogue as it is a key element for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedom of expression.


Nigeria:

On 5 June, Nigeria’s National Assembly threatened to impeach Muhammadu Buhari over killings in the country, questionable fight against corruption, and his appointees’s actions seen as “persecuting his opponents” unless certain conditions are met. The first condition states, “The Security Agencies must be given marching orders to curtail the sustained killing of Nigerians across the country and protect lives and properties of Nigerians, as this is the primary duty of any responsible Government.” Conditions also include for the National Assembly to liaise with International Communities through the IPU, APU, ECOWAS, CPA, Parliament, Pan African Parliament, EU, UN, US Congress, and UK Parliament to secure their democracy.


Philippines: 

On 7 June, President Duterte declared that martial law countrywide “is not feasible” as it will lead to a “divided nation.” This statement comes as a clarification after his latest comments about making “radical changes in the coming days” because “too many crimes” were happening in the country.


South Sudan:

On 4 June, IGAD officials said it is now up to President Salva Kiir and SPLM-IO leader Dr. Riek Machar to meet in order to advance the South Sudan peace process. This call for a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders comes at a time when lack of trust is at a low, and both insist they cannot work with one another. The date for such a meeting is unclear, though it must be decided by the IGAD heads of state meeting prior to July’s AU meeting.

The same day, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, called on governments to impose economic sanctions against leaders on both sides of the South Sudan crisis. He reaffirmed that humanitarian aid was still being provided, but voiced an opinion that the perpetrators of violence did not seem to be bothered by the welfare of the South Sudanese people and were concerned more with their own personal economic interest.

The Carnegie Corporation released the latest episode of their “Peacebuilders” podcast on 5 June, discussing the crisis in South Sudan. They discuss how South Sudan was hoped to be a symbol of international cooperation, but instead how the country has regressed into conflict and is now a humanitarian crisis without an end in sight, bringing about the implementation of multiple securitization approaches and tactics in order to find a durable solution.

A report by the Associated Press on 6 June stated they had learned of 14 unreleased human rights reports by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission in South Sudan, the independent watch-dog charged with monitoring the current cease-fire agreements, and diplomats from the US, UK, and UN. The unreleased reports allegedly contain evidence that soldiers continue to commit atrocity crimes such by killing, raping, and destroying property. While the reports detail violations by both sides, they describe deliberate targeting of the military against civilians. Edmund Yakani, Executive Director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, said that IGAD and AU leaders need to take action as “silence on the violations on encourages further violations.”


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese Communist Party issued a statement on 31 May against the downscaling of UNAMID operations, stating that it would have negative consequences on the people of Darfur. The party called on the UN Security Council and international human rights organizations to take action to protect the people and property in the region. Additionally they called on the Human Rights Council to take action in order to ensure justice by bringing rights violators to court.


Syria:

According to a Reuters article released on 2 June, the Syrian government is committed to recapturing territory in the Southwest, currently held by insurgents. Walid al-Moualem, foreign minister, says the US must pull out of the southeastern Tanf base.

Amnesty International’s report, “War of Annihilation,” released on 5 June investigates the devastating effects of conflict in Raqqa between ISIL & US Coalition forces. While Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty, recognizes the commission of war crimes by ISIL, she notes that this does not relieve coalition forces “of their obligations to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians.” The report asserts that Coalition strikes appear to be “disproportionate or indiscriminate” and potentially constitute war crimes, before recommending further investigation.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly plans to meet with the President of the DPRK, Kim Jong-Un. While both countries largely face international isolation, Assad mentions of the meeting that his administration “will as ever fully support all policies and measures of the DPRK leadership” and “strengthen and develop the friendly ties with the DPRK.”


Venezuela:

On 4 June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Venezuela to be suspended from the Organization of American States (OAS) as a consequence of the country’s May presidential vote that resulted in the re-election of President Nicolás Maduro. At the OAS headquarters, Pompeo told representatives of the 35 member countries that Maduro was not acting under constitutional order and failed to follow OAS responsibilities, displaying “unmistakable bad faith and exhausting options for dialogue under current conditions.” Moreover, Pompeo urgedincreasing sanctions against Maduro’s government in addition to its suspension from the OAS which implies penalties such as the suspension from aid granted by the Inter-American Development Bank.

On the 5 June Resolution on the Situation of Venezuela, the OAS declared that “ the electoral process as implemented in Venezuela, which concluded on 20 May 20 2018, lacks legitimacy, for not complying with international standards, for not having met the participation of all Venezuelan political actors, and for being carried out without the necessary guarantees for a free, fair, transparent and democratic process.” This resolution takes the first steps towards the historic suspension of a South American country from the OAS.

The European Commission announced on 7 June it would give £35.1m in emergency aid to help thousands of affected by the severe economic crisis. “This package will improve the Venezuelan people’s access to food and nutrition, as well as basic services like water, sanitation and hygiene”, stated Neven Mimica, Europe’s Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.


Yemen:

The UN Refugee Agency published “Yemen’s Critical Requirements” detailing that 22.2 million people require assistance in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” in Yemen. Priorities include “protection space for refugees” and “advocacy against unlawful detention.”

Saudi-led coalition forces are now within 8km of Hodeidah, a Houthi-held territory. Martin Griffiths, UN Envoy to Yemen, arrived in the country on 2 June to propose that the Houthis cede control of the city to the UN. The proposal comes amid fears that the city’s population of 400,000 will be put in substantial danger from a likely “bloodbath” between Houthi and Saudi-led coalition forces. Any destruction of infrastructure would obstruct crucial aid supplies that the country’s population is heavily reliant on. Griffiths is likely to discuss the situation of Hodeidah at his Security Council briefing on 18 June.


Other:

On 31 May ICRtoP coalition member, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) published a handbook for Parliamentarians on preventing violent extremism and mass atrocities. The handbook, written by Phil Gurski, in collaboration with the Stanley Foundation and Parliamentarians for Global Action, was born out of the November 2017 Milan Forum.

The Dominican Republic became the 117th signatory to the ACT Code of Conduct on 1 June. The Code of Conduct calls upon all members of the Security Council, in particular the P5, to refrain from using the veto in cases of mass atrocity situations. A full list of signatories can be found here.

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#R2PWeekly: 2 – 6 October 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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

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


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

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

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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


Nigeria:

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

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


Philippines:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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


Venezuela:

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


Yemen:

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

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


Other:

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

 

 

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#RtoPWeekly: 25 – 29 September 2017

Untitled
 The ICRtoP and scores of NGOs around the world appeal for action in Burma

Since 25 August, over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma to escape violence described by the United Nations as “ethnic cleansing.” Finally, on 28 September, the UN Security Council (UNSC) met for a public briefing by the UN Secretary-General on the situation in Burma for the first time in over eight years.

Ahead of this UNSC meeting, the ICRtoP and 87 other organizations from all over the globe signed an appeal calling for the UN, UN Security Council, and UN General Assembly to take action.

The appeal states:

UN member states should act to pressure Myanmar to end crimes against humanity

We, a global coalition of 88 civil society organizations, urgently call upon UN member states to take immediate steps to address the human rights abuses and humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya population. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein have described the Myanmar security forces’ ongoing campaign against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State as ethnic cleansing. As more evidence emerges, it is clear that the atrocities committed by Myanmar state security forces amount to crimes against humanity. The United Nations and its member states need to take urgent action.

We urge UN delegations, especially those from the 114 countries committed to the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Code of Conduct, who made a pledge to support “timely and decisive action” to prevent or end the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, to immediately undertake efforts to adopt a resolution in the UN General Assembly addressing the situation, and call upon the UN Security Council to consider measures to be imposed on the Myanmar government.

A General Assembly resolution should demand an immediate end to the abuses, that humanitarian aid agencies have immediate and unhindered access to populations in need, and for the UN Fact-Finding Mission authorized by the Human Rights Council in Geneva to be allowed unfettered access into and within Myanmar to investigate alleged human rights abuses across the country. It should also demand that the Myanmar authorities commit to ensuring that all Rohingya and other refugees and displaced people are able to return to their places of origin safely, voluntarily, and with dignity, and to dismantling the institutional discrimination and segregation of Rohingya and other Muslims in Rakhine State that forms the backdrop to the current crisis. The resolution should also urge member states and the Security Council to explore possible avenues to bring perpetrators of crimes under international law to justice.

We also urge members of the Security Council to add to the pressure on Myanmar authorities by seriously considering options such as an arms embargo against the military and targeted financial sanctions against individuals responsible for crimes and serious abuses.

All concerned UN member states should also consider bilateral, multilateral, and regional actions they can take to place added pressure on the Myanmar government. In particular, we call on all states to immediately suspend military assistance and cooperation with Myanmar.

If governments, UN officials and diplomats simply hold meetings and make speeches as atrocities continue in Myanmar, they bear the risk of failing to use every diplomatic tool at their disposal to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign and further crimes against humanity. In the face of mass destruction, killings and hundreds of thousands displaced, inaction should not be an option.

For the full text of the appeal and a complete list of  the signatories, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq 
Kenya 
Nigeria
South Sudan 
Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other 


Burma/Myanmar:

On 22 September, seven members of the UN Security Council asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to brief them on the situation in Burma. Those who initiated the request include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Egypt, Sweden, Senegal, and Kazakhstan. The Security Council has met in private twice since conflict erupted in Burma on 25 August, and issued a statement last week condemning the violence. Members of the Security Council expressed interest in the passing of a resolution, but it is expected that in such an event, UNSC Permanent Members China and Russia would utilize their veto power.

In her speech to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) this week, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called upon the international community to create “safe zones” inside Burma where Rohingya migrants could return. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged that the proposal be reconsidered, and referenced the acts of violence in safe zones in former Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sri Lanka.

The Burmese government has reported that they have discovered three mass graves with the remains of at least 45 Hindus in the Rakhine state. Burmese officials accused, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARCA) of being responsible for the murders. It is reported that Burmese forces recovered the remains of 20 women and eight boys, including six boys under the age of ten.  A third mass grave nearby contained the remains of 17 more Hindus, according to Burmese officials. Locals have reported that ARCA have abducted 100 Hindus, and killed all but eight women. ARCA also reportedly forced the women to convert to Islam.

On 25 September, HRW released a report accusing the Burmese security forces of atrocities, including rape, forced deportation, murder, and persecution against the Rohingya population in Burma. The alleged actions have resulted in countless deaths and mass displacement, according to HRW, and may amount to crimes against humanity. HRW has called for the “Security Council and concerned countries to impose target sanctions and an arms embargo on the Burmese military to stop further crimes.”

Doctors from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and from Doctors Without Borders have reported that have treated scores of Rohingya women for complications associated with rape and sexual violence. Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence, expressed concern about the utilization of sexual violence against the Rohingya minority group. She reported that victims said sexual violence was being used as a “calculated tool of terror to force targeted populations to flee.” Almost all of the reports from migrants have claimed that sexual violence was perpetrated by individuals outfitted in Burmese military uniforms. The Burmese government dismissed the claims of sexual violence, and said that the reports were “militant propaganda.” UN investigators are set to examine the reports from migrant camps in Bangladesh.

According to HRW, the Burmese government has reportedly laid anti-personnel landmines on the border between Burma and Bangladesh, which are directly in the path of refugees fleeing violence in Rakhine State. HRW also urged the Burmese government to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spoke about the utilization of landmines by the Burmese government in her speech to the UNGA on 21 September. “At least five people have been killed and 12 injured from landmine blasts,” reported Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). Even though Burma is not a party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, HRW noted that landmines are illegal because “they cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants.” Zaw Htay, spokesman for de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, claimed that Rohingya militants, like the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARCA), might be responsible for the placement of landmines on the border, while Rakhine State Security and Border Affairs Minister Col. Phone Tint directly accused ARCA for the placement of landmines.

Bangladesh has announced plans to build refugee camps specifically for Muslim children who have fled the violence in Rakhine State without parents. The number of child refugees in the Burmese conflict is estimated to be at six thousand. The Bangladeshi government believes that the separation of children into two groups — one group under the age of seven and the other from eight to eighteen years of age — would limit the amount of children becoming involved in criminal activity and being harmed.


Burundi:

On 23 September, the Minister for External Relations and International Cooperation of Burundi stressed the importance of the principle of sovereignty and non-interference at the General Assembly. The Minister called “attention to certain States, who even in the 21st century, believe they have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of other States, especially developing countries,” while also criticizing the European sanctions that have been imposed on his country.

Burundi has accused the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry into Burundi (CoI) of having a hidden agenda and of showing “affection and sympathy for the insurgents by refusing to investigate the crimes that they committed,” rejecting the report that the commission presented on 19 September. The European Union (EU) has supported the referral of the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and has stated that the East African Community should have a role in mediation. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), however, joined Burundi in calling the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) a politicized body.

The UNHRC was expected to back an EU resolution on 28 September to expand the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, but a group of African countries had its own meeting a day before and unveiled a rival resolution that did not mention the renewal of the CoI. Diplomats from the EU, United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other expressed their concern, and the EU representative said that Burundi attended meetings where the EU resolution was discussed but had never raised any concerns. Burundi’s sudden willingness to cooperate with the UN, when it had always rejected the organization’s efforts to do so, has been viewed with suspicion. John Fisher, Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch, has asserted that Burundi’s sudden switch to cooperation is not credible in light of its permanent refusal to accept the CoI.


Central African Republic: 

President Touadera said in a recent speech to the UN Human Rights Council that peace in CAR will only be achieved by combating impunity and holding perpetrators of crimes accountable. He added that the crisis in the country has weakened the judiciary and consequently, “has paved the way for people to carry out their own justice.” Touadera remarked that there is no contradiction between peace and justice but, instead, they are complementary.
On 22 September, President Touadera stated to the UN General Assembly that his main commitment was to ensuring the success of peace efforts, but also acknowledged that neither the country nor the UN Peacekeeping Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) has had the capacity to do so. He has stated that he will also “seek greater dialogue with regional actors in hopes they would provide political support for the road map for peace and national reconciliation.”
On the same day, militants that experts believe to be part of the anti-Balaka militant group attacked a MINUSCA convoy, wounding one peacekeeper.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that the situation in CAR has deteriorated since the beginning of September, especially in the western part of the country. In a report, the organization stated that armed groups have taken control of several areas, causing large numbers of displacement and attacking humanitarian workers. Najat Rochdi, the UN humanitarian coordinator in CAR, has announced that, to date, only 30 percent of the humanitarian funding needed in in CAR has been secured, and has called for the international community to provide assistance to the country’s population.

Cameroon has closed its border with CAR after the recent escalation of violence has resulted in kidnappings of Cameroon citizens by armed rebels. It is feared that food shortages will increase in CAR if the border remains closed as Cameroon supplies most food and consumer goods to the war-torn country.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

President Kabila told the UN General Assembly on 22 September that holding elections in the country is presenting major security and logistic challenges, but that he is confronting them. Kabila has also defended the military campaign in the Kasai Region, but the UN has stated it “resulted in hundreds of extrajudicial killings”. The president also stated that the killings of two UN workers in the country will not go unpunished.

Zambia has received more than 6,000 refugees from the DRC in just one month, according to the country’s president. Spokesman Amos Chanda has warned that “the refugee situation could escalate and lead to a serious humanitarian crisis” and that around 500 people have entered the country in the last week. The presidents of Angola and South Africa have joined in saying that the situation is worrying and that an all-inclusive election is needed in the DRC to heal the tensions. The chief representative of the UNHCR in Zambia has said that “it is the government of the DRC that is said to be persecuting its own people by killing, maiming and torching houses, as well as committing rape and looting food stored in granaries”. The representative has warned that the armed forces are increasingly targeting civilian populations because they cannot differentiate between those that belong to the insurgency and those who do not.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the DRC to release nine activists arrested in July when they were participating in reportedly “peaceful protests”. HRW has denounced that the nine are among hundreds of others that have been arrested since 2015 “as part of the Congolese government’s widespread crackdown on people who have opposed President Joseph Kabila’s effort to remain in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit”. HRW has claimed that the government of the DRC has targeted opposition members, including leaders, journalists, supporters or anyone with a possible link to the opposition.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that 1 million people are “severely food insecure” and around 400,000 children are at risk of malnutrition in the Kasai region. Between the months of June and August, 6,800 people have fled the region and since the conflict began the nearly 630,000 people have been displaced. The organization has warned that there are “no formal camps or sites hosting the displaced people around Kananga” and only 37 percent of the funds needed for the region have been received.

Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, has accused the government of the DRC of “turning a blind eye to systematic and gross violations of human rights committed by its security forces”. A recent report from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has also argued that the justice system in the country is not independent and “allows impunity to flourish”, which has led to further violence. In what has been a change of the official position of the government, the Minister of Human Rights Marie-Ange Mushobekwa has told the UNHRC that the DRC would “welcome investigations in the Kasai region by the international team of experts appointed by the Council”.


Iraq:

Late last week, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously voted to establish a UN investigation team to support Iraq in securing evidence for acts committed by the Islamic State (ISIL), which “may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide”. The United Kingdom, who drafted the resolution, has also promised to contribute a significant amount of financial resources to support the initiative. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called this resolution a “landmark”. However, the resolution has nevertheless received criticism by Amnesty International for being “flawed” and for cultivating a “dangerous culture of impunity”’ at the UN. Since the resolution falls short of including any provisions of ensuring accountability for parties who are not ISIL, for instance Iraqi government forces and their allies, Amnesty has expressed fears that this will “send a dangerous message” to all other parties to the conflict, that would therefore presume impunity. In the meantime, Amnesty has documented a range of serious violations of international humanitarian law reportedly carried out by Iraqi and coalition forces in the country.

On Monday, Kurdish officials stated that 3.9 million Iraqi Kurds were registered to vote at the referendum on Kurdish independence in Northern Iraq, and early counting of 300,000 ballots showed 93 percent of votes were in favor of independence. However, the Iraqi Kurds face severe threats of isolation from both the government in Baghdad and their neighboring states, including Turkey, as a response to the referendum. Iran has called the referendum “illegal and illegitimate” and has, following orders from Iraq, closed off its border with the Turkish region. On Tuesday, it was reported that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan expressed harsh comments towards the Iraqi Kurds, stating that they “would go hungry”, if he were to decide to impose sanctions on the flow of oil across the border, as well as warning that “all military and economic measures were on the table,” if the Kurds do not call off the referendum. However, this referendum remains extremely important to many Iraqi Kurds, and has been seen as an expression of long-standing grievances of the Kurdish population in Iraq towards the government.


Kenya:

Kenyan police have used tear gas to disperse protests that took place in front of the electoral commission this week. The protests included both ruling party supporters, who do not support a change in the electoral body, and opposition supporters, who demand the resignation and prosecution of officials from the electoral commission. The protests took place a month before elections are set to be held on 27 October 2017.

Around 270 suspects have been taken to court for hate speech in the wake of the elections. Irene Wanyoike, the Vice Chairperson of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, has warned that “the rising cases of hate speech by senior politicians could sink the country into anarchy”. Most of the detained used social media platforms to spread hate speech, according to  Wanyoike.

Kenya’s opposition has quit talks on how a rerun of the presidential election will be managed. The ruling Jubilee Party proposed a law that includes “enabling commissioners to appoint a new chairman and reducing the number of people required to make a quorum”, which the opposition has claimed is an attempt to bring the country to a “single-party dictatorship”. The proposed law would also “stop the court from invalidating results if the electronic transmission again fails to work smoothly,” according to the opposition. The ruling party has faulted the Supreme Court for not explaining how the illegalities they cited interfered in the elections.


Nigeria:

The Presidential Panel of Investigation in Nigeria has reviewed alleged human rights abuses in Port Harcourt by the Nigerian military. The panel heard individual and group accounts over alleged human rights violations from the 25 – 28 September.

Nigeria is set to put 1,600 Boko Haram-affiliated suspects on trial. The trial is said to begin 9 October and the suspects will appear in front of four judges.

Human Rights Watch has reported that Cameroonian forces sent 100,000 Nigerian asylum-seekers back to northern Nigeria, which still has a strong Boko Haram presence. According to international law, this makes the Cameroonian government in violation of non-refoulement laws, or the prohibition of forcible return of refugees to areas of violence. After surveying 61 asylum seekers and refugees, Human Rights Watch also documented numerous reports of assault, violence, and harassment against Nigerians allegedly perpetrated by Cameroonian forces.


South Sudan:

Forces loyal to former First Vice-President Riek Machar have captured 14 government officials and have claimed that the officials pose a security threat and will therefore be treated as war criminals.

President Kiir has stated that dialogue is the best option to end the conflict in South Sudan and has vowed to end military confrontations between rebels and government forces. The statement comes weeks after the United States imposed sanctions on three of Kiir’s allies for their involvement in fueling corruption and war in the country. However, David Shearer, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, has warned that the “parties have shown little interest in engaging in serious negotiations on the way forward, despite the various initiatives aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict.” Shearer has urged international partners to support the peace process, noting that there are only a few months remaining of the transitional period as agreed in the peace deal. He also warned that the humanitarian situation has deteriorated, with civilians and aid convoys now also being targeted.


Sudan:

The Sudanese government has submitted a draft resolution to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with the United States on the human rights situation in Sudan. However, this draft was met with criticism from the European Union, who have claimed that the draft does not include enough efforts to improve human rights in the country.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has emphasized the importance of the UNHRC to strengthen scrutiny of the situation in Sudan. “The situation in Sudan continues to warrant a Council mandated Special Rapporteur under Item 4 to monitor and publicly report on violations of human rights and humanitarian law in all parts of the country,” accord to HRW. Requests have also reportedly been made to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to “urgently dispatch investigation teams, with expertise in sexual and gender-based violence, to investigate crimes under international law and serious violations and abuses of human rights in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile”.


Syria:

In March this year, the anti-Islamic State (ISIL) coalition’s Combined Joint Task Forcelaunched two aerial attacks near Raqqa which killed at least 84 civilians, including 30 children, when allegedly targeting a civilian areas, such as a school, which housed displaced families at that time, as well as a marketplace and a bakery. In a report released on 25 September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has questioned the coalition’s ability and will to abide by the international humanitarian law principles of precaution and proportionality in these attacks. The report has claimed that, while ISIL fighters were present at the given locations at the time, so too were dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, of civilians. The coalition has acknowledged that it attacked the school in Mansourah, but it claims that the location at the time was believed to be an ISIL headquarter with no civilians present. On this note, the HRW has also expressed deep concerns as to the coalition’s methods of ascertaining numbers of civilians in the vicinity of a given target area and the process for taking all feasible precautions when launching these attacks in March. If the coalition failed to do so, the HRW has stated that the coalition may have broken the principle of proportionality in these attacks.

Pro-government and Russian forces allegedly carried out five airstrikes throughout the past week in opposition-held Idlib in northern Syria. Civilian defense workers and other humanitarian aid workers have documented the destruction of six hospitals and five defense centers, and reported at least 150 civilians killed. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) called the attacks “the most dramatic, sustained attacks on Syria’s health care system since the spring de-escalation agreement in Idlib went into effect.” The agreement to set up de-escalation zones was signed by Russia, Turkey and Iran in Astana in May this year, and, at the time was heavily criticized by the Syrian opposition for not securing safety. While the PHR called the strikes on civilian health facilities a direct strategy, the Russian defense ministry has denied directly attacking civilian facilities and stated it had attacked “hard-line Islamist militants”.


Venezuela:

The opposition has stated that it will not join the scheduled talks with Nicolás Maduro’s government, claiming that the “government has not made enough progress on issues such as human rights to warrant full bilateral talks”. Talks between the opposition and government were held in 2016 under the auspices of the Vatican, but ended because the opposition claimed that the government was using the talks as a delaying tactic.


Yemen:

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) met this week in Geneva to yet again attempt to set up an independent inquiry for investigation of alleged abuses by all parties to the conflict in Yemen. Human Rights Watch (HRW) referred to this meeting as a “chance to change course” for the UNHRC. HRW has also emphasized the urgency of the matter, by taking note of the ever-increasing support for such an inquiry by Member States within and outside the UNHRC, including the Netherlands, Canada and Belgium. Further support has also come from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than a 100 international, regional, and Yemeni rights organizations, the former head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and 14 major humanitarian organizations.

As such discussions began at the UNHRC, Saudi Arabia objected to the resolution on an independent inquiry into potential crimes in Yemen and reportedly also threatened other states, stating that the decision to send such an inquiry to Yemen could negatively affect diplomatic relations and trade. In lieu of the independent inquiry, Saudi Arabia and its allies instead proposed that the UN should send experts to assist the Yemeni human rights commission. The text proposed by Saudi-Arabia “offers more of the same” and cannot replace an international independent commission, according to HRW Advocacy Director John Fisher.


Other:

The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre will be conducting a course on the Responsibility to Protect in Ghana from 13 – 24 November 2017. This course aims at training African policymakers, government officials, military, police and civil society personnel about RtoP and its implementation. The deadline for applications is 30 September. For more information on the course and how to apply, please click here.

 

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#RtoPWeekly: 27-31 March 2017

Untitled

Civilian death toll rises as fighting to retake Mosul from ISIL intensifies

RtoPW 27-31 March

Fighting between Islamic State (ISIL) forces and the Iraqi military has intensified in recent weeks as the latter has pushed towards the Old City area of Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have remained trapped in the densely populated area. The reported number of civilian deaths in the city has dramatically increased in the past two weeks. Mayor Hussein Ali Khajem stated that more than 150 people have been killed in violent clashes and airstrikes in Mosul since 20 March, including numerous women and children. Other sources put the civilian death toll even higher, reaching over 200, at least 130 of which are believed to have been killed by airstrikes on residential buildings in the New Mosul neighborhood. The Iraqi Civil Defence has reportedly pulled 136 bodies from the rubble from the same area of the city. It is unknown how many of the bodies, if any, may have been ISIL combatants.

The threat posited by airstrikes has increasingly become the most dangerous feature of the conflict for civilians in the city. Iraqi officers have reportedly told media sources that as the fighting against ISIL has increased in intensity, the US-led coalition has quickened decisions on whether to strike targets within the city. US military officials have insisted that there has been no change to the rules of engagement regarding distinction and proportionality, but have also said that US military advisers with the Iraqi forces have been given a greater unilateral ability to call in airstrikes since the beginning of the push for Mosul in December.

As more information has become available about the collapse of homes believed to have been caused by US-led coalition airstrikes on 17 March, the number of civilian casualties caused by the airstrikes has steadily risen, with some sources estimating it to be from 200 to 250. Residents have alleged that there was ample reason for both the Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition to believe there was a significant civilian presence in the area, claiming that leaflets asking civilians to stay in their homes rather than risk fleeing during the intense street-to-street fighting had been distributed. If the estimated number of civilian casualties proves to be accurate, this strike will be one of the deadliest US military strikes for civilians in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

On Tuesday, the top US commander in Iraq stated that his initial assessment of the evidence from the incident indicated that the alleged US airstrike probably had a role in the building collapse and the resulting civilian deaths, but also said his personal impression was that ISIL had at least some role in the casualties. He also insisted that further investigation is needed. Several conflicting reports of the incident blamed ISIL for the casualties, with some alleging the blast that leveled the building was a result of an ISIL truck-bomb or from IED booby-traps. Others have suggested it was the result of compounding actions by the conflict forces. ISIL has also been accused of forcing civilians into the building and intentionally provoking the airstrike.

The Islamic State’s use of civilians in Mosul as human shields has been well documented, and has prompted UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, to condemn the group as “cowardly and disgraceful.” Civilians have also been killed and wounded by ISIL booby-traps, IEDs, shelling, and snipers. The High Commissioner noted that due to the known use of civilians as human shields by ISIL, the use of airstrikes on ISIL positions carries the potential for a disproportionately lethal impact on civilians. As a result, the High Commissioner called on the Iraqi military and its US-led coalition allies to reconsider their tactics in order to ensure the risk to civilians is reduced to the absolute minimum in accordance with international law, particularly as the fighting draws closer to the most densely populated areas of the city.

Source for above photo of civilians awaiting the distribution of aid in Mosul: Ivor Prickett/The New York Times


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Cote d’Ivoire
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on 24 March regarding the ongoing human rights crisis in Burma. The resolution, among other things, dispatched “an independent, international fact-finding mission” to investigate the serious human rights violations that allegedly have taken place in Burma at the hands of the military and security forces, particularly those in Rakhine State. The resolution stressed the need for sexual and gender-based violence experts to be included in the mission. Moreover, it extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma for one more year. The Burmese government is opposed to the resolution’s operative paragraph dispatching the fact-finding mission within the country, as well as the resolution in general.


Burundi:

Several non-governmental organizations within Burundi have called for an immediate end to the alleged human rights violations occurring within the country. The group of NGOs, including the Human Rights Defenders of Burundi (DDH) through its SOS-Torture campaign, has claimed that law enforcement officers have conducted several extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of citizens. In addition, human rights activists have insisted that there has been a recent upsurge in political and ethnic violence in Burundi. The Collective of Lawyers of civil parties and victims’ families of human violations in Burundi reportedly submitted 124 new individual complaints to the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the government of Burundi regarding specific allegations of human rights abuses on Monday. The organization also submitted a collective mandate regarding general “crimes committed by the Government,” which was signed by over 400 families accusing the government of committing human rights abuses against their relatives.

A civil society organization collective named “Halte au Troisième Mandat” (“Halt to the Third Term”) is continuing its campaign against President Nkurunziza’s third term, which surpasses the constitutionally mandated two-term limit for presidents. On 26 March, the collective released a statement to the press in which they insisted “terror and resignation are progressively taking hold in Burundi” as a direct result of the government’s “bloody repression” of their protests.


Central African Republic:

Armed groups attacked at least three villages in the central Bambari region of CAR this week, where a contingent of the UN peacekeeping force is based. The attacks resulted in the deaths of 50 people and have left several more injured. The Unity of African People, a faction of the mainly Muslim Seleka movement, has been accused of perpetrating the attack, although the UAF denies involvement. Such raids are remnants of the civil war in CAR and are indicative of the CAR government’s inability to effectively transition to peace.


Cote d’Ivoire:

On 24 March, the UN peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, said he expects peacekeeping operations in Cote d’Ivoire to end by March of 2018. That same week, it was reported that former Ivorian First Lady, Simone Gbagbo, was acquitted of committing crimes against humanity by Cote d’Ivoire’s high court. Human Rights Watch asserted that the decision highlights the flaws of the country’s judicial process and further emphasizes the importance of the International Criminal Court’s continuing case against her regarding similar crimes during the 2011 post-election crisis.


DPRK:

On 24 March, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution addressing the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This echoes the statement of Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson during the Council meeting in which the resolution was adopted, where Mr. Eliasson explicitly stated that both the DPRK and the international community as a whole have the “responsibility to protect [DPRK’s] population from the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights.” Furthermore, the resolution strengthened the capacity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Seoul, which continues to monitor human rights abuses within DPRK. The improvements to the Seoul office include the addition of international criminal justice experts, whose specific function will be developing plans for the future prosecution of DPRK leaders and officials responsible for human rights crimes. Finally, the resolution extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the situation of human rights in the DPRK for an additional year.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Violence has continued to escalate this past weekend in Kasai, a notably poor and remote region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as 42 police officers were decapitated by the regional militia group Kamuina Nsapu. Instances of both armed violence and political tensions within the country have been increasing at an alarming rate.

On 28 March, Congolese police used tear gas and opened fire into the air in order to scatter hundreds of opposition supporters in Kinshasa. The demonstrators had formed public protests after talks between President Joseph Kabila’s government and the opposition party collapsed. Many critics insist President Kabila has intentionally delayed the country’s elections in order to remain in power. The event has escalated tensions within the country, raising the possibility of renewed violence.

On 29 March, the UN announced that bodies discovered recently in Kasai are in fact the two missing UN staff recently kidnapped in the DRC, along with the body of their Congolese interpreter. The staff members were investigating large-scale human rights violations in the region. Ida Sawyer, Central African director at Human Rights Watch, said the disappearances reflect the violence currently going on in the Kasai region of DRC. The UN will launch an investigation into the killings and urges the Congolese government to do so as well.


Mali:

The main faction of Tuareg-led rebels in Mali and other opposition groups declared their intention to boycott talks with the government on 1 April concerning the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. On Tuesday, some of the groups agreed to take part after receiving additional assurances from the government. It is unknown if the rest of the opposition intends to do the same.

Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) has released a new report that is highly critical of the politicization of humanitarian aid by several domestic and international actors in Mali. The incorporation of humanitarian aid into the country’s political and security efforts is seen by many groups as promoting the government’s political agenda, and therefore, MSF has warned that there may be risks to doing so. Particularly, aid could be rejected by these opposition groups and, as a result, humanitarian organizations could be attacked if they are seen as partisan forces. MSF has argued that the common practice of using of armed escorts by humanitarian workers and the use of civilian vehicles by the military aggravate the risk of these attacks occurring, further hindering the delivery of the much needed aid in the country.


Nigeria:

In a move believed to be aimed at winning grassroots trust and support, a Boko Haram faction in northeast Nigeria has reportedly vowed not to harm civilians so long as they do not cooperate with state security forces. However, numerous witnesses have reported that Boko Haram has continued to kill civilians. The group remains a threat to civilians, contrary to the government’s claims that the group was “technically defeated” in Nigeria. Furthermore, unstable and lethal explosive devices from previous clashes between the military and Boko Haram continue to plague the Nigerian countryside.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Nigerian authorities to take more action in rescuing the hundreds of children that have been abducted and continue to be held captive by Boko Haram. In particular, HRW has called on the government to publicly acknowledge the 501 missing children abducted from Damasak two years ago when the Nigerian military and their Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) pushed Boko Haram out of the town. As the abductions have never been publicly acknowledged by the government, it is not believed that any concerted action has been taken to rescue them.


South Sudan:

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and the Ugandan government jointly urged the international community for large-scale and immediate support for the thousands of South Sudanese refugees who continue to arrive in Uganda every day. In addition, after UN Secretary-General Guterres urged South Sudan to prioritize the needs of its people, the country’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Joseph Moum Majak Ngor Malok, reassured the Security Council that his government would cooperate with the UN to resolve the issues affecting his country. However, mass displacement in the country has continued as the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) initially estimated 60,000 South Sudanese refugees would flee the country in 2017, but this estimate has been exceeded in the first three months of 2017 alone. The UNHCR anticipates even more refugees this year.

The Sudanese government is due to open a new humanitarian corridor to deliver food assistance to the people of South Sudan. At this time, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been dropping tons of food to aid thousands of displaced citizens and their communities. The South Sudanese Red Cross is on the ground helping to distribute the supplies. Unfortunately, an aid worker expressed his concern that even if citizens had money to buy food, they would not be able to use this money in the current situation. As a result, airdrops have been the only option in some regions, such as Maar in the Jonglei Province.

The UN called for an open investigation for the six aid workers that were ambushed and killed in South Sudan on Saturday. The UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) stated it is in shock following the killing of the aid workers. The workers were from UNICEF’s partner organization, the Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organization (GREDO), which works “to support children released from armed groups.” Aid agencies say that humanitarian aid in South Sudan could be delayed due to the attack of these six aid workers.

According to the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, sexual violence in the country has reached “epic proportions.” Regional leaders issued a joint statement expressing concern over the humanitarian crisis and urging the parties to stop hostilities.

South Sudanese rebels loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar have claimed they have captured the Kajo-Keji county headquarters in Yei River state after clashing with government troops and killing 14 soldiers. The Eastern Africa’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has condemned the proliferation of armed groups in South Sudan and called upon these groups to renounce violence as a means to solve the issues in the country. The South Sudanese government has rejected the participation of troops from countries outside the region in the regional protection forces. However, President Salva Kiir has accepted the call for a unilateral ceasefire.


Sudan:

Clashes between militia and state security personnel have continued in Sudan, as well as violent crimes like murder, robbery, kidnapping, and rampant sexual assault and gender-based violence. Clashes in North Darfur resulted in the death of a police officer and the injuring of six others last saturday. Additionally, on 27 March, militiamen attacked and robbed a group of mourners while traveling between the North Darfur capital of El Fasher and the town of Tawila.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Jordan this week to either deny entry or arrest President Omar al-Bashir prior to his entry to the country for the Arab League meeting on Wednesday. Despite the warnings from HRW and other organizations that failure to arrest Bashir would be a violation of their obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Jordan became the most recent ICC member state to fail to arrest Omar al-Bashir when he entered their sovereign territory. Bashir has two outstanding warrants issued by the ICC for a total of eight counts of atrocity crimes, including three counts of genocide. Representatives for South Africa are expected to appear before the Court next Friday to account for their government’s failure to arrest Bashir when he entered South Africa in June 2015 to attend a summit of the African Union. The lawyers for the South African government are expected to submit arguments against a finding of non-compliance.

The UN Secretary-General’s recent report on children in armed conflict in Sudan, which was released last Friday, has found that the numbers of children recruited into the conflict by the warring parties decreased in the most recent reporting period. However, the report also noted that children are still killed, injured, and victimized by sexual violence and exploitation as result of the conflict. During the reporting period from March 2011 to December 2016, roughly 1,300 children were killed or maimed as result of the conflict, mostly in Darfur. Darfur was also an area of high occurrence of sexual violence and exploitation against children, with at least 372 victims during the same period.

Burkina Faso has announced it will be withdrawing its 850 troops currently serving with the UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The Sudanese government will reportedly be paying for the costs of the withdrawal, according to a statement delivered by the Foreign Minister of Sudan.


Syria:

On Sunday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced they had captured the Tabqa airbase west of Raqqa from the Islamic State (ISIL), resulting in the first major victory for the Kurdish group.

As the fifth round of peace talks resumed in Geneva, opposition forces launched the biggest offensive in the last 18 months against the Syrian army in Damascus and north of Hama. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that several clashes were ongoing in the countryside north of the city, where government forces were trying to retake territory. In Geneva, the Syrian opposition’s chief negotiator in the talks, Nasr al-Hariri, accused the government of not being committed to peace because several civilian buildings have been targeted by the State air force since the beginning of the last round of talks. Consequently, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, admitted that he is not expecting breakthroughs, but all parties have at least agreed upon the agenda, which is a mark of progress in itself. On 29 March, the Syrian opposition and a senior Russian diplomat agreed upon the need to stabilize the fragile ceasefire implemented on 30 December 2016. Cessation of hostilities is seen as crucial to any hope of progress in the Geneva peace talks. However, as bloodshed in the country continues, Western diplomats are skeptical about any practical outcome the talks could reach.

Meanwhile, as fighting intensifies, the UN said around 300,000 people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance in Damascus. “Starvation is just around the corner,” affirmed UN humanitarian adviser on Syria Jan Egeland, adding that civilians have not received any supplies at the hands of the UN since October in Douma, and not since June of last year in the Kafr Batna area.

The UN has estimated that nearly 40,000 civilians, mostly women and children, have been displaced over the past week by fighting to the northwest of the Syrian city of Hama. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that people have begun to flee Hama and the districts of Homs, Latakia, and Tartous. On Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of Syrian refugees now exceeds 5 million, while he also estimated that 6.3 million people are internally displaced. Turkey hosts the highest number of Syrian refugees, numbering nearly 3 million people.


Yemen:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on Sunday arguing that a recent attack on a refugee boat off the coast of Yemen, which resulted in the deaths of around 40 people, likely constitutes a war crime. HRW also noted that the Saudi-led coalition is the only party to the conflict with access to the military aircraft allegedly used in the attack. The report was also critical of the system for investigations established by the Saudi-led coalition and expressed doubt that the inquiry requested by Somalia, an ally of the coalition, will have meaningful results. HRW has reportedly documented 62 unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that are believed to have killed nearly 900 civilians in total. It is unknown what impact this event will have on the decision the US government is expected to soon make on a proposal to increase its intelligence and logistical support for the Saudi-led coalition.

Residents in Taiz reported on Sunday that a girl was killed by a Houthi sniper in the eastern portion of the city where clashes between government and rebel forces have already killed dozens. President Hadi has reportedly declared that 80% of Yemen is now under his government’s control and that the offensive against the Houthis will continue until they are forced to the negotiating table. The contested port city of Hodeidah remains the Houthis’ last stronghold position and the primary target of the government and Saudi-led coalition’s offensive.

On Thursday, the UN Special envoy for Yemen urged the UN Security Council to apply pressure on all parties in the conflict in Yemen to engage in diplomatic and political negotiations to end the ongoing bloodshed. The past week marked the second anniversary of the beginning of the Saudi-led bombing campaign in the Yemeni conflict. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien released a statement marking the anniversary in which he said that the thousands of civilians killed in the conflict, including over 1,400 children, shows “the magnitude of the tragedy unfolding in Yemen.” Mr. O’Brien went on to discuss the looming man-made famine in the country and the need of two-thirds of the Yemeni population for humanitarian aid. Mr. O’Brien called on all parties to the conflict to start a political dialogue to prevent the imminent humanitarian catastrophe.

The UN children’s agency (UNICEF) also released a report marking the second year of the escalated conflict in which it noted that there has been a markable increase in the number of girls forced into child marriages in Yemen since the conflict escalated. UNICEF estimates that now more than two-thirds of girls are married off before the age of 18 in Yemen and that more that 44% of girls and women are married under the age of 15 in some parts of the country.

The UN has begun to look for alternative ports to deliver vital food and medicine to Yemen should Hodeidah come under attack. The UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, has said that despite the urgency for the 17 million Yemenis facing imminent famine conditions, humanitarian access has been hampered by a massive funding gap of over $2 billion USD, as well as by the intense fighting along the western coast. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that the international community has, at most, three to four months to save two-thirds of Yemen’s population from starvation. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, 17 million Yemenis live in a state of severe food insecurity as result of “ruthless war tactics against civilians by both parties to the conflict.” This figure is equal to about two-thirds of the entire country’s population.

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#RtoPWeekly 27 February – 3 March

UntitledSyria: Latest round of peace talks between government and opposition begin in Geneva

On 23 February, the Syrian government and opposition delegations gathered in Geneva to launch the fourth round of UN-sponsored intra-Syrian peace talks, led by the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. The discussions are aimed at finding a stable and viable political solution to a conflict which has already claimed the lives of more than 450,000people within the last six years.

The Geneva peace process, which takes place on the heels of the Russian, Turkish and Iranian co-sponsored multilateralmeetings held in the Kazakh capital of Astana, resumes after three unsuccessful diplomatic attempts that failed to end the Syrian crisis in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Moreover, renewed disputes over the agenda and long-standing disagreements between the warring parties have pushed de Mistura to downplay expectations for any major progress.

Difficulties in reaching a comprehensive solution also stem from the differences in political weight that the parties bear in the current diplomatic process. While sitting at the same table for the first time in six years, the opposition delegations could not be more distant from one another across a broad range of topics. The Assad delegation, headed by Syria’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Bashar Al-Jaafari, has gained a considerable military and political advantage following significant victories on the ground in 2016, namely the recapture of rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo. On the other hand, the opposition, bitterly divided by infighting, has continuously failed in presenting a united front in Geneva. However, both parties purportedly decided to add two fundamental issues to the agenda: the Syrian political transition, proposed by the opposition, and the fight against terrorism, proposed by President Bashar al-Assad’s negotiators.

In the meantime, on Tuesday, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution aimed at imposing sanctions on the Syrian government over the alleged use of chemical weapons, claiming that it contradicted “the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence before the investigation is over”. It is the seventh veto Russia has put up against UNSC resolutions in the past five years in an effort to save its Syrian ally. China has also joined Moscow in vetoing six resolutions on Syria since the war began.

The following day, a UN Commission of Inquiry released a report accusing the Syrian government and its Russian ally of systematic destruction of healthcare facilities in east Aleppo, between July and December 2016. Moreover, the report held both the regime and opposition accountable for “war crimes of forced displacement,” due to the imposed the evacuation of the city for “strategic reasons” and “not for the security of civilians”. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, approximately 876 civilians were killed in Syria in February alone.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq 
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has urged the Burmese government to take action to stop human rights violations against the Rohingya population in the country. Lee met with members of the Rohingya community during a four-day visit to parts of Bangladesh, including the capital Dhaka and the town of Cox’s Bazar, after which she recounted allegations of terrible attacks against the Rohingya people, including indiscriminate shooting, gang rapes, and other sexual violence. Ms. Lee is set to release her full report to the UN Human Rights Council on 13 March.

Burundi:

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called upon all political stakeholders in Burundi to fully commit to peace negotiations led by the East African Community (EAC). Mr. Guterres also warned President Nkurunziza against seeking a fourth term in office, as doing so risks escalating the current political conflict and sabotaging all current efforts to find a durable solution.

The UN has removed Burundi army officer Major Nicolas Budigi from MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, following allegations that he committed human rights violations in Burundi in 2015.

On Tuesday, the Burundi government rejected a new report recently submitted to the UN Security Council on the political and security crisis in the country, arguing that it states unproven facts.

On 24 February, women from the East African Community (EAC) established the East African women’s solidarity movement for peace and security in the region. Their objective in the setting up of this movement is advancing African women’s solidarity and seeking peace for Burundi.

Central African Republic:

MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic, has successfully forced Ali Darrass, a warlord from the Muslim-majority Seleka region, to withdraw from Bambari. However, clashes among armed groups in the country has continued to hinder the delivery of aid to thousands of displaced civilians, especially in the Ouaka province.

Democratic Republic of Congo:

The Democratic Republic of Congo has said it will investigate a video that apparently shows government troops massacring civilians in the Kasai region, but only “as a precautionary measure”. On Thursday, another UN report stated that the DRC has used excessive force against people protesting President Joseph Kabila’s stay in office. The report also claimed that 40 people were killed during this protest.

Gaza/West Bank:

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) alleged in their weekly report that Israel launched a total of eight airstrikes, involving roughly 23 separate missile strikes, throughout their reporting period, damaging six houses, one mosque, and injuring one civilian along with three Palestinian officers. PCHR also reported a total of 47 civilians arrested in military operations and raids, including four children and  six individuals at a student-organized protest. Other incidents involving civilians alleged in the report include the wounding of an eleven-year old child by a rubber-coated bullet to the neck, the wounding of a child by the detonation of a bomb remnant, and the bulldozing of civilian properties. The Israeli Defense  Forces (IDF) reportedly conducted several raids into the occupied West Bank areas around Hebron and East Jerusalem overnight and early morning on Monday and detained 21 Palestinians, including one woman and at least one minor under the age of 18. IDF spokespeople did confirm Tuesday that operations were taking place in the area when they announced the wounding of a soldier in a the settlement of Efrat.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report strongly criticizing Israel’s Unlawful Enemy Combatants law that was first introduced by the Knesset in 2002 and amended in 2008 as a violation of international humanitarian law and general legal norms of due process and rule of law. The law gives the IDF the ability to incarcerate any individual, based on the “reasonable cause” that they pose a threat to Israeli security, or if he or she is a member of “a force perpetrating hostile acts against the State of Israel.” The law provides little practical ability for judicial review and reverses the traditional burden of proof and presumption of innocence, obligating the accused to prove they are not a threat. HRW cited the case of Munir Hamada, the only one of the 16 Palestinian residents of Gaza incarcerated by Israel after its 2005 disengagement with Gaza under the law, as evidence of the weakness of judicial review available to interned civilians under the law. In the last review of his detention in December, which resulted in the court ruling in favor of another six month continuation of his indefinite incarceration, the decision was allegedly reached based on confidential intelligence reports that were not made available to Mr. Hamada’s legal counsel. In June of last year, the UN Committee Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment referenced Mr. Hamada’s case while urging Israel to repeal the law.

Iraq:

On Sunday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces have detained over 900 displaced men and boys fleeing ISIS since 2014. When interviewed, the detainees’ families said that KRG and Iraqi forces did not inform them of the detainees’ whereabouts nor facilitate any communication with them. Depriving detainees of any contact with the outside world and refusing to give their families useful information is a key indicator of the occurrence of enforced disappearances, which are violations of international human rights law, and can be international crimes.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) agency said that more than 750,000 civilians living in the western sections of Mosul are facing an extremely dire humanitarian situation. The WFP’s Iraq Representative and Country Director, Sally Haydock, said families complain of skyrocketing food prices and the lack of access to food at all. So far, WFP has provided ready-to-eat food for more than 6,000 people, but has called on all parties involved in the conflict to “facilitate immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to all Iraqis in need of assistance”.

The Iraq Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Thomas Lothar Weiss, said on Tuesday that thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) are arriving at Iraqi sites after fleeing Mosul, where government forces are fighting the Islamic State (SIL). Over 28,000 people have been displaced in the zone since the battle began on 19 February, the UN stated. According to Iraq’s Ministry of Migrations and Displacement (MoMD), the number should be put at 31,000.

Libya:

The Director of the European Union (EU) border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, accused NGOs of encouraging smugglers who profit from dangerous Mediterranean crossings. By rescuing migrants “ever closer to the Libyan coast”, Leggeri asserted that those groups allow traffickers to force more migrants onto “unseaworthy boats with less sufficient water and fuel than in previous years”. Aurélie Ponthieu, the humanitarian adviser on displacement at Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF), said that as a humanitarian agency, they could not wait “20 miles out to sea for boats that may pass by chance” because, she states, “there will be many more deaths”.

Earlier this month, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) published a report calling on Libya to protect children who are suffering from violence and sexual abuse at the hands of smugglers during their journeys towards Europe. The UN agency says that almost 26,000 children, most of them unaccompanied, have crossed the Mediterranean last year. In its report, UNICEF says violence is “widespread and systemic” at crossings and checkpoints.

Mali:

In a positive sign for the peace process in Mali, armed groups in the north of the country have reportedly agreed to allow interim authorities to be installed in three key towns in the north, including the town of Gao, which has been the center of the joint patrols.

UN forces have adopted a strategy of local cooperation in order to address the threat of extremist forces linked to al-Qaeda in the still-volatile north. Fighters linked to al-Qaeda are using suicide bombs, landmines, and car bombs to attack the peacekeepers and the Malians living in the town of Kidal. A commanding officer with the UN force has said cooperation between UN troops and local people has significantly improved the security situation and has already been helpful in preventing an attack which could have killed many.

Nigeria:

A military spokesperson claimed Wednesday that nearly 8,000 people had been rescued or arrested from Boko Haram strongholds through the month of February during the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign. As civilians have fled or been extracted from areas formerly controlled by Boko Haram, allegations of abuses and atrocities committed by the military have begun to proliferate. Survivors have reported arbitrary executions and the destruction of entire villages by soldiers ostensibly searching for Boko Haram fighters hiding among unarmed civilians. The reports have added to the growing record allegations against the Nigerian military for human rights abuses.

South Sudan:

According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), roughly 32,000 South Sudanese have entered Sudan since the start of 2017, with tens of thousands more expected to arrive due to fleeing the famine. Eugene Owusu, the UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, urged all parties in the conflict to ensure immediate, safe, and unhindered access across the country, a week after famine was declared in parts of the country.

Rebecca Garang, former Presidential Adviser of South Sudan, urged President Salva Kiir to step down, saying he is responsible for the famine that hit the country and war crimes. According to a prominent member of the Jieng Council of Elders, South Sudan’s Transitional Government of National Unity could remain in power until 2021, as it still requires the restoration of national security and a permanent constitution (among many other things) before any elections can take place. South Sudan’s opposition People’s Liberal Party expressed its full support of the national dialogue plan that was set forth by President Kiir in December of last year.

Sudan:

The reported whipping and deportation of refugees in Sudan has reinforced calls on the European Union (EU) to halt its cooperation with the Sudanese government under President Omar al-Bashir. Members of the European Parliament, including the Vice-Chair of the Sub-Committee on Human Rights, have raised concern over the incident and called for a formal inquiry, noting the EU’s responsibility to not be complicit in state crimes and violations of human rights.

Hassan Saleh, First Vice President of Sudan and longtime ally of President Omar al Bashir, was appointed to the newly created position of Prime Minister by the President on Wednesday. The position of Prime Minister was created as part of the constitutional amendments negotiated by some of the opposition groups in December in an effort to dilute the presidency’s near complete political powers. It is the first time Sudan has had a Prime Minister since Bahir’s 1989 coup. Saleh is the last of the original group of officers who aided Bashir’s coup to remain by his side and is thought to be the most likely successor to Bashir if he keeps his promise to step down in 2020. Saleh will be retaining his post as First Vice President.

The joint African Union-UN assistance mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has launched a new campaign in a camp in West Darfur for displaced persons, entitled “No Child Soldiers – Protect Darfur”, in order to prevent the exploitation of children as combatants by the armed forces fighting for control of Darfur.

Yemen:

The inaccessibility for humanitarian aid groups in Yemen has continued to harm civilians. IRIN News visited a makeshift camp of displaced persons driven from Taiz city by the recent fighting; two elderly adults and three children have already perished in the camp from the cold, dehydration, and starvation. Stephen O’Brien, the UN emergency relief coordinator for Yemen, met with both sides of the ongoing war during a tour of the country, and proceeded to call upon both to allow more access to the country’s ports for humanitarian aid. Mr. O’Brien’s convoy was denied access to the contested city of Taiz on Tuesday due to security reasons, despite previous assurances of safety from all parties.

On Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it has had to halt deliveries of aid to the contested Red Sea port city of al Hudaydah due to a lack of security assurances and the increased bombing of the city by Saudi-led coalition warplanes. Yemeni government and coalition forces have been pushing the frontline towards al Hudaydah after taking the port city of Mokha to the south several weeks ago. Yemen is almost entirely dependent on foreign supplies, as it imports 90% of its food, and the lack of security for aid agencies and importers in the ports as well as significant infrastructure damage has almost completely cut the country off from receiving food. This shortage is occurring while some 19 million are already in need of humanitarian assistance. Numerous voices have called on both sides of the conflict to allow access for food supplies, including the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen and now the ICRC.

Also on Tuesday, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged all parties in the conflict in Yemen to immediately release child soldiers. The UN has asserted that between 26 March 2015 and 31 January 2016, 1,476 children have been recruited into the armed conflict. The spokesperson for OHCHR, Ramina Shamdasani, said that, according to new reports, children are recruited without the knowledge of their families and that they join the fighting after “either being misled or attracted by promises of financial rewards or social status.” Amnesty International also reported on the recruitment of young boys as soldiers by the Houthi faction, citing several eyewitness accounts of recruitment.

According to the Pentagon, the US hit supposed al-Qaeda positions with over 20 airstrikes early morning Thursday. The Pentagon spokesperson did not comment on the expected death toll, but sources on the ground estimated roughly four to nine men, whom are believed to have been members of the al-Qaeda group in Yemen. The strikes come a month after the US raid on 29 January that killed multiple civilians, including several young children.The conditions created by the ongoing war in Yemen, including sectarian tensions, unrest, criminal enterprises, and a major security vacuum, have led some to suggest it may be the ideal haven for Islamic State (ISIL) elements pushed out of Syria and Iraq.

What else is new?

The ICRtoP is one of 26 organizations urging Ambassador Nikki Haley, the US Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, to support conflict prevention and peacebuilding in a joint letter by the Prevention and Protection Working Group. To read the letter, please click here.

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