Tag Archives: United Nations

#R2PWeekly: 23 – 27 October 2017

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Russia vetoes extension of mandate for joint UN-OPCW
chemical weapons inquiry in Syria

On 17 November, the mandate of the Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM), the impartial investigation set in motion to find those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, created jointly by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), will expire. The investigation was created in August 2015. However, Russia has recently threatened to veto the extension of the JIM’s mandate. Russia supported the creation of the JIM in 2015 and has supported the extension of its mandate in the past, which is why it would be inconsistent for them to veto this time. However, Russia, along with China, has vetoed matters in the UNSC related to the use of chemical weapons before, and has allegedly been increasingly critical of the findings from the investigations. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the JIM still has a lot of work to do, and, in May, the organization reported the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons as being widespread and systematic, thereby possibly amounting to crimes against humanity. As of 15 September 2017, 114 States have expressed support for the Accountability Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Code of Conduct, and furthermore, 96 States support the French and Mexican initiative, which proposes that States in the UNSC refrain from the use of veto in cases of mass atrocities. Ole Solvang, the deputy emergencies director at HRW, expressed fear that a Russian blockade of the mandate would send a signal of impunity to those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria and lead to further use of the banned weapons.

On Tuesday, Russia nonetheless chose to veto the extension of the JIM mandate. This was the ninth time Russia vetoed action to be taken against the Syrian government. Russia has previously rejected a report conducted by UN human rights investigators, which found the Syrian government responsible for the chemical attacks in Khan Sheikhoun in April. Reportedly, Russia continually pushed for an extension of the vote on the mandate until after the findings from the JIM had been assessed, but had insufficient support, leading to the veto of the extension of the JIM’s mandate. Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York, commented on this calling it a “routine abuse of the veto,” which is the “equivalent of a green light to war crimes.”


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC

Iraq
Kenya 
Philippines
Syria
Yemen 

Other

Burma/Myanmar

After reviewing the situation in Burma, the United States (US) is set to withdraw its military assistance to Burmese units and officers who have been involved in the violence related to the ongoing Rohingya crisis. The imposition of sanctions on Burmese authorities is also being considered. In an official statement, the US State Department called for accountability for all crimes committed in this context.

On 24 October, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch published their submission to the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee outlining the crisis. The submission listed specific accounts of the atrocities including multiple accounts of sexual violence against women and children. The submission called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and UN Member States to take action without delay.

France and the UK have circulated a draft resolution calling on the Burmese government to cease military operations in the Rakhine State and grant immediate access to UN agencies and other aid partners working to address the worsening humanitarian crisis. The draft condemned the violence occurring on both sides, including references to the 25 August Rohingya rebel attacks. However, the draft has been met with opposition from China, a neighbor and ally of Burma.

Switzerland has increased aid to Rohingya refugees from 1.8 million to 8 million Swiss francs. The Humanitarian Aid Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has provided tents, emergency supplies, and funding to operations run by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, the World Food Programme, and other non-governmental organizations.

Bangladesh sent a delegation to initiate talks with Burmese officials regarding the safe return of over 600,000 Rohingya migrants on 23 October. This delegation will seek the safe return of the Rohingya migrants to their homes in Rakhine State as quickly as possible.


Burundi:
The European Union (EU) has renewed sanctions against Burundi until 31 October 2018. These sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans against four people whose actions, according to the EU, undermine democratic governance and obstruct the search for a peaceful solution in Burundi. Since the beginning of the crisis, the EU has called on parties to refrain from committing violent acts and to tackle impunity for perpetrators. The European organization considered the continued deterioration of the situation in the country as justification for the sanctions renewal.

Central African Republic:

In a recent visit to the country, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned about the existing religious divide in the CAR and has called for the engagement of the international community to solve the crisis. He restated the need to strengthen the UN Mission in the country (MINUSCA) and to ensure a thorough reconciliation process, while calling on religious leaders to spread a message of peace. During UN Day, the Secretary-General also honored peacekeepers who were recently killed in attacks in the CAR.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The UN has declared a Level III Emergency in the DRC along with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. This activation recognizes the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the country and aims to ensure that the aid system scales up its response. As the Norwegian Refugee Council stated, the recognition of a Level III Emergency remarks that the humanitarian assistance provided to date has been insufficient.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that the number of internal displaced persons (IDP) in the country since 2015 has risen to 3.9 million, and approximately 428,000 have been displaced in the last three months alone. With the state of current militia activities and ethnic and political violence in the country, the agency has said that the risk of further displacement remains high. The security situation has made sustaining livelihoods very difficult for the population, and many are becoming increasingly dependent on aid. UNHCR also noted that out of the 236.2 million USD needed to provide assistance to refugees and IDPs, only a fifth of it has been received.


Iraq:
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found that confrontations on 16 October in Tuz Khurmatu, a town near Kirkuk, between the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) Peshmerga forces and forces from the Iraqi government conducted indiscriminate firing, which resulted in the injuring of at least 51 civilians and the deaths of 5 others, according to three medical workers located in a Turkish-run hospital. According to the same reports, civilian dwellings were hit by mortars and projectiles. It was not possible for HRW to get information on possible civilian casualties from any other areas close to Kirkuk. HRW called on the Iraqi authorities to investigate allegations of civilian properties being destroyed and to prosecute those responsible. Reports from Amnesty International supported these findings and showed evidence of broad scale impacts on civilians and their properties from the violent confrontations in Tuz Khurmatu. Satellite images, photos, videos, and testimonies reportedly demonstrate evidence of civilian houses being looted, burned, and  demolished, causing tens of thousands of people to flee, now in fear of returning. The direct attacks on civilian properties allegedly took place predominantly in Kurdish areas of the multi-ethnic city. While the witnesses interviewed by Amnesty were unable to determine if the indiscriminate attacks they witnessed were attributable to Kurdish or Iraqi forces, attacks have reportedly also been launched on Kurdish refugee crowds.

On Wednesday, the KRG proposed to install an immediate ceasefire, to freeze the results of the recent referendum, and to begin an open dialogue with the federal government, based on the Iraqi constitution. However, the Iraqi Prime Minister has ordered his forces to retake all disputed territory, signaling the military offensive is likely to continue regardless of these recent Kurdish efforts to resolve crisis peacefully.


Kenya:

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat have released a joint statement calling for peace during this week’s Kenyan presidential election re-run. The statement said that authorities must refrain from using violence and respect civil rights. The AU and the UN said they will also monitor the situation.

Diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, among others, have also warned of insecurity ahead of the presidential election re-run and have called for an end to the violence and multiple threats targeting electoral commissioners. Opposition leader Odinga has called for a mass protest on Thursday, the day of the elections.

On Wednesday, 25 October, a day before the election, the Supreme Court failed to take a petition to postpone the election re-run. The petition, filed by three Kenyan citizens, including a human rights activist, said that officials were not able to ensure that the election was free, fair, and credible. The Supreme Court did not take the case because only two out of the seven judges attended the meeting, while at least five judges are required for a quorum. Some judges who did not attend claimed to have not been in attendance due to insecurity.

With the presidential election re-run taking place at the time of publication, there have already been reports of clashes taking place between police officers and protesters.


Philippines:
The European Union (EU) has reported this week that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has deteriorated the human rights situation in the Philippines tremendously. The EU has cited Duterte’s statements that incite the police to take aggressive approaches when dealing with drug users and pushers.


Syria:

The Syrian government regime has tightened its siege in the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus in recent months, reportedly blocking access to around 400,000 civilians from receiving essential goods, such as food and medicine. Consequently, the number of infant deaths has risen dramatically, with children as young as one month old dying from lack of milk and food. Eastern Ghouta is one of the de-escalation zones created by a Russian- and Turkish-brokered deal, however, the Syrian government continues to impose and tighten blockades on the area. Activist Raed Srewel referred to the situation as “the worst kind of criminality” and expressed that a UN initiative to solve this is needed to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

The city of Al-Qaratayn, which had previously been retaken from Islamic State (ISIL) by Syrian forces, was retaken by ISIL early this month, which controlled the city for nearly three weeks. Since then, an alarming number of casualties have been documented. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SORH) has reported that at least 128 persons, both soldiers and civilians, were executed by ISIL during its 20-day long siege of Al-Qaratayn. ISIL executed the victims under the charge of “communication and espionage in favor of the regime forces.” These numbers have been confirmed as Syrian government forces managed to retake the city over the weekend. Further information released Tuesday suggested that children were among the casualties. According to reports from civilians, government forces performed the same patterns of action, executing civilians due to suspected collaboration with ISIL during their control of the city. The city has reportedly shifted hands many times during the year.

On Monday, The Russian Defense Ministry reportedly compared the recent military offensive to retake Raqqa from ISIL by the US-led coalition to the bombing of the German city of Dresden in 1945. According to the Ministry, more than 200,000 people lived in Raqqa before the conflict, while only 45,000 remain today. The US-led coalition said it takes all possible precautions to avoid civilian casualties, but has previously accepted responsibility for the deaths of more than 600 civilians in Syria and Iraq since 2014. However, as previously reported in the ICRtoP weekly, this number has been reported to be much higher by human rights groups, among them the SOHR (for more information please click here).


Yemen:

This week, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with senior Saudi Arabian and Yemeni officials during a four-day visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh to discuss his initiatives to end the violence in Yemen through a political solution. By the end of his visit, Mr. Ahmed commented that the parties were “exploring significant steps that each side can take to restore confidence and move towards a viable negotiated settlement.” These steps include a renewed ceasefire and a return to diplomatic negotiations.


What else is new?
ICRtoP member HRW, along with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and the Fondation pour l’égalité des chances en Afrique, have launched a campaign to bring former President Yahya Jammeh from the Gambia to justice for his alleged human rights abuses during his presdency in the country. Jammeh ruled the country for 22 years before losing the elections in December 2016 and seeking exile in Equatorial Guinea. His government has allegedly been implicated in arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and torture. Targeted killings also reportedly occurred during his rule, including the alleged killings of opposition leader Solo Sandeng in April 2016 and newspaper editor Deyda Hydara in 2004.

On 9 November, ICRtoP member the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation will be launching the latest entry in its Sheri P. Rosenberg Policy Papers in Prevention series, entitled, “A Shifting Paradigm: Social media and the changing nature of conflict and conflict response,” featuring author Christopher McNaboe. Please click here for more information on the event and how to RSVP.

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#R2PWeekly: 16 – 20 October 2017

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Concern grows over impact of security situation on
civilians in the DRC as elections pushed to 2019

Several non-governmental organizations, including ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW), have pushed for increased sanctions by the European Union (EU) and the United States on President Kabila’s financial associates and family members. The sanctions are reportedly aimed at showing Kabila that his “unconstitutional abuse of power” has real consequences. The International Contact Group for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, which includes the UN, the EU and the US, will meet on 12 October in The Hague to discuss the humanitarian crisis.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for MONUSCO, Maman Sambo Sidikou, has briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the country. He warned the Council about the rising political uncertainty brought by the fact that elections will most likely not be held before the end of 2017. Sidikou also noted that the conditions necessary to hold elections are the “implementation of confidence-building measures, the opening of political space, and the full respect of human rights.” The UN has also warned that civil society activists, journalists, and political opponents are subjected to intimidation, violence, and harassment for their opinions regarding the political process. Sidikou also highlighted the impact of the security situation on civilians, with 8.5 million people in need of assistance and almost 4 million internally displaced.

The electoral commission has said that elections cannot be held until at least April 2019. In a recent statement, the commission argued that it needs around seventeen months to pass a new law “drawing elected representatives’ constituencies, obtaining voting materials and recruiting personnel”. The delay undermines the 31 December 2016 agreement made between President Kabila and the opposition parties, in which the opposition agreed that Kabila could stay in power with the condition that new elections would be scheduled before the end of 2017.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Kenya 
Libya
Mali

Philippines
Nigeria
South Sudan 
Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen

 


Burma/Myanmar

The UN Human Rights (OHCHR) office released a report on 11 October that outlined interviews conducted with Rohingya migrants who fled the violence in Rakhine State. The OHCHR reported that the alleged violence perpetrated by the Burmese military and Rakhine Buddhist militants against the Rohingya is “coordinated and systematic”. The witness accounts described a number of alleged human rights violations against the Muslim minority, including extrajudicial killings, ethnic cleansing, gender violence, and torture. The report also indicated that the violence may have been coordinated in an attempt to prevent migrants from returning to their homes after fleeing Rakhine by allegedly destroying crops, livestock, and other property. Furthermore, the report outlined reports of Burmese forces targeting Rohingya leaders in education, religion, and culture in the region. The OHCHR remains “gravely concerned” about the situation in Burma.

The government of Bangladesh announced on 11 October the formation of the “Citizen’s Commission for Investigating Genocide and Terrorism in Burma”. The group of 35 Bangladeshi citizens will investigate the credibility of reports of genocide in Rakhine State. Their report is expected to be released in early February.

Bangladesh announced its plan to build a refugee camp that will house more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees. The arrival of more than half a million Rohingya Muslims since 25 August has put an immense strain on the existing camps where there are growing fears of a disease outbreak. Bangladesh authorities want to expand the refugee camp in Kutupalong.

Aerial footage taken of a Bangladesh refugee camp in Cox Bazar shows the growing spread of shacks and makeshift tents as more Rohingya refugees continue to pour across the border seeking refuge.


Burundi:

Amnesty International has warned that Burundian refugees in Tanzania are being threatened with forced repatriation if they do not voluntarily apply to return to Burundi. Authorities have claimed that the security situation in Burundi has improved and that there is no reason for refugees not to return to their country of origin. Tanzanian officials have also reportedly been coercing refugees to return, while cuts in the UN Refugee Agency’s funds have left refugee camps short of assistance, leaving most refugees no option but to return.

Burundian Catholic bishops have called for inclusive dialogue to find a solution to the crisis in the country. Joachim Ntahondereye, the chief of the episcopal conference in Burundi, has said that dialogue is in the interest of all parties to the conflict and that war must be avoided. Burundian bishops have opposed President Nkurunziza since his controversial re-election for a third term, who described the move as illegal and as a threat to the fragile stability of the country. Burundi’s population is 62 percent Catholic and some protesters against the president have carried religious Catholic crosses in the demonstrations.


Central African Republic:

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in the CAR has calledfor increased funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan to avoid an escalation of the crisis that could threaten the stability of the whole region. The plan, which is aimed at protecting civilians who are targeted by armed groups, has only been funded by 30 percent of its original budget, compromising the assistance for half of the 2.4 million Central Africans that need it.

Thousands of refugees have fled the renewed violence in the CAR to neighboring Cameroon as UN aid agencies struggle to meet their needs. Gado refugee camp, where most Central Africans are seeking refuge, is currently sheltering 25,000 refugees, compared to the 1,000 that it sheltered in January. Moreover, health workers in the camp warn that children arriving at the camp show signs of severe malnutrition or are badly wounded by fighters when leaving the CAR for Cameroon.

UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng has raised an alarm on the escalation of the violence in a recent visit to the country. Dieng emphasized the importance of holding the perpetrators of crimes accountable to ensure the non-recurrence of crimes, and stated that the UN’s goal is to “explore ways to reduce inter-community tensions and ensure the protection of civilian populations.”

Stéphane Dujarric, UN Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, has said that new allegations of sexual abuse by the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) have surfaced. The abuse is reported to have happened in the town of Bambari against a minor by UN peacekeepers. The alleged victim has received psychological and medical assistance and the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services has started an inquiry that will be referred to the CAR for further investigation.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

An attack on a UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) base in North Kivu this past Monday morning has killed two UN peacekeepers and injured several others. The Allied Democratic Forces are suspected to have carried out the attack and MONUSCO has deployed a new brigade in order to reinforce its presence and protect the population. This attack comes a month after another attack killed a UN peacekeeper in Mamundioma. The UN has created a board of inquiry to investigate the incident and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has noted that the attacks might constitute war crimes. Guterres has also urged armed groups to drop their weapons and Congolese authorities to carry out a proper investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable.


Iraq:

Since 2014, more than 5 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes due to the conflict with the Islamic State (ISIL) in the country, according to the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, on Wednesday. As fighting to recapture territory from ISIL has intensified during recent months, the numbers of displaced civilians within Iraq has risen significantly. More than half a million people fled Mosul during the recapture of the city late last year.


Kenya:

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has pulled out of the 26 October election rerun. According to Odinga, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has refused to discuss the reforms proposed in order for the elections to be fair and free. The withdrawal left a situation of uncertainty in the country since the constitution says that no election can take place with only one candidate.

Kenya’s High Court ruled on Wednesday that a minor candidate could run in October’s presidential election after the withdrawal of Odinga’s candidacy. Besides Kenyatta and Odinga, none of the candidates who ran in the past election received more than one percent of the vote. The Supreme Court, however, had earlier ruled that the petitioner and the responder are the only ones who can stand in a rerun in the case of a challenging electoral outcome.

On Wednesday, more protests erupted after the parliament, which is dominated by the Jubilee party, passed a law stating if a candidate withdraws from the election, the other automatically wins the presidency.

A day after, the government banned protests in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu following weeks of demonstrations. Fred Matiangi, the security minister, said that the decision comes to protect the lives and properties of Kenyans as it identifies the demonstrations as a danger to public safety. The National Super Alliance had called for daily protests beginning next week in an effort to put pressure on electoral officials.


 Libya:

Early this week, it was reported that the recent wave of violent clashes in Sabratha rose the death toll to 43 and wounded as many as 340. Additionally, the city’s hospital was damaged in the fighting and is reportedly only partially functioning. The Ministry of Health reported in September that the wounded were being treated either at private clinics or at hospitals abroad.

On Tuesday, the UNSC delivered a presidential statement reopening a Libyan-led political process, as submitted by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The initiative is a Libyan-led peace process that includes the establishment of a unity government and an action plan that, among other things, includes preparations for the creation of a constitution.


Mali:

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has called on all parties to implement essential provisions from the peace agreement between the Malian government and the Plateforme and Coordination armed groups. The UNSC noted that the continuous delays have raised concerns over the security situation in Mali that could give rise to potential threats to terrorism and transnational organized crime throughout the Sahel.

Due to continuous violence and displacement in Mali, 165,000 children are expected to suffer from severe malnutrition within the next year, with an estimated 142,000 children already affected this year. The violence in northern Mali has caused disruptions in health services and access to water and sanitation, causing a greatest risk to children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Although French peacekeepers have worked to stabilize Mali since 2013, there have been calls for intensified efforts to “build the resilience of families through improved food security, prevention and treatment of severe acute malnutrition”.


Nigeria:

On Monday, the Nigerian government began trials against more than 1,600 suspected Boko Haram members. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have notedthat fair trials for Boko Haram suspects are imperative. However, Amnesty International Nigeria’s Media Manager, Isa Sanusi, has reported that there are thousands of cases of arbitrary arrests where no evidence was provided and individuals were detained for years. Amnesty has also expressed concern in regards to the trials being held behind closed doors, stating that it prevents suspects from receiving access to public hearings.


Philippines:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has stated that the Philippines’ grave human rights violations during its campaign against drugs should result in being removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The HRW Geneva advocacy director, John Fisher, noted the importance of a UNHRC member to “uphold the highest standards of human rights, and cooperation with the council”, something that Fisher believes President Rodrigo Duterte is not fulfilling. Fisher also addressed the issue of President Duterte denying the reported extrajudicial killings (EJKs) taking place in the country, stating that Duterte is following a “convenient” definition of EKJs based on the previous administration.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced his shift of small drug war targets to bigger networks and suppliers. Duterte said he will remove police from handling the drug war and instead place the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in charge. He admitted that there are lower death tolls during the PDEA’s operations than during police operations. Although it is unclear if his change in plan was due to international pressure, he specifically addressed the European Union’s focus on the rising death tolls during his speech.


South Sudan:

The Center for Peace and Justice (CPJ) has warned warring parties to not focus on division of wealth and power sharing during the upcoming peace revitalization forum organized by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional bloc that brings together Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. The CPJ has said that the discussion must prioritize solving the country’s conflict by addressing the suffering of civilians who are targeted by the warring parties themselves.


Sudan:

UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy, has stated his approval of the United States’ (US) recent decision to lift sanctions against Sudan. Jazairy believes that this is a step in the right direction to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda, specifically Goal 1, to eradicate poverty. However, both American and Sudanese actors have called on the United States to continue pressuring President Omar al-Bashir and his government to support peace and democratic changes, as well as ending the armed conflicts in Sudan.


Syria:

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported, that since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014, the US-led coalition has allegedly “unintentionally killed” at least 685 civilians in its military action against the Islamic State (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. However, other independent sources, such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SORH), have reported numbers much higher. In an article published late last week, HRW argued for the responsibility of the US-led coalition towards these victims, who the coalition have reportedly regarded as collateral damage. HRW argued that the parties involved in the US-coalition have the responsibility to support the surviving victims of their actions with both symbolic gestures, such as a public apology, as well as materially, such as compensation payments.


Venezuela:

Colombian police from Cucutá, a town close to the border with Venezuela, have found a mass grave in Venezuelan territory. An investigation is set to begin soon, but authorities have given no information on which country will conduct it. Several non-governmental organizations and community members have denounced disappearances or killings of people who deal with smuggling on the border. Many criminal organizations operate throughout the more than 2,000 kilometers of border between Venezuela and Colombia.


Yemen:

On Wednesday, Reuters brought attention to the Saudi-led coalition’s military activity in the Red Sea, especially around the Houthi-controlled port Hodeidah, which they pursue with the aim of blocking weapons from reaching the Houthi rebels by ships. The military activity reportedly started in 2015, and Western governments approved the activity allegedly as a way to weaken the Houthi fighters and support the internationally recognized government. However, the blockade also stops ships from delivering essential goods, such as food and medical supplies, to Yemeni civilians, which has been of concern to the UN and international aid groups since the beginning of the blockade. Millions of Yemenis still suffer the consequences from this. According to the report, the Saudi-led blockade impeded or severely delayed ships carrying aid supplies and commercial goods from reaching Yemeni ports, even when the UN had cleared the vessels and assured that no weapons were found. Last week, Saudi ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi denied that the coalition was blocking commercial shipments with food and medicine, stating that such acts would be self-contradictory since Saudi Arabia is donating humanitarian aid to Yemen. Meanwhile, the internationally recognized government of Yemen has also implemented forms of blockades, such as when the government notified the UN of its decision to block a Houthi-held oil port due to its “illegal status” last summer. Therefore, the Houthi-held areas especially suffer from a lack of essential goods due to the blockades.

In the wake of the recent blacklisting of the Saudi-led coalition by the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, the permanent representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, reported that his government uses “extremely stringent measures” to ensure that the weapons sold to the coalition by the UK “are used correctly.” Reportedly, the UK’s biggest weapon’s client is Saudi Arabia, who purchased weapons worth four billion dollars during the past two years. However, the issue is heavily disputed within the UK; for example, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly condemned the government’s weapons sales to the coalition.

In this week’s UN Security Council briefing on Yemen, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged the members of the Security Council to pressure the parties to the conflict in Yemen to embrace a comprehensive peace deal, emphasizing that an agreement to secure access to humanitarian aid cannot be the end goal of efforts to protect the Yemeni civilians. In his briefing, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed argued that the influential political parties to the conflict have an interest in prolonging the war, and thereby maintain a profitable position in which they have control. Furthermore, Director of Operations at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) John Ging noted that the humanitarian response plan for Yemen, which has to reach 12 million people in need, is currently only 55 percent funded.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 05-09 December 2016

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Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visits Myanmar amidst emerging allegations of torture, ethnic cleansing of Rohingya minority

557a4f1a-31c0-4bfd-96d5-7bbc995f4650Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, while traveling in Myanmar this week, expressed his concerns over the emerging reports of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese military against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country. Mr. Annan, with the support of Myanmar’s government, heads the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State which “aims to propose concrete measures for improving the welfare of all people” in the region. Mr. Annan emphasized that the protection of all civilians must be ensured at all times and that security operations in Rakhine State must allow for humanitarian access to civilians.

State Counsellor Daw Aung Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the de facto leader of Myanmar’s government since April of this year, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for her perceived silence on the issue of the Rohingya, who have allegedly been subject to torture and extrajudicial executions at the hands of Myanmar’s military following an armed uprising in October which is estimated to have killed over a dozen police and military personnel. Counsellor Suu Kyi denies allegations that Myanmar’s recent actions constitute ethnic cleansing despite the fact that Myanmar has refused to include the Rohingya in its most recent census and will not acknowledge the Rohingya Muslims as an official ethnic group amongst the country’s 135 official minorities.

Independent journalists have been banned from investigating allegations of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority communities in Rakhine State. The Burmese military has denied these allegations, despite footage obtained by news syndicates, which include images of burned villages and charred bodies. An estimated 30,000 Rohingya people have been displace, including many that have fled to neighboring Bangladesh and Thailand.

Source for above photo: Reuters via BBC News

*** Please note that due to the upcoming holidays, this will be the final edition of RtoP Weekly this month. However, we will resume publication with the latest RtoP news and updates on crisis situations around the world in January 2017. Thank you.


Catch up on developments in…

CAR
DRC
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Central African Republic:

On Monday, the UN announced the completion of an internal investigation into alleged sexual abuse crimes committed by Burundian and Gabonese peacekeepers during their deployment in CAR. The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) interviewed more than a hundred individuals, including minors, who identified a total of 41 alleged perpetrators. The UN shared the report with the governments of both countries and urged them to ensure accountability for those responsible.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The United Nations Security Council has appealed for the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to expedite the process of updating its voter registry in order to conduct free and fair elections as it navigates the current uncertain political situation in the country. The statement also called on officials to exercise restraint and to respect the rights of citizens to peacefully protest. The remarks aimed to prevent further violence in the politically destabilized country following the clashes between protesters and government officials on 19-20 September during which several protesters were killed.


Iraq:

The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has stalled dramatically as government and US-led coalition forces face ISIL fighters who will not surrender. The Sunni terror group has used a myriad of tactics, including deadly car bombs and suicide attacks, to deter advances by Iraqi forces, who now say that the battle will last until as late as next summer.

As fighting in Mosul continues to move west of the city, Shia paramilitary organizations barred from entering Mosul city limits, such as the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), are likely to take on a greater operational role. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have expressed concern over the involvement of the PMU, now an authorized corps of the Iraqi military, due to previous abuses committed in Fallujah earlier this year, which saw at least 1,300 men and boys of a Sunni tribe go missing. Reports have emerged of torture and executions as over 600 people remain missing.

The US-led coalition assisting Iraqi government forces stated on Wednesday that it had targeted a hospital complex in Mosul. The coalition, known as code name Operation Inherent Resolve, released a statement describing the strike on the medical complex, which is believed to have been an operational base for ISIL fighters within the city. It is unclear if there were patients in the hospital or if any civilian casualties were sustained as a result of the strike.

Nearly 70,000 civilians have fled Mosul since the operation to retake the city began on 17 October. UN humanitarian staff have continued to provide aid to refugees, including hygiene kits, kerosene heaters, and sheets.


Libya:

A spokesman for pro-government forces announced on Monday that ISIL has officially been ousted from the coastal city of Sirte. The following day, the Libyan forces declared victory and celebrated an end to the fighting that has been raging in the area for the past six months. The Sunni terror group had previously controlled a 150-mile coastal stretch of the area since 2014 that was used as a logistics hub to supply fighters with weapons and to travel to nearby countries such as Tunisia.


Nigeria:

The UN warned on Wednesday that Nigeria’s enduring counterinsurgency efforts against the Islamic extremist terror group, Boko Haram, could be the “largest crisis in Africa.” Efforts by the Nigerian military freed more than 5,200 people in the month of November. However, that number signifies Boko Haram’s capability to capture and control large swathes of highly populated areas. Perhaps the most major consequence of the conflict is widespread hunger, which the UN estimates will result in nearly 75,000 children at risk of death within only “a few months.”


South Sudan:

On Sunday, a spokesperson for the SPLM-IO said that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the main international organization involved in mediation efforts in South Sudan, has supported the continuation of the civil war in the country by accepting the replacement of Riek Machar with Taban Deng Gai as the country’s First Vice President. The spokesperson stressed that peace will not come as long as the parties fail to address the root causes of the conflict, including the dismissal of Machar.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Friday that the food crisis in South Sudan is expected to worsen significantly next year. At least 3.5 million people are currently facing severe food shortages and, in the latest WFP report, this number is expected to rise to 4.6 million in spring 2017 unless humanitarian aid is heightened.

Late last week, a UN team of human rights investigators said rape is being used as a tool for ethnic cleansing in South Sudan. The investigators also added that sexual violence has increased in the country and that a survey has found that 70 percent of women in the capital, Juba, have experienced sexual assault at some point since the start of the civil war. The team called for an inquiry into the claims to collect evidence to hold the perpetrators accountable.


Sudan/Darfur:

Three employees from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were abducted by unidentified gunmen on Sunday in the unstable Darfur region of Sudan. The UNHCR employees, one Sudanese and two Nepalese, were taken from the West Darfur state capital of Geneina by automobile to an undisclosed location. This is not the first case of UN employee abductions in the region, which has been unstable since ethnically charged uprisings began in 2003. Sudan has requested that UN peacekeepers, who have been deployed in Darfur since 2007, leave the country.


Syria:

Russia and China exercised their veto power on Monday to block a UN Security Council resolution proposed by Egypt that would initiate a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire in Aleppo between Syrian President Assad’s pro-government forces and rebel-opposition groups. Russia has openly criticized the vote on the resolution for not following the standard protocol of allowing Council members at least 24 hours to review the resolution as well as the fact that the resolution failed to account for ongoing talks with the US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The aforementioned veto comes amidst significant advances by Syrian government forces into rebel-held  areas of the besieged city. Tuesday saw Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, retake the Old City neighborhood of Aleppo, considered a major loss to rebel opposition groups fighting against the Assad regime. Government forces are said to now control at least three-quarters of formerly rebel-held areas. The US and Russia are reportedly in negotiations for a deal that would allow remaining rebels to safely evacuate the city.


Yemen:

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson expressed his deep concern regarding the reports of Saudi Arabia’s use of UK-made weapons, including cluster bombs, against Yemen. However, Johnson added that he did not believe the UK’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia constitutes war crimes and will not suspend the arms sales. The UN released a report earlier this year stating that incidents in Yemen are in violation of international humanitarian law.

The Joint Group to Assess Incidents, an investigative body set up by the Saudi-led coalition, said on Tuesday that the attack on a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Yemen was a mistake. The Joint Group has called on the coalition to apologize for the strike and stated that the families of the victims need to be given proper assistance. Other incidents that the coalition have been blamed for, according to the investigative body, are considered legitimate operations where the coalition targeted fighters. The investigation was initially set up as several rights groups said the attacks on civilians and civilian buildings may amount to war crimes.


What else is new?

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will be holding an event entitled “Burma at the Brink: Religious Freedom Violations Threaten Its Future.” The event will be held on Tuesday, 13 December from 3:00pm-4:30pm at the National Press Club (529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC). The event will feature opening remarks from USCIRF commissioners and feature the following speakers: Rachel Fleming, independent human rights research and activist, and author of Hidden Plight: Christian Minorities in Burma, Susan Hayward, Director – Religion and Inclusive Societies at the United States Institute of Peace, and Tina Mufford, Senior Policy Analyst – U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

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#R2PWeekly: 28 November – 2 December

UntitledICRtoP to hold upcoming Event: Preventing Mass Atrocities:
The Role of Women in the Advancement of the Responsibility to Protect

4a681ab8-429e-4bb9-8132-eb4a0e3a753fThe International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) is pleased to mark this year’s International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime with a public event exploring the relationship between the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) agendas in order to foster discussion, increase awareness, and produce recommendations for action. Genocide and other atrocity crimes disproportionately affect women and girls at an alarming rate as they often are directly targeted and also bear the brunt of the economic and social consequences of such crimes. However, women are not just victims of atrocities, as they have a vital role to play in the implementation and advancement of the RtoP and an inherent right to participate in the norm’s advancement.

ICRtoP would like to invite you to join us for the event entitled “Preventing Mass Atrocities: The Role of Women in the Advancement of the Responsibility to Protect,” on 12 December from 6:30pm – 8:30pm at The Church Centre for the United Nations (777 First Avenue at 44th Street, NY, NY). The event will feature civil society experts working throughout the world to advance the WPS and RtoP agendas. By convening civil society, UN, and Member State participants, the event will also serve as an opportunity to hear diverse viewpoints, and link actors working on these issues in order to raise and consider recommendations to enhance women’s participation and leadership in atrocity prevention.

Moderated by Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy-Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, an ICRtoP Steering Committee member, the event will feature a panel of civil society experts, including Louise Allen, Executive Coordinator at NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security; Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, Executive Producer – Director of femLINKpacific; and Lina Zedriga, Secretary of Uganda’s National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All forms of Discrimination.

As space will be limited, please RSVP by 5:00pm on Monday, 5 December if you plan to attend. To RSVP, please contact  wfmint5@wfm-igp.org


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On 28 November, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi cancelled her planned trip to Indonesia due to protests over government actions against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine State. The cancellation comes in the wake of a senior UN official accusing Myanmar of engaging in a policy of ethnic cleansing in order to force the Rohingya out of the country. In response to the escalating violence, the Thomson Reuters Foundation recently convened an expert panel on how to solve the issue. The panel’s responses can be read here.

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, released a statement on Tuesday expressing alarm over the security and humanitarian situation in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, following reports of human rights violations. Dieng urged the government and military to allow an independent investigation to look into the reported incidents and also called for accountability for those responsible for the alleged violations.


Burundi:

Last week, the UN announced that it will set up a probe into the violence in Burundi. Following the announcement, the government responded that it will not cooperate with the investigation as they claim it to be part of a political plot. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in support of the president. However, it is not known whether the protests are voluntary or forced upon the civil servants through threats.

On Tuesday, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressedconcern regarding several incidents, including the circulation of a questionnaire asking public servants to state their ethnicity, and reports of killings, abuse and torture. The Committeeaccused the Burundian government of being unwilling or unable to protect the population and called on the country to act swiftly to protect civilians. The Committee also called on the government to allow the deployment of a UN police contingent, mandated to monitor the situation in the country.


Central African Republic:

On 27 November, the government of CAR stated that a week of fighting between the rebel groups, the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic and Union for Peace in Central Africa, has left 85 people dead. Mr. Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, has released a statement condemning the violence amid reports that members of the Fulani ethnic group have been specifically targeted, with rebels going house to house looting, abducting people, and committing executions. His full statement can be readhere.

On Monday, a UN official said nearly half of the population, about 2 million people, in the Central African Republic are in need of humanitarian aid. According to aid groups, attacks in the country are restricting the access for humanitarian actors to deliver assistance to those most in need.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On 25 November, Ugandan rebels from the ADFNALU group released several villagers they had taken captive in order to convey a warning to the armed forces of the DRC as well as MONUSCO, the UN mission in the DRC. The message called for a halt to assaults on their positions, warning that for each rebel killed they will kill ten civilians.

On 27 November, the Mai-Mai Mazembe, a Nande “self-defense” militia, attacked both a DRC army outpost and a camp for displaced persons in the Hutu village of Luhanga, killing at minimum 34 civilians. In the weeks prior, the group had threatened to “purify” the village if the Hutus did not leave..


Iraq:

Iraqi Special Forces have killed approximately 1,000 ISIL fighters since the offensive to retake Mosul from the Sunni terrorist group began six weeks ago. Government forces were initially able to make advances quicker than anticipated in villages and towns vacated by civilians. However, fighting has slowed in recent weeks as operations begin in neighborhoods still populated with local Iraqi residents. More than a million civilians have remained in Mosul throughout the battle.

A major pipeline was hit during the continued battle for Mosul on Tuesday, leaving nearly 650,000 civilians, including women and children, without access to water. The UN has also warned that high levels of food insecurity have emerged and there is extreme need for humanitarian assistance.


Nigeria:

On 25 November, Boko Haram raided three villages in the northeast of the country, killing five people and setting fire to multiple homes.

Late last week, at the EU Human Rights Dialogue in Abuja, the EU urged the Nigerian government to ensure that the country follows global human rights practices and added that peace will be possible only if it is set upon human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.


South Sudan:

Late last week, after intense international pressure, the South Sudanese government agreedto allow the deployment of additional peacekeepers in the country, which was initially refused by the president as he regarded it as a threat to national sovereignty.

On Wednesday, the United States reported to the UN Human Rights Council that South Sudanese government troops are preparing to launch an attack on rebel areas or border states and that the US has credible information to support this report. The US also accused the troops of deliberately targeting civilians. A proposal from the US, at the meeting, regarding an arms embargo and targeted sanction was blocked by Russia.

A UN humanitarian official in South Sudan has expressed serious concern regarding the continuing blockage of aid convoys in the country and has urged all parties to allow humanitarian access to safely reach people in need. During November, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded about 91 incidents where humanitarian workers were blocked and several of these involved violence against personnel or assets. The major challenges for humanitarian workers have continued to increase as the situation for the South Sudanese population has also continued to deteriorate.

A UN commission on human rights has reported that a process of ethnic cleansing is under way in South Sudan, following a visit to the country, where members of the commission witnessed serious violations of human rights, such as massacres, rape, and the destruction of villages, based along ethnic divides, The UN commission has called upon the international community to fulfill its obligation to prevent genocide as such fears rise.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government has made public that talks have been taking place in Addis Ababa to determine the locations of Darfur rebel combatants in order to create a comprehensive framework for a cessation of hostilities agreement to be signed with the armed groups. Talks between the government and two armed groups in Darfur, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), over a humanitarian cessation of hostilities have been deadlocked since last August.


Syria:

Syrian government forces have reportedly retaken over a third of rebel-held territory in the besieged city of Aleppo. The latest offensive has included a sustained aerial bombardment from both Syrian and Russian warplanes over the area. The Russian defense ministry has stated that Syrian government troops have regained control of 12 districts, or approximately 40% of the territory, from rebels opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session on the enduring and protracted conflict in Syria on Wednesday. The UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien, referring to the current situation as a “descent into hell”, pleaded with Council members to do everything in their power to influence decision makers to bring an end to the six year conflict. Nearly 600 people have been killed since Saturday after government forces initiated a large-scale offensive to retake rebel-held areas of Aleppo. At least 200,000 civilians, including women and children, remain in the besieged rebel-held areas of Aleppo.


Yemen:

On 23 November, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed 12 civilians in the Hiran district of Hajja province. Another set of airstrikes killed at least 13 civilians on 28 November as it hit two homes in the northeast of Hodeida.

On Monday, the Houthi rebels formed a new government, which was sworn in on Tuesday, according to a Houthi-run news agency. The formation of a new Houthi government is a set-back to ongoing UN efforts to form a unity government in Yemen. However, the UN Envoy for Yemen, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, traveled to Aden on Sunday with the aim of holding discussions and with the hope of reaching an agreement between the warring parties. President Hadi firstrefused to meet with the UN Envoy as the Yemeni government is opposed to the peace plan, but later agreed to a meeting after sending a letter detailing the parts of the plan that his government will not accept.

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#R2PWeekly: 14 – 18 November

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UN Special Adviser warns of risk for ethnic war and genocide in South Sudan

40e21209-d065-4454-beaf-4cf3e1c78475On 11 November, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, briefed the media with a statement on the situation in South Sudan following a five-day visit to the country last week. Mr. Dieng’s visit was largely in response to the growing amount of reports of ethnic-based violence that have emerged in the wake of the deterioration of the peace process between the government and opposition groups in July. During the visit, through meetings with government representatives, UN mission officials, civil society groups, and community members, Dieng tried to better understand the situation and the threats posed by the recent developments in the capital city, Juba, and throughout South Sudan.

Since the fighting resurfaced in July between President Salva Kiir’s predominantly Dinka soldiers and former First Vice President Riek Machar’s predominantly Nuer army, the extreme polarization of the groups along ethnic lines has increased. Over the last month there has also been an excessive escalation in ethnic hate speech, threatening letters, targeted killings, rape of members of certain ethnic groups, and attacks on individuals due to their perceived political affiliation. The media has also been used as a tool to help spread the hatred and encourage the segregation between the ethnic groups.

In his statement, Mr. Dieng argued that what he saw and heard during his visit confirmed his fears of the potential for genocide in South Sudan,  of which the escalating violence along ethnic lines is a strong indicator. While assessing the risk of atrocity crimes in the country, the Special Adviser concluded that all the criteria for an outright ethnic war and genocide are already in place and called on the South Sudanese leaders to take immediate measures to end the violence. He urged them to remember that the State has the primary responsibility to protect its population regardless of their ethnic, national, or political affiliations. Mr. Dieng finished the media briefing by, once again, stressing the importance of finding a solution for peace in South Sudan.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a report to the Security Council released on Wednesday, has called for an arms embargo to be imposed on South Sudan as he warned of the risk of mass atrocities. He also noted that the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) lacks the means to stop such acts should they occur. Both the Secretary-General and Special Adviser Dieng agree that South Sudanese leaders must work hard for peace in the country, before things escalate further.

At the time of publishing the RtoPWeekly, Mr. Dieng was briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in South Sudan.

Source for above photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly next week, 21 – 25 November due to the holiday, but we will resume publication with the latest RtoP news and updates on crisis situations around the world the following week, 28 November – 2 December. Thank you.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Saturday, the Burmese army killed 25 Rohingya villagers as the army started “clearance operations” that they allege are targeting armed militants in Rakhine state. The army reported that all of those killed had been carrying machetes or other weapons. However, photos and videos have proven contradictory to this claim. Hundreds of villagers fled from their villages over the weekend to escape the violence. The operation comes in the wake of Human Rights Watch (HRW) releasing new satellite images showing the extent of Rohingya buildings and villages burned down over the past month by the Burmese army.

Refugees International released a report this week containing recommendations for ways in which governments and institutions can protect Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing the latest unrest in Myanmar. The report specifically calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia, Thailand, and the United States to implement strategies such as appointing officers as first points of contact for asylum seekers, assessing screening policies in annual reports, and convening previously announced joint task forces on refugee registration.


Burundi:

Following an order from the Senate for the government to carry out a census of every civil servant based on their ethnicity and region of origin, people in Burundi have voiced their concerns for a possible genocide as the round-up reminds them of the conditions leading up to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. There are more than 100,000 people working for the state, making it the largest employer in the country.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Burundian Human Rights League (ITEKA) released a report on Tuesday warning of crimes against humanity being committed in Burundi. The Human rights groups urged the international community to send a civilian protection force to the country as they believe there is a possibility of ethnic civil war and genocide. They also pointed out that all criteria for a possible genocide are already in place, including ideology, intent, and identification of possible populations to be eliminated. On Wednesday, amid the warnings of the threat of genocide and the continuing mass exodus of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries, international humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) stated Burundi is becoming one of the biggest refugee crises in Africa.

On Monday, a letter from Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon surfaced, asking for the appointment of a new UN Envoy to the country. Jamal Benomar, the current envoy returned empty-handed from talks with the government on the situation in Burundi. UN spokesman, Farha Haq, responded by saying that there is no search for a new envoy at the moment.

International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda published a report on Monday, stating that the preliminary inquiry into the situation in Burundi will continue in spite of the country’s withdrawal from the court. Bensouda said that Burundi is still obliged to cooperate with the court when it comes to proceedings initiated prior to the withdrawal becomes official in October 2017, one year after notification to the UN Secretary-General.


Central African Republic:

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported on Wednesday that more than 850,000 people, of which around 50 percent are children, are either internally displaced in CAR or are refugees in neighboring countries. The organization called for donors to put the children first as the efforts to reach them in CAR are restricted due to a significant lack of funds.

A UN human rights expert said on Wednesday that the justice system in CAR must be strengthened immediately for peace to be achieved and stressed that a Special Criminal Court should be established in 2017. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch and other NGOs urgeddonor countries to support the Special Criminal Court and its mandate to end impunity for crimes under international law.

During a meeting on Thursday, the UN Security Council welcomed the signing of the National Strategy on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation, the National Security Policy, the Internal Security Forces Development Plan and the National Reconciliation Strategy by the Central African Republic. In a statement, the Council expressed its concern about the continued instability in the country and condemned the recent uptick in violence, especially against civilians, humanitarian personnel, and UN peacekeepers. The Security Council also recalled “the State’s primary responsibility to protect all populations in the CAR in particular from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” and emphasized the importance of a political solution to the conflict.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have accused former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda of witness tampering in his trial for allegedly keeping sex slaves, using child soldiers, and murders in the DRC in 2002 and 2003. Former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty last month of bribing witnesses in his trial.

Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo resigned from his position on Monday, fulfilling a requirement of the recent political deal that will keep Joseph Kabila as President beyond the constitutional mandate. Mr. Kabila, whose second term comes to an end next month, has cited the government’s present inability to conduct fair elections as the main reason for the extension of his presidency through 2018. The move by Mr. Ponyo now frees up the position of Prime Minister for a member of the opposition that has agreed to the deal to let Mr. Kabila remain in office. However, the main opposition group, Rassemblement, still rejects any such agreement while warning of the possibility of civil war. The UN Security Council, during their recent visit to the DRC, called for a peaceful transition of power and stressed the need for a permanent dialogue.


Iraq:

The Islamic State (ISIL) continues to perpetrate systematic killings of civilians, including women and children, in and around Mosul. The Sunni terror group has reportedly used child soldiers, aged anywhere from 10 to 14 years old, to carry out executions of detained members of the Iraqi Security Forces. At least 48,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes as a result of the enduring offensive by government forces, backed by US-led coalition forces and Kurdish militias to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State.

An ISIL suicide bomber killed at least 6 people and injured several others on Monday in the Iraqi town of Ain Al-Tamur on Monday. Iraqi Security Forces were able to apprehend an additional five suicide bombers before they could detonate their vests. However, a sixth bomber was able to evade custody and detonate his vest in a nearby house. An additional nine people were killed and up to 25 were wounded in two suicide bombings in Fallujah.

Human Rights Watch released a report on Monday detailing several incidents in which forces representing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) demolished Arab houses, leaving Kurdish houses untouched and intact in towns and villages throughout the country retaken from ISIL. The report, which documented incidents between late 2014 and mid-2016, was compiled through on-the-ground visits to both Nineveh and Kirkuk governorates, as well as through examining satellite imagery.

At least 700 civilians living in areas retaken by Iraqi Security forces from ISIL have taken to the streets in search of food and water. Soldiers have been handing out the few remaining rations they have to civilians while they wait for a resupply of resources from the government to arrive.

A new Human Rights Watch reports states that the mass grave found on the outskirts of Mosul earlier this month is believed to contain the remains of at least 300 former local Iraqi police officers. The policemen were allegedly held captive and then executed by ISIL late last month as government forces began advancing on the city.


Nigeria:

Late last week, Nigerian soldiers shot and killed three female suicide bombers as they attempted to infiltrate into the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram.

On Saturday, officials from Chad and the UN reported that several hundred Boko Haram fighters have surrendered in the country over the past month. Most of the fighters are originally from Chad and are currently being held in detention centers along with their families.

On Tuesday, the United Nations warned that about 75,000 children risk dying from starvation within months as the situation in the country is worsening. UN humanitarian coordinator Peter Lundberg said they have assessed that about 14 million people in Nigeria will be in need of humanitarian assistance by 2017, including about 400,000 children. Lundberg also added that they do not have enough money to handle the situation and are now in dire need of funding.


South Sudan:

The South Sudanese government has accused the opposition of kidnapping about 20 humanitarian workers over the weekend and has strongly condemned the incident while promising to safely bring back the abductees. However, the armed opposition has denied the allegations.


Sudan/Darfur:

President Omar al-Bashir has said that any peace deal with the opposition rebel group, Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLM-N), will not include the reintegration of the group’s soldiers into regular Sudanese military forces. Previous discussions of peace deals included reintegration, however Bashir has since stated that “no single outlaw will be absorbed” as he views the rebels as surrogate members of South Sudan’s military. Bashir has noted that Sudan is prepared for both war and peace with South Sudan.


Syria:

Russia and the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group fighting against Syrian government forces, continue to trade allegations over the use of chemical weapons in the besieged city of Aleppo. Russia has accused the opposition group of using shells containing chlorine and white phosphorus, while the SNC claims the weapons are similar to those used by regime forces and their allies in earlier attacks. The UN Security Council recently extended a mandate to further investigate the alleged use of chemical agents by the Syrian government on several occasions throughout the civil war.

Civilians still living in Aleppo were instructed via mass text message on Monday to flee the city before the onset of a “strategically planned assault using high precision weapons” began within 24 hours. The message likely came from the Syrian government as they are the only actor to have the capacity for a mass text transmission to the public.

Following the mass message, heavy airstrikes over Aleppo resumed on Tuesday after a nearly three week cessation of aerial assaults on rebel-held areas of the city. At least one civilian was killed and an additional five people were injured in a helicopter barrel bomb attack. Successive barrel bomb strikes by the Syrian government killed at least 27 civilians on Wednesday in Aleppo. Among the targets were a children’s hospital, the Central Blood Bank, and neighborhoods with nearby schools. Russian and Syrian officials have claimed that humanitarian corridors have been established to allow civilians to flee the city. However, many residents do not feel they are safe to use or have refused to flee out of principle.

Meanwhile, aerial assaults across Syria targeted eight hospitals in the past week amidst the regime’s renewed offensive to retake rebel-held territory.


Yemen:

The Saudi-led coalition said on Friday that the Houthi rebels have blocked a total of 34 boats carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen in the last six months.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led military coalition had agreed to renew the cessation of hostilities set to start on Thursday. Kerry claimed that the parties also agreed to work towards establishing a unity government in order for peace to be realized by the end of the year. However, following the statement from Kerry, the Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al Mekhlafi said the government is not interested in a ceasefire or any peace talks with the Houthi rebels.


What else is new?

Interested in interning with the ICRtoP in New York City? We are now seeking applications for Spring 2017. The ICRtoP Secretariat is looking for full-time (preferred) or part-time interns for a period of 3-4 months beginning in early 2017. Applications can be emailed to internship@responsibilitytoprotect.org. The deadline for Spring 2017 applications is 1 December, 5:00pm EST. For more information, please click here.

The Stanley Foundation released a policy memo this week, which provides insight on ways the private sector can work to prevent atrocities and promote the Responsibility to Protect. The memo captures the major discussion points and policy recommendations from a roundtable held last month amongst experts and policymakers from academia, governments, international organizations, and civil society. The roundtable focused on four key global issue areas: climate change, genocide prevention, nuclear security, and global governance.

The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (55 5th Ave., Room 1008, New York, NY, 10003) will be holding an event on Thursday, 1 December from 5:30-7:30pm to celebrate the recent publishing of Dr. James Waller’s new book, entitled Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide. Attendees will be encouraged to engage with Dr. Waller in an interactive discussion on the new book, his work, and the field of mass atrocity prevention more broadly. Refreshments will be served and signed copies of the book will be made available. Please RSVP by 28 November to Cardozo.CLIHHR@yu.edu.

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#R2PWeekly: 31 October – 04 November 2016

Rtop weekly

Independent report finds UN mission in South Sudan failed to protect civilians during July violence in Juba

a5d78a56-d440-477b-b440-55b7e73b78ceOn 1 November, an independent inquiry released its report on the July violence in Juba and the actions the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The inquiry, established by UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon in August, found that UNMISS had failed to uphold its mandate to protect civilians. During the three-day outbreak of violence in the capital, armed government forces killed and assaulted civilians and humanitarian workers, committing sexual assaults and other atrocity crimes. The report found that, at the time, there were about 12,000 UNMISS peacekeepers deployed in the country, but the forces abandoned their posts and failed to respond to pleas for help from people under attack. The clashes resulted in the killing of at least 272 people during the first three days of the conflict.

In response to the report, UN Secretary-General dismissed UNMISS Force Commander Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki of Kenya as the findings indicated that a lack of leadership was behind the “chaotic and ineffective” response to the crisis. Ban urged for a prompt replacement of the force commander and pledged to present measures to strengthen UNMISS’ capacity for the protection of civilians, such as greater accountability for both civilian and uniformed personnel. The next step for the UN is to ensure that those responsible for the security failings during the crisis are identified and held accountable. Expressing dismay over the Secretary-General’s decision to dismiss the Kenyan commander, Kenya announced that the country will withdraw its troops from UNMISS..

In discussing the dismissal, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that, “The firing of one commander won’t be a panacea to the mission’s shortcoming” and stressed that UNMISS needs to take steps towards improving their early warning capacities. Furthermore, HRW underscored that if UNMISS is unable to prevent atrocities, the mission must ensure to fulfill the mandate to use lethal force, if necessary, to protect civilians and halt atrocities. HRW has called for the UN to learn from past mistakes and make sure that the protection of civilians is the top priority.

Source for above photo: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan

Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) renewed its call for a UN-assisted inquiry into violence in Rakhine State. HRW has released new satellite images showing extensive fire-related destruction in three villages and is calling on the Burmese government to allow the UN to investigate the alleged destruction of villages in the area. Since the attacks on border outposts on 9 October, security forces have been accused of a campaign of violence in the area against the Rohingya minority group.

Burmese soldiers are facing fresh allegations of raping and sexually assaulting Rohingya women and girls during the security operation in Rakhine State, ongoing since 9 October. Breaking the story on Friday, Reuters conducted first-hand interviews with three of the several dozen women victimized by the incident.


Burundi:

Human Rights Watch has argued that the Burundian withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a confirmation of Burundi’s disregard for human rights and shows how little the country cares about justice for victims of war crimes and human rights violations. The organization called on other African countries, who are still members of the ICC, to distance themselves from Burundi’s withdrawal.


Central African Republic:

On 28 October, clashes between two rival militia groups in the central town of Bambari killed25 people. This, and further fighting in the north around the town of Kaga Bandero, has forced over 20,000 people to flee to UN bases in the past week. Humanitarian efforts have been suspended in some areas due to growing instability.

Following deadly raids in camps for displaced people in October, Human Rights Watch has called for increased protection by UN peacekeepers. Rebels killed at least 37 civilians and wounded another 57 as they razed a camp in mid-October as peacekeepers surrounding the camp failed to halt the attack. The UN mission in CAR, MINUSCA, released a report on Monday documenting the deaths of civilians and assigned the primary responsibility for the attacks to Seleka forces.


Iraq:

Security developments
ISIL executed at least 232 people in Mosul last week, including 190 former Iraqi security forces and 42 civilians. Tens of thousands of civilians are thought to have been forcefully displaced from their homes by the extremist group to be used as human shields against bombardments by US-led coalition and Iraqi armed forces. The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, released a statement Tuesday condemning the recent violations of human rights and ongoing violence perpetrated by ISIL throughout the ongoing armed conflict in and around Mosul. Mr. Dieng pointed to the forced displacement of at least 25,000 civilians and the potential use of chemical weapons as crimes that demand accountability while urging Iraqi government forces to conduct their operations with full respect for international law.

The Iraqi army resumed its offensive on Monday to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. The advance was paused last week as some ground units had made gains quicker than forces on other fronts. The operation, undertaken predominantly by special forces units, will now focus on taking back territory on the east bank of the Tigris River. The offensive continues to encounter strong opposition from ISIL, who persistently use suicide bombings and car bombs to drive forces back.

Iraqi government forces, supported by coalition special forces units and Kurdish paramilitaries, officially breached eastern districts of Mosul on Monday. US-led coalition airstrikes and artillery has allowed forces to continue to advance toward the center of the city despite a violent resistance from thousands of ISIL fighters. There are approximately two million civilians still living in Mosul.

US airstrikes last month allegedly killed eight members of one family, including three children, in a village just outside the city of Mosul. The US has confirmed that they conducted aerial strikes in the Fadhiliya village area on 22 October and are further investigating these allegations. The deaths highlight the ongoing concerns voiced by officials and aid agencies about the protection of civilians in Iraq as government and coalition forcess work to oust ISIL from the northern regions of the country.

The humanitarian situation
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has released a Flash Update regarding the current situation in Iraq. The report notes that there are now 15,804 internally displaced persons (IDPs), including 2,634 families, as a result of the enduring offensive taking place in Mosul, bringing the country total to 3.3 million IDPs.


Libya:

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on all parties to allow humanitarian access into Benghazi neighborhoods where civilians are trapped by fighting. Furthermore, HRW also urged the parties to grant safe passage for civilians to leave those areas. However, conditions have been set by both sides regarding the evacuation of residents, including that no males between 15 and 65 will be allowed safe passage out of the area.


Mali:

On Monday, al Qaeda linked Ansar Dine declared a unilateral ceasefire in Mali. Despite having been pushed out of most territory in 2013, the terrorist organization had recently intensified its attacks over the course of the past year, killing dozens of people.


Nigeria:

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Nigerian government officials of sexually exploiting and raping women and girls displaced by Boko Haram. The report is a result of firsthand accounts given in the form of interviews to HRW, as well as a July 2016 assessment of internally displaced persons (IDPs), in which 66% of respondents stated that camp officials had sexually abused displaced women and girls. Responding to the report, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced the start of an investigation into the allegations, which was welcomed by HRW as a positive step “taken in defense of Boko Haram victims”.

UNICEF, on Monday, negotiated the release of 876 children held by the Nigerian military for suspected links to Boko Haram. UNICEF estimates that roughly 20,000 children have been separated from their parents due to the conflict with Boko Haram.

President Muhammadu Buhari met with representatives from the Niger River Delta from both the local communities and several of the prominent rebel groups on Tuesday. The purpose of the meeting was to find a political solution to the continuing militancy issues in the region related to the oil industry, as well as to discuss issues of economic and human development and security. However, the region’s most prominent militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers, refused to join the talks and threatened attacks to derail the peace process if an ongoing army offensive did not cease.


South Sudan:

Last week, an army rebel group loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar reportedlyattacked two schools in South Sudan and abducted at least 30 children. The children are thought to have been recruited as soldiers in the rebel army.

President Salva Kiir promised that he is fully committed to the implementation of the 2015 peace deal. He called for a united nation to rebuild itself and said that progress has been made since the appointment of Taban Deng Gai as First Vice President.


Sudan/Darfur:

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has released a report for October 2016 regarding the crisis in the Jebel Marra region of Sudan. The report notes that between 160,000 and 195,000 civilians have been displaced since the beginning of 2016 resulting from persistent armed conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Abdul Wahid branch of the Sudan Liberation Army (AW-SLA).


Syria:

Security developments
At least 15 people were killed and an additional 100 were injured in mortar attacks in residential areas of western Aleppo on Friday. The attacks occurred as part of a new rebel offensive to retake regime-held parts of the city.

At least 41 civilians, including 17 children, were killed over the weekend in continued violent clashes between regime and opposition forces on the western outskirts of Aleppo. Opposition forces have leveraged car bombs, rockets, and mortar shells in an attempt to break the Assad government’s siege on the city. Unverified claims that opposition forces used chemical weapons were reported by Syrian state media  sources on Sunday. At least 35 people allegedly complained of shortness of breath, numbness, and muscle spasms caused by “toxic gases”.

Political developments
The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed on Monday to extend for 18 days the international inquiry into the use of chemical weapons by both the Syrian government and ISIL. The investigation, which was set to expire on Monday, has found that the Assad regime is responsible for at least three chlorine gas attacks while also confirming ISIL’s use of mustard gas.

Russia and the Syrian government have called for both rebel opposition members and civilians to evacuate Aleppo through exit corridors during a ceasefire scheduled for Friday. Two corridors have been specifically set up for rebel fighters while an additional six have been created for sick and wounded civilians. Rebels have rejected the appeal for evacuation stating that the exit corridors do not actually exist.


Yemen:

The security situation
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on a security facility killed several people, including prisoners, on Sunday. According to a security official, there were three strikes on the facilities, which killed 48 people. However, a Houthi-controlled news agency has contested the report, claiming that the death toll was closer to 60 people.

On Monday, armed Houthi rebels forced more than 150 families to flee their homes in areas around Taiz, by threatening them at gunpoint, according to human rights groups and local sources. Most of the displaced people are very poor and this incident will only add to the already gruesome situation for civilians in Yemen.

Developments in the peace process
The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Monday, informing them of the details of the proposed peace plan to resolve the dire conflict in Yemen. Amongst other things, the plan included a new vice-president and a national unity government to lead the country during a transitional period until new elections would be possible. An aide to the president reported that the president will not accept the UN proposal before the Houthi rebels go along with the conditions previously stated by the Yemeni government. Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets on Thursday to protest the peace proposal submitted by the UN Special Envoy, claiming that the plan would legitimize the Houthi rebels’ coup to overthrow the Yemeni government.

At the same briefing, the United States called for an end to airstrikes and said that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict. After the statement, critics quickly responded by pointing out that the US is supporting the war by providing Saudi Arabia the weapons which are being used on civilians in the conflict.

The United Kingdom has drafted a UNSC resolution demanding that all parties immediately resume the April ceasefire and proceed with peace negotiations. The draft resolution also calls for transparency, accountability and swiftness when it comes to investigations into alleged crimes against humanity and international humanitarian law.


What else is new?

This week, several non-governmental organizations signed an open letter to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) regarding the Hybrid Court for South Sudan. The letter contains suggestions on how the AUC should move forward with the Court, where the main ideas are the preparation of a draft statute and the establishing of an evidence preservation mechanism.

On Tuesday, the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) released a brief, entitle “Challenges and Conditions for Deploying an Effective Regional Protection Force (RPF) to South Sudan”. The brief examines the role of the RPF in enhancing the protection of civilians, and potential concerns. It also presents suggestions to make the RPF as effective as possible in carrying out its mission.

On Wednesday, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) released a new report entitled “A Necessary Good: U.S Leadership on Preventing Mass Atrocities”. The report details what should be done to strengthen existing atrocity prevention initiatives, as well as new measures which should be developed and how to ensure that the issue is institutionalized within the national security bureaucracy in the United States.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) has released a statement in response to the recent decisions of Burundi, South Africa, and Gambia to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). GCR2P expressed regret about the declarations, which “undermine progress made in establishing that any person, regardless of rank or high office, can be held accountable for perpetrating mass atrocity crimes committed anywhere in the world.” Continue reading

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#R2PWeekly: 24 – 28 October 2016

Rtop weekly

Informal UNGA meeting calls for emergency session on Syria, urges international community to uphold responsibility to protect civilians

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The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), at the request of over 70 Member States, gathered for an informal meeting on 20 October to discuss the ongoing conflict and deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened his remarks at the meeting by noting his grave concern over the UN Security Council’s failure to take timely action to promote peace and security in Syria, allowing regional rivalries to take priority over the needs of the Syrian people. The Secretary-General also noted that several parties involved in the conflict have committed violations of human rights and international law that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

During the meeting, at least six Member States, including Canada, Botswana, and Switzerland, directly echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal for Syria and the international community to uphold their responsibility to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, and several Member States noted that while the recent humanitarian pause in Russian and Syrian military action in Aleppo is a step in the right direction, it falls short of the actions necessary to allow for both the creation of evacuation corridors and unimpeded access to deliver humanitarian and medical aid to civilians.

Many Member States argued that only a political solution can end the nearly six-year-long conflict and an emergency session of the UNGA should be called in order to implement a peaceful cessation of hostilities and initiate a political transition in Syria. The General Assembly has only convened 10 emergency sessions in the history of the United Nations, the last of which took place in 2009 regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The conflict has killed nearly 500 civilians, more than a quarter of which were children, and injured an additional 2,000, since the Syrian government, in conjunction with Russia and Iran, began renewed efforts to retake territory from opposition forces last month. On Wednesday alone, a purported Russian or Syrian airstrike killed at least 14 children and seven teachers and injured at least 75 others when it struck a school complex near the city of Idlib. Despite international efforts, including calls for a renewed cessation of hostilities in Aleppo and the issuance of facilitation papers to allow access to UN aid trucks, Russia has announced it is not planning any more humanitarian pauses in the country.

Source for above photo of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the informal meeting of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly on the situation in Syria: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

On 22 October, Burmese armed forces demanded that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) withdraw its forces from any areas under the administration of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) in and around the town of Mongla in eastern Shan State. Residents have already begun to flee the area in light of the Army’s 24 October ultimatum date having passed.

On 24 October, the repatriation of refugees from Thailand to Burma began with the voluntary return of 68 people from camps along the Thai-Burma border. For the past 30 years, Thailand has hosted over 100,000 refugees from Burma who fled their homes to escape the civil war in the country, with many of the refugees belonging to the Karen, Mon and Shan minority ethnic groups. The UNHCR has hailed the start of repatriation as a milestone in one of the world’s most protracted displacement situations.

The following day, the UN called for an investigation as allegations continue to be brought forward that state security forces, operating in Rakhine State, are continuing in a campaign of violence and repression against the stateless Rohingya minority. Up to 15,000 people have been displaced by the actions of security forces in the wake of the 9 October attack on border outposts in the region. Burmese officials have stated that they have killed 30 “attackers”, while rights groups claim that the majority of the dead have been civilians, who are also subjected to the burning of villages and arbitrary arrests. Human Rights Watch has called upon the Burmese government to allow aid to reach the region and those displaced, claiming that the government is currently blocking all aid to the area.


Burundi:

On Wednesday, Burundi officially informed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the country’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Some African politicians welcomed the Burundian withdrawal from the ICC, including the president of Sudan who encouraged other African countries to do the same. Just days later, South Africaannounced its decision to follow the example set by Burundi. The ICC has asked Burundi and South Africa to reconsider their withdrawals from the institution and has urged them to work together with the Court to end impunity and protect human rights. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Botswana released a statement  reaffirming its support for the ICC and expressing “regret” over South Africa’s decision to withdraw. However, Gambia also announced its intended withdrawal from the Court on Wednesday.

On Monday, it was discovered that the Interior Ministry of Burundi issued an order to withdraw permits and ban activities of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country after accusing the organizations of taking sides and working to evoke hostility towards the government. The general secretary of FOCODE, one of the recently banned NGOs, said that the ban is a “threat to civil freedom and a threat to freedom of association”.

Several NGOs, including ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, published an open letter on Wednesday to the Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives of Member States of the United Nations in Geneva and New York regarding the situation in Burundi. The letter encourages a suspension of Burundi from the UN Human Rights Council if it fails to cooperate with the UN Commission of Inquiry in the country, as allegations of severe violations of human rights need to be investigated and the government has refused to cooperate with the UN system.


Central African Republic:

On Monday, hundreds of people gathered to protest against MINUSCA, the UN mission in the country, accusing the mission of not doing enough to protect civilians. The protesters alsoclaimed that MINUSCA is supporting the rebels. People threw stones and shouted at the troops who, according to a witness, responded with warning shots. Eventually armed groups and peacekeepers exchanged fire, resulting in at least three dead protesters and several injured, including four peacekeepers. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence the following day and welcomed action taken by the government to ensure accountability for the perpetrators.


Cote d’Ivoire:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the government of Côte d’Ivoire to respect the rights of those opposed to the newly drafted constitution, stating that civilians have the right to express dissenting opinions on the document. This follows actions by security forces to disperse protests and gatherings against the constitution, including the detainment of dissenters and opposition leaders; however, some protests occurred without incident.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The World Food Programme has released an Emergency Dashboard for October 2016, indicating that there are approximately 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 429,613 refugees currently within the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Gaza/West Bank:

The European Commission has released a Fact Sheet for October 2016, which indicates that there are approximately 1.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and parts of Area C; of those in need, approximately 60,000 people were displaced from the 2014 Gaza Strip conflict.


Iraq:

Islamic State (ISIL) allegedly executed 284 men and boys on Thursday and Friday of last week in the city of Mosul. The deceased were allegedly from the approximately 550 families that ISIL forcibly moved from villages into Mosul to be used as human shields. The extremist group then used a bulldozer to bury the bodies in a mass grave near Mosul’s defunct College of Agriculture.

Nearly 1,000 civilians living near the city of Mosul have sought medical treatment citing breathing problems linked to toxic gases from a sulphur plant that ISIL allegedly set on fire. No deaths have been reported so far as a result of the incident. The fire is thought to be aimed at deterring advancing Iraqi and US-led coalition forces.

New evidence has emerged that ISIL killed 50 former police officers on Sunday who were being held captive in a building in Mosul. Bodies of an additional 70 civilians were found in their homes in a village just outside the city, while another 15 civilians were killed and thrown into a river. The perpetration of these latest atrocities is reportedly an attempt to continue the spread of terror as Iraqi and US-led coalition forces begin to converge on the city.

Hundreds of ISIL fighters, deemed “suicide squads”, have arrived in Mosul from their Syrian stronghold in Raqqa to defend the city against the Iraqi army and US-led coalition. The foreign fighters have been seen wearing explosive belts, arming bridges with bombs, and are said to have prepared several vehicles with suicide bombs.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has provided over 1,000 reproductive health consultations to women fleeing Mosul since the Iraqi and US-led coalition offensive began earlier this month. UNFPA has postured 25 reproductive health teams and 20 maternal health facilities as part of its humanitarian response in Mosul.

More than 1,000 civilians living in the Tob Zawa village near the city of Mosul have been safelymoved by Iraqi special forces to nearby refugee camps this week. At least 9,000 people have been displaced since the operation began on 17 October.


Kenya:

On 24 October, members of the extremist group, al Shabaab, attacked a hotel located in the town of Mandera in northeast Kenya, killing 12 people.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for a probe into police killings in Kenya as about 1,200 deaths have been blamed on security forces in the last five years. The organization also reported that around 34 people have been forcibly disappeared by security forces in counter-terrorism operations in the last two years, noting that, so far, only one police officer has been held accountable.


Libya:

Late last week, Italian Coast Guard forces reported seeing a speedboat labelled “Libyan Coast Guard” attack a boat overcrowded with refugees off the coast of Libya, using sticks as weapons. At least four refugees fell into the water and drowned and up to 25 people are missing. The European Union has previously initiated a plan to train Libyan forces to manage their own sea rescue operations. Following the report on this incident, a German aid group has urged the EU to rethink the decision in order to protect refugees.


Mali:

Germany has agreed to assist the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) with military helicopters if no other country decides to help, as the Netherlands and Indonesia are withdrawing their military transportation support. The German Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the reason for their pledge is their conviction on the importance of stabilizing Mali.


Nigeria:

On 23 October, the Nigerian military confirmed that at least 83 Nigerian soldiers are missing following an attack by Boko Haram in the northeastern part of the country. Superior firepower by the extremist group forced many of the soldiers to flee on foot into the Niger River where many are feared to have drowned.

This week, the Nigerian government announced that on 31 October it will meet with community leaders from the Niger Delta region as well as representatives of several of the armed groups fighting in the area in the hopes of ending the fighting in the region. However, on 25 October, the same day as the aforementioned announcement, the Niger Delta Avengers, one of such armed groups in the Niger River Delta, announced that they had attacked an oil pipeline in the region.


South Sudan:

The head of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has announced that she will step down at the end of November after serving as the UN Special Representative to South Sudan for two years. On Monday, she said that the road ahead for South Sudan would be difficult, but she is hopeful that peace will come to the war-torn country.

Amnesty International released a report on Monday, examining the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law carried out by government forces during the breakout of violence in Juba in July. The report is based on over 90 interviews conducted over three months following the re-ignition of the conflict in the country. The witnesses describe ethnic-based killings, rapes, and abuse.

According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 67 aid workers have been killed since the conflict in South Sudan broke out in 2013. OCHA also reported that more than 640 incidents where humanitarian aid access was blocked were reported in the first nine months of this year. The humanitarian agency condemned the violence and called for a quick response to hold the guilty accountable for their actions.

Over the last several weeks, there has been an increase of ethnic hate speech and threats of violence, mutilation, and murder in South Sudan. On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a warning that if these incitements of violence are allowed to continue there’s a high risk of mass atrocities erupting in the country. He urged the community and top political leaders in the country to take decisive action to ensure no horrendous crimes will be committed.

On Wednesday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced in a statement the release of about 145 child soldiers who had been recruited by the Cobra Faction and the SPLA-IO, two armed rebel groups fighting the South Sudanese government. In the statement, UNICEF also noted that approximately 16,000 children are still being held as soldiers in armed groups and called on the parties to cease the recruiting of children to their armies.


Sudan/Darfur:

Sudan Call, the opposition to Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), has threatenedto initiate a large-scale protest in the coming year with the goal of overthrowing the existing government. The threat follows the opposition’s boycott of a National Dialogue agreement amongst the ruling party and its allies that set the groundwork for a future constitution of Sudan. The two parties have been unable to reach an agreement leading to a humanitarian truce and the implementation of requisite confidence building measures.


Syria:

Security developments
A three-day “humanitarian” ceasefire between regime and rebel forces has broken down as clashes in Aleppo continued over the weekend. The unilateral agreement was announced by the Syrian government and Russia to allow for both residents and rebels to leave the city. However, the agreement did not last long enough for aid agencies to obtain the requisite security agreements necessary to evacuate injured civilians and rebels refused to give up their positions.

The United Kingdom’s Minister of Defense announced on Tuesday that an additional 20 security personnel will be deployed to Syria in an effort to reboot a program to train moderate opposition forces for an upcoming offensive to retake territory from the Islamic State (ISIL). It is suspected that an operation to retake the city of Raqqa will become the focus pending the outcome of the operation to retake Mosul in Iraq.

US-led coalition strikes in Syria have killed at least 300 civilians since 2014 according to a new report released by Amnesty International on Tuesday. The organization publicly investigated available information such as news reports, satellite imagery, and photo and video evidence related to 11 aerial attacks that have been carried out since September 2014. The US State Department has not yet responded to Amnesty’s inquiry regarding the report.

An airstrike on a school complex in Aleppo killed at least 35 civilians, including 22 children and 6 teachers, on Wednesday. The attack was a part of a series of strikes conducted by either Russian or Syrian war planes in the city of Idlib. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed outrage over the attack, noting that, if deliberate, the attack should be treated as a war crime.

The humanitarian situation
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinatorstated this week that at least 400 civilians, including many children, have been killed in Aleppo in the last month. The statement, delivered to the UN Security Council at a briefing on the crisis in Syria, noted that the UN was unable to deliver humanitarian assistance and coordinate civilian evacuations due to objections from two armed opposition groups.

Political developments
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN joint investigative mechanism, also called the Jim, released a report on Friday confirming that the Syrian government is responsible for an attack in Idlib province in March 2015, which involved the use of chemical weapons. The attack allegedly used a device dropped from a high altitude which released a deadly agent into the air, likely chlorine. Russia has thus far thwarted attempts in the Security Council by the US, France, and the UK to impose sanctions on Syria for the use of chemical weapons in the ongoing crisis.


Yemen:

The Saudi-led coalition released a statement last week, which said that the Houthi rebels repeatedly violated the 72-hour ceasefire launched at midnight the day before. The truce was supposed to last for three days, but, according to the statement, it had already been breached more than 40 times by the rebels, leading the Saudi-led coalition to respond by launching missiles on Yemen. Attacks from both sides killed at least 11 people on the first day of the truce, including at least three civilians. A government source said he was grateful for the efforts of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN envoy, as he tried to broker peace between the rebels and the government, but he also confirmed that the attempt was unsuccessful as the rebels violated the truce several times. On Saturday, the UN envoy urged all parties to extend the truce, but the call was not heeded; the ceasefire ended after 72 hours without renewal.

On Tuesday, the UN special envoy to Yemen handed an outline for a peace plan to the Houthi rebels, who currently hold control in the capital on the country. According to a politician affiliated with the rebels, the plan included relieving the president of his duties and instead implementing a transitional period of one or two years before introducing presidential elections. According to a copy of the proposal seen by media, the information given by the politician is accurate as the main idea of the proposal seems to be the establishing of a new government containing less divisive people. The day after the delivery of the peace plan the Yemeni army attacked areas held by the rebels.

The UN food relief agency (WFP) has expressed concerns regarding the deteriorating situation in Yemen as food security is running low and child malnutrition is rising. The regional director of the WFP said that hunger is increasing and “people have exhausted all their survival strategies”. Women and children are the most vulnerable, especially as some areas of the country are difficult to reach for food distribution.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a Humanitarian Snapshot this week, showing the impact of the conflict in Yemen. The Snapshot reveals a devastating toll on the population as food insecurity is worsening, health facilities are reaching their limits, and those engaged in the conflict continually breach the rules of international law when it comes to the protection of civilians.


What else is new?

The Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) has published the latest issue of its premier journal on RtoP, Global Responsibility to Protect. This issue, Volume 8, Issue 4, features articles discussing challenges and recommendations for the next UN Secretary-General, the connections between RtoP, refugees, and IDPs, and other important topics on the norm. To read the latest issue please click here.

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#R2PWeekly: 17 – 21 October 2016

Rtop weekly

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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

Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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


Libya:

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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


Sri Lanka:

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under RtoP, Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 10 – 14 October 2016

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Yemen
: Over 140 Killed in Airstrikes on Funeral Ceremony

picture1On 8 October, airstrikes hit a funeral ceremony for a Houthi rebel commander in Sana’a, the Houthi-controlled capital city of Yemen. According to UN officials, the strikes killed over 140 people and injured over 525 others. The rebels have blamed the attack on the Saudi-led coalition, which initially denied its involvement in any operations in the area at the time, but has since announced an investigation into the “regrettable and painful” attack.

Following the incident, thousands of demonstrators protested the strikes in Sana’a on Sunday. The UN and other international organizations condemned the attack and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for a”prompt and impartial investigation‚ of this incident” to ensure the perpetrators are held accountable. A spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross stated, “We deplore this outrageous loss of civilian life.” Human Rights Watch called the attack “an apparent warcrime.” The European Union and the United States have also denounced the attack, with the US adding that its security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a “blank check.”

According to the latest data from the UN, between the beginning of the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in support of the internationally-recognized Yemeni government in March 2015 through 30 September 2016, the conflict has killed over 6,600 people, including 4,014 civilians, and has displaced over three million people. A further 7,000 civilians have been injured.

Source for above photo of the destroyed community hall where the funeral was heldKhaled Abdullah/Reuters via Human Rights Watch


Catch up on developments in

Burma/Myanmar

Burundi

CAR

DRC

Gaza/West Bank

Iraq

Kenya

Libya

Mali

Nigeria

South Sudan

Sudan/Darfur

Syria

Yemen

Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Monday, an estimated 24 people died in attacks on outposts near the Burmese border with Bangladesh. Security forces have poured into the villages surrounding the area where the attacks took place, imposing a curfew and conducting raids, while firing on those fleeing. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that such actions could lead to further destabilization of the area. The UN envoy for Myanmar has also expressed deep concern for the attacks and urged both security forces and civilians to show restraint and exercise caution to avoid continued violence.


Burundi:

Late last week, a Burundian official said that the country will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The announcement of the withdrawal came a few months after the ICC decided to investigate the violence in the country sparked by the re-election of the president. A spokesman from the ICC said the court has not yet received any official information on Burundi’s withdrawal. However, on Wednesday, lawmakers in Burundi largely voted to support the withdrawal. Out of 110 lawmakers, 94 voted in favor of the plan. If the country moves forward with the plan, Burundi would be the first country to ever withdraw from the court.

On Monday, the Burundian government banned three UN investigators linked to last month’s report on human rights violations in the country. A UN spokesperson stressed the importance of countries cooperating with the UN’s human rights mechanism. France condemned the decision and said it harmed the credibility of Burundi’s promise to respect human rights. The government also held a meeting to review the activities of UN staff in Burundi, resulting in the suspension of local activities of the UN human rights office there.

Unidentified gunmen killed three people in a bar on Monday, according to an official. One of the victims was a ruling party official and another was a school principal.

On Wednesday, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) released a factsheet on the crisis in Burundi. Amongst other things, the document shows that over 295,000 Burundian refugees are currently residing in neighboring countries.


Central African Republic:

Aid agencies have reported that fighting between armed groups has blocked aid deliveries to about 120,000 people in CAR who are in need of food. The UN humanitarian coordinator, Fabrizio Hochschild, said that the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSCA, has managed to halt the fighting, but attacks on aid workers still occur. More than 16 attacks on humanitarian actors were reported in September.

On Monday, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic and introduced the Secretary-General’s report on developments in the country. He pledged the full support of the Mission to the government and its endeavors for reform and improvement in the country. He also stressed the need for backing from the international community as the situation in the country is still fragile.

On Wednesday, militia fighters from the Seleka rebel group attacked a village hosting refugees displaced from previous violence. The fighters killed 13 civilians and injured several more before UN peacekeepers were able to repel them.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Clashes between government forces and rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed at least 10 people, including 8 civilians, on Monday in the town of Beni. The rebel group has long sought to take control of swaths of territory and natural resources in North Kivu province and other regions of the northeast.

UN Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of MONUSCO, Maman Sidikou, indicated on Tuesday that large scale violence in the DRC is imminent amidst increasing political tensions and civil unrest. Sidikou’s concerns stem largely from an electoral process that has been delayed until December 2018 as government officials point to the need for increased voter registration in order to hold an inclusive election.


Gaza/West Bank:

A drive-by shooting at a Jerusalem train station killed at least three people were and injured six others on Sunday. The gunmen indiscriminately fired at a group of civilians before being killed by police in a shootout.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Monday sealed Palestinian access to Israel from both Gaza and the West Bank for a period of 48 hours ahead of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. An additional 3,000 police officers have been deployed in Jerusalem.


Iraq:

Political developments

A dispute between Iraq and Turkey developed this week over the presence of approximately 1,500 Turkish soldiers in northern Mosul ahead of a pending offensive to retake the strategic city from ISIL later this year.  Tensions arose as Turkish officials stated their intention to keep their troops in Iraqi territory until after a successful Mosul offensive occurs.

Security developments

Three different bombings across the capital city of Baghdad killed at least 10 people on Sunday. ISIL claimed responsibility for the largest bombing, which killed five and wounded 22 Shia pilgrims celebrating the holy month of Muharram. Two separate attacks in southern Baghdad killed five people and wounded 15 others.

Reports have emerged showing that a drone booby-trapped by ISIL exploded in northern Mosul, killing two Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and badly wounding two members of the French special forces earlier this month in northern Mosul. A spokesman for the Kurdish defense forces noted that ISIL has attempted to conduct drone attacks on at least two prior occasions.


Kenya:

On Monday, Kenyan opposition officials continued to reiterate claims that the Interior ministry, the National Registration Bureau, and Huduma Centres have been secretly registering voters in areas dominated by the Jubilee coalition government in order to give the ruling coalition an advantage in the coming general election. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has denied these claims.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released a report on Thursday calling on Kenya not to close the Dadaab refugee camp, which is the world’s largest refugee camp, housing over 350,000 people. MSF stressed that Somalia, where the majority of the refugees in the camp are from, is not yet safe to return to. The Kenyan government has remained decisive and claims the country will close the camp as it is believed to pose a security threat to the people of Kenya.


Libya:

On Tuesday, a military official reported that Libyan forces are advancing into the last area in Sirte that is still controlled by ISIL. The fighting for the town has been ongoing for months between the UN-backed government and ISIL, but is now reaching the final stages. The military campaign is backed by US airstrikes, which intensified in Sirte this week in an effort to push back ISIL.


Mali:

On Saturday, a senior member of the Tuareg militant group Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) died after his car exploded in the northern city of Kidal. The CMA entered into a power-sharing agreement with the pro-government Gatia militia in February, however, regardless of the agreement, sporadic violence between the groups has continued.

On Monday, an attempted suicide-attack took place in the city of Timbuktu. The assailant attempted to ambush a patrol of Swedish peacekeepers from the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), but only managed to kill himself. The attacker was the only casualty.

Niger has announced that it will host a base for 650 German troops. The German soldiers will be part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in neighboring Mali, where they will help in securing northern Mali from further militant attacks.


Nigeria:

A car bomb killed eight and wounded 15 others in Maiduguri this week when the car collided with a taxi in a convoy on its way to Gamboru. Travellers within the state of Borno often travel between cities in military-organized convoys for increased protection from Boko Haram ambushes.

Police opened fire on a Shia Muslim Ashura procession in the town of Funtua, killing at least nine people after clashes broke out when police tried to block the procession.

On Thursday, Boko Haram released  21 of the missing Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped two years ago. The militants handed the girls over to Nigerian authorities after successful negotiations led by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government. The terms of the deal are still unknown.


South Sudan:

Rumors of President Salva Kiir’s death started floating around social media on Tuesday. Tensions arose as the reports of Kiir’s death spread and the UN warned of increasing violence. Hours after the rumors surfaced, a presidential spokesperson dismissed the news as “wishful thinking” and assured the president is alive and in good health. The statement did not quell the unrest in the country and therefore the president took to the streets in show of strength.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for rebel leader Riek Machar reported that the former Vice President would travel to South Africa after having fled South Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that the pledge made by President Kiir last month to allow another 4,000 peacekeepers to join the previous 12,000 in the country has not yet been put into action.

The South Sudanese government has been criticized for restricting accessibility for aid deliveries. On Monday, the World Food Program said that the latest obstacle facing humanitarian actors is the recent suspension of airdrops of food aid as the humanitarian crisis in the country continues to worsen.

Over the weekend, armed groups killed 127 civilians on a road as they were fleeing violence in the town of Yei. The government has claimed that the raid was “ethnically based” as all of those targeted belonged to the Dinka community. The attacked convoy carried more than 200 people who were trying to find refuge from the fighting.

On Monday, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) released a statement calling for the fighting to end immediately as reports of violent crimes committed against civilians in the country, including women and children, are “deeply disturbing”. UNMISS released yet another statement on Wednesday, where they again expressed their extreme concern for the increased reports of armed conflicts and clashes in certain regions of the country. The mission condemned the violence and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. UNMISS is currently still restricted from accessing certain areas where fighting has erupted and is working to get those restrictions lifted.

Amnesty International and FIDH said in a joint briefing on Wednesday that South Sudan must allow justice to the victims of crimes in the midst of the fighting. The organizations are calling for the proposed Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) to be established to ensure accountability for human rights violations and other crimes committed during the conflict in the country. The court would be a combination of both domestic and international law and would include both South Sudanese and international personnel.


Sudan/Darfur:

Political developments

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has announced the extension of a ceasefire in the Darfur conflict through the end of 2016, as well as his intent to create a national constitution. Opposing factions such as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the various organs of the Sudanese Liberation Movement have denounced the ceasefire and constitution as unilateral, exclusionary political rhetoric serving only parties that are members of or aligned with President Al-Bashir.

The Director of the UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has appealed to the Sudanese government to allow UN peacekeepers more access to remote regions of the country, where its populations are affected by armed conflict. Currently, UN patrols must notify the government ahead of any movements are made so that “necessary security measures” can be put in place.

Humanitarian developments

A report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre indicated that between 5,500 and 12,500 people fleeing violence in the Western Jebel Marra region of Sudan, predominantly women and children, have arrived in refugee camps in Nertiti between 1 September and 10 October. Intermittent clashes between government forces and the Sudanese Liberation Movement-Abdul Wahid (SLM-AW) are cited as the root cause of the migration.


Syria:

Political developments

The Russian parliament voted last Friday to ratify a treaty with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to authorize the indefinite presence of Russian troops within Syria. Russia has a strong military presence in the Middle East nation with bases in Latakia and Tartus supporting both air and naval operations.

French President Francoise Hollande has stated that Russia could face war crimes for its continuous aerial assault of Aleppo and other Syrian cities. The statement comes after Russia vetoed a resolution co-authored by France and Spain calling for an immediate cessation of airstrikes in Aleppo. Russian President Vladimir Putin has since cancelled his planned visit to Paris.

The Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, echoing sentiments from his European counterparts, stated on Wednesday that Russia should be investigated for war crimes in Syria. Johnson went on to call for anti-war demonstrations outside Russia’s embassy in London.

A fresh round of multilateral peace talks regarding the crisis in Syria are set to begin on Saturday. The discussions will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland and will be attended by representatives from the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and likely Qatar. The presence of the latter three countries indicates that the talks may focus on the need for non-extremist opposition militants to cease collaboration with terrorist groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formally known as the al-Nusra Front.

The humanitarian situation

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released a report on Tuesday indicating that only 11 ambulances are in operational condition in Aleppo for a population of 250,000. The report also notes that bombing has destroyed five ambulances, while an additional 8 emergency rescue vehicles are out of order due to maintenance and parts that cannot be obtained as a result of the ongoing crisis.

Security developments

A new wave of Russian airstrikes killed 25 civilians, including 4 children, and caused significant damage to residential areas in Aleppo on Tuesday. Rebel fire on a primary school in the southern city of Daraa also killed six civilians on Tuesday, five of which were school children.

Airstrikes conducted by Russian and Syrian warplanes continued in eastern Aleppo on Thursday. Over 20 air strikes killed at least 13 civilians in the region, bringing the death toll for the week thus far to approximately 145. Rebel gunfire on regime-held positions killed at least 8 civilians this week while a rocket accidentally hit a school and subsequently killed several children.


Yemen:

On Friday, the UN envoy to Yemen said he expected a 72-hour truce to be announced in the coming days. The government announced their consent to implement the truce, with the condition that Houthi militias provide access for humanitarian aid to the city of Taiz. No truce has yet been implemented.

Cross-border shelling by Houthi rebels killed one person and wounded a mother and her child on Friday according to the Saudi Arabian officials.

A Pentagon spokesperson said two missiles, fired from Houthi-controlled areas, targeted a US warship off the coast of Yemen on Sunday and again on Wednesday. In both instances, the missiles missed their target and hit the surrounding water. On Thursday, the US carried out its first direct military action on the Houthi rebels, launching strikes aimed at radar that had been used in the Houthi attacks on the US ship.


What else is new?

The NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security published an open letter to Permanent Representatives to the UN on Thursday regarding the upcoming Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The letter, which is signed by 254 organizations, including the ICRtoP, from across 55 different countries, urges representatives to provide details on the progress that their countries have made in regards to previous commitments to WPS and it also provides recommendations for future steps countries might take in certain areas, such as “women’s participation in preventing and resolving conflict and post conflict rebuilding” and “addressing humanitarian crises through a gender lens”.

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#R2PWeekly: 03 – 07 October 2016

UntitledUN Human Rights Council adopts resolution condemning human rights violations and setting up Commission of Inquiry in Burundi 

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The UN Independent Investigation in Burundi (UNIIB), established by a December 2015 Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution, released its final report on the situation in the country on 20 September. The UNIIB report detailed “abundant evidence of gross human rights violations” committed by the Burundian government and individuals associated with it, including seemingly deliberate actions which could amount to crimes against humanity and which are within the government’s power to halt. Due to this evidence and Burundi’s history of inter-ethnic violence and impunity for human rights violations, the report warned that “the danger of the crime of genocide also looms large.” The UNIIB experts urged the government, the United Nations, the African Union, as well as other international actors to take a series of steps to preserve the peace in the country achieved through the 2005 Constitution and Arusha Accord. Such steps include setting up an international Commission of Inquiry (CoI); the involvement of independent, international judicial mechanisms; reconsidering Burundi’s HRC membership; and, in the event that human rights violations continue to be committed and the Burundian government remains steadfast in its refusal of the deployment of a UN police force authorized by a July 2016 UN Security Council resolution, the possible invocation of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

Burundi’s Minister for External Affairs rejected the UNIIB report and its findings in a statement to the UN General Assembly last week, referring to the report and its findings as “purposefully and politically exaggerated reports on alleged human rights violations.” He also noted, that “it is imperative that any human rights assessment of the country be executed with caution,” as, he claimed, falsified information had been used to show Burundi “in a bad light.” He added that Burundi will produce a forthcoming survey on human rights issues in the country in response to the UNIIB report.

Similarly, Burundi, which is a member of the HRC and spoke as the concerned country during the Council’s interactive dialogue last week, also rejected the report as “based on contained falsehoods, lies, and manipulations,” and called all Members of the Council to vote against a draft resolution on the human rights situation in the country. However, on 30 September, the UN Human Rights Council carried out a vote, which led to the adoption of a resolution, condemning the human rights violations in the country and setting up a one year Commission of Inquiry. The CoI is tasked with investigating the violations in Burundi since April 2015 and identifying the alleged perpetrators of such abuses in order to ensure accountability for those responsible. After the adoption, Burundi argued that the resolution did not provide any assistance to Burundi or its people, claiming that it “contained many lies and unchecked claims.”

On the other hand, international human rights organizations, such as FIDH, lauded the Human Rights Council’s resolution as “responsible action to try and prevent the worst as the country is sliding further towards violence and the risk of genocide is real.” Anschaire Nikoyagize, President of Ligue ITEKA, called the Council’s resolution, “the strongest it could formulate within its mandate” and a senior researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Africa division hailed the establishment of the CoI as “an important step toward ending impunity for the grave crimes committed in the country.” Echoing such remarks, lawyers from the officially mandated group acting on behalf of 60 families of victims of alleged extrajudicial executionspraised the resolution and the establishment of the CoI as an important step for justice.

Source for above photo of UN Human Rights Council: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

On Monday over 10,000 civilians protested the intensified violence between the Kachin Independence Army and the national military, with demonstrators calling for an end to the crisis and condemning acts such as the rape of women during conflict.

Over 2,000 people were displaced in central Shan State following clashes between the Burmese Army and the Shan-State Army South, one of the eight ethnic armed groups that signed a ceasefire with the government a year ago. It was reported that a drug rehabilitation center was attacked by the Burmese Army, as was a hill where SSA-S troops were deployed, resulting in fighting between the sides.

On Tuesday the President signed legislation overturning a decades old law, the Emergency Provisions Act, that had been previously used to suppress political dissidents. This has been viewed as an additional step taken by the government to support the transition to democracy.


Burundi:

On Thursday last week, police arrested one of the few opposition party leaders left in Burundi and accused him of collaborating with armed gangs. A spokesman for the opposition coalition said on Tuesday that police released the leader after only a few days incarcerated.

On Monday, the UN promised the East African Community that they would help and assist the organization in its work to pursue peace within Burundi as the political unrest continues.


Central African Republic: 

On Friday, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR expressed concern and reported that the humanitarian situation is worsening in Kaga Bandoro as a result of a deterioration in security. Attacks are resulting in humanitarian actors fleeing the country, leaving thousands of civilians in need of aid.

According to the government, an armed gang murdered the nation’s top army commander on Tuesday as he was going to drop off his son at school. The rebels also shot the 14-year-old son who is being treated at a hospital.The UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, condemned the attack and promised to assist with investigations. On Thursday, it was reported that armed groups killed eleven civilians, and injured 14, in clashes following the murder of the official.


Cote d’Ivoire:

On Monday, a new draft version of the Constitution showed a change to an article of the document which has been a long-standing issue and one that was central to past crises in the country, including the 2010 post-election violence. The Constitution currently states that both parents of the president must be “Ivoirian by origin,” a measure that was taken to exclude the candidacy of current president Alasane Ouattara from past elections. In the new constitution draft this article now states that only one parent must be Ivoirian by origin, among other changes, and there will be a public referendum on the document on 30 October.


Democratic Republic of Congo: 

Political and security developments

The United States has imposed sanctions on two security force officers associated with deadly clashes with civilian protesters throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gabriel Amisi, army commander of the western region of the country, and John Numbi, former national police inspector have been identified as individuals who have participated in the disruption and suppression of democratic processes in the DRC. Amisi and Numbi have been added to US Department of Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) which blocks their assets and prohibits US persons from dealing with them.

The head of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission has stated that the presidential election is likely to be delayed by two years until December 2018. The statement noted that the required voter registry would not be complete until July 31, 2017 and that the government would require an additional 504 days to organize the vote. The statement follows deadly clashes last month between DRC security forces and civilians who fear that President Joseph Kabila is delaying the election in a bid to consolidate power for an unconstitutional third term presidency. It is believed that over 50 protesters were killed in the clashes in September. Kabila has denied that he is clinging to power and states that the delays are to ensure that about 10 million more people are able to vote in the election.

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo issued a demand to MONUSCO on Tuesday for the removal of 750 South Sudanese soldiers who have taken refuge in UN camps within east DRC near the city of Goma. Citizens of Goma fear a repeat of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 in which refugees taken in by the DRC later became extremist rebels who committed mass murder against them. While the South Sudanese soldiers have been disarmed and there have been no reported incidents, DRC civilians fear that the government of South Sudan will exercise a “right of pursuit” of their soldiers, thus exposing DRC to a new wave of conflict.


Gaza/West Bank: 

Political developments

The Palestinian High Court has ruled in favor of the exclusion of Hamas-run Gaza from participating in upcoming municipal elections. The decision has effectively ruled out the first political showdown between Hamas and Fatah, the governing party of the West Bank, since 2007.

Palestine’s Permanent Observer to the UN, Riyad Mansour, called on Tuesday at a meeting of the Palestine Rights Committee for the UN Security Council to continue its consideration of a draft resolution to end the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the cessation of the comprehensive blockade on the Gaza Strip. Mansour pointed to an upcoming Arria Formula meeting as well as open debate with Member States as steps in the right direction toward the revival of a two-state solution but stopped short of referring to these actions as sufficient.

The United States has openly criticized Israel’s planned construction of a new wave of settlements in the West Bank. The announcement to establish new settlements in the Palestinian territories elicited harsh rhetoric from an Obama administration that has in recent weeks shown tremendous support for Israel via a $38 billion USD weapons deal and a strong US presence at the funeral of former Israeli leader Shimon Peres. The US fears that continued construction of settlements will further erode the path to a peaceful two-state solution with Palestine.

Security developments

An Israeli aircraft attacked Hamas targets located in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday following a rocket attack sent from the Palestinian enclave into the Israeli border town of Sderot. The airstrike targeted Hamas and a security complex and resulted in non-life threatening injuries to one passerby. The shelling continues Israel’s policy of military response to any attack perpetrated by Hamas in Gaza.

 Another rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday, leading Israel to continue its course of heavy-handed response by firing tank shells into southern areas of the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.


Iraq: 

Political developments

The Kurdish High Representative in the United Kingdom has formally requested the assistance of the UK Defense Secretary against a potential large chemical attack by ISIL. The request specifically calls for equipment such as gas masks to protect peshmerga forces from mortars containing chlorine and mustard agents, which they say ISIL has used on about 20 different occasions. The peshmerga forces currently have 400 gas masks to protect the approximately 30,000 soldiers participating in the upcoming offensive to retake Mosul.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq has issued a warning to Turkey to remove over 2,000 troops from Iraqi soil or risk the waging of a regional war between the two nations. Turkey sent troops into regions of northern Iraq last year to combat ISIL and Kurdish forces without the consent of the Iraqi government. The Turkish parliament has since voted to extend their military presence in Iraq, while the Iraqi government has since passed a resolution which recognizes the Turkish troops as “occupation forces”.

The humanitarian situation

A flash update released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Saturday regarding the ongoing crisis in Mosul has revealed that over 15,000 IDPs have left the Debaga refugee camp since the beginning of September. Many have returned to their villages in Haji Ali and Al-Qayarrah, while others have relocated to Laylan refugee camp to be closer to their villages in Hawiga in anticipation of improving living conditions. However, the report also notes that construction of shelter for 36,000 IDPs in Ninewah and Salah al-Din governorates is currently underway ahead of an anticipated new wave of displacement resulting from the imminent offensive by Iraqi military forces to retake Mosul from ISIL.

Security developments

At least 14 civilians were killed and several were injured in three separate suicide bombings perpetrated by ISIL on Monday. The bombings took place near markets and religious processions in various neighborhoods of Baghdad.

An airstrike mistakenly killed at least 20 pro-government Sunni tribal fighters in Qayarrah on Wednesday. It is not clear at this time if the strike was carried out by Iraqi or US-led coalition aircraft.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch appealed for the Iraqi government to bar any armed forces who have perpetrated war crimes from participating in the upcoming offensive to retake the strategic city of Mosul from ISIL. The statement specifically highlighted incidents in 2014 in which the Popular Mobilization Forces, an allied militant group working with the Iraqi government forces, executed prisoners of war, mutilated corpses, and forcibly displaced civilians during the operation to retake Fallujah.


Kenya:

Following months of protests, all members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)resigned on Wednesday. Protests by opposition accused the IEBC of being unable to be unbiased in its electoral preparations.

Al-Shabab launched an attack targeting Christians in the north-east of the country, leaving six people dead. The attack was conducted to force Christians out of the predominantly Muslim region.


Libya:  

Amnesty International reported on Friday about enhanced fighting and increased airstrikes in Benghazi during the last week. The organization gathered testimony from 130 families and hundreds of foreign nationals trapped in the district of Ganfouda. These civilians are struggling to survive as roads are blocked by fighting, leaving families at risk of starvation and resulting in decreased access to medicines, which are soon to expire. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, several bombs launched from ISIL-held areas into Benghazi’s city center killed three civilians and wounded more than a dozen, according to Libyan officials. Martin Kobler, Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission, UNSMIL, said in a news release on Thursday that the protection of civilians is the priority and called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow access for aid deliveries and safe passage for those civilians who wish to leave the area.

According to a military official, the UN-backed Unity government recovered territory in Sirte, previously a ISIL stronghold, after fighting on Monday. The operation to take back the city was launched in May this year.


Mali:

On Saturday, thousands of civilians took to the street to protest an electoral law passed by Parliament in September. The law more than doubles the amount of money that candidates are required to pay to to run for president. Some protesters held up banners showing support for exiled former President Toure, who has been living in Senegal after his removal from power by a military coup.

An attack in the northeast of the country on Monday killed two peacekeepers and wounded eight others. No one has claimed responsibility yet for the attack. The UN Secretary-General denounced the violence, and called for action to hold perpetrators to account once possible.Two days later, three soldiers were killed in Timbuktu after hitting a landmine.


Nigeria:

The Nigerian Army reiterated its claim that it has defeated Boko Haram in the country and that violence that continues are “minor skirmishes” by the group.


South Sudan:

UNHCR reported on Friday that ongoing military operations have trapped about 100,000 civilians in Yei, a previously peaceful town in South Sudan. During September people fled from surrounding villages to the area, avoiding raids, deadly attacks and looting, but now have no means to leave as acts of violence are increasing around them and humanitarian needs are overlooked. The South Sudanese government denied reports on fighting around the area but a commander for the SPLA-IO said on Tuesday that clashes with the government forces took place around several towns, for example Yei. He also urged people to get out of the area as the rebels wish to avoid hurting civilians.

Over the weekend officials said that unknown assailants killed 12 civilians of the Dinka Bor tribe and wounded eight more. Survivors and police said the attack took place outside of Juba, less than 200 meters from the closest army. No suspects have been arrested, but witnesses said the attackers spoke in the Nuer dialect.

According to South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, people are dying in refugee camps as increased cases of acute diarrhea and malaria are reported. Children are dying from poor health services and bad conditions.

After weeks of negotiations, authorities in South Sudan on Sunday accepted the resolution of the UN Security Council on the deployment of additional 4,000 peacekeepers in the country.

The White House national security adviser met with South Sudan’s Vice President on Tuesday where the US stressed the urgency of internationally supported investigations into the July attack on aid workers in the country. It was also made clear that the perpetrators of the attack must be identified and held accountable. The US also accused the South Sudanese government of obstructing the work of the UN mission. South Sudanese officials described the meeting as a success.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Center for Civilians in Conflict released a new report on the failures of the UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, raising concerns that peacekeepers have been unable to learn from past mistakes. The report shows how UN peacekeepers abandoned their posts and used tear gas on civilians during the July fighting. The information is based on several interviews with both South Sudanese civilians and UN mission officials.


Sudan/Darfur:

Political developments

The Sudanese government denied on Thursday allegations of their use of chemical weapons against civilians, including women and children, in the remote region of Jebel Marra in Darfur. Sudanese army spokesman Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami has stated that the claims outlined in an Amnesty International investigative report are false. Several opposition groups, including the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), have called for the international community to prosecute criminals utilizing illegal chemical weapons.

Informal negotiations between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) concluded without accord on Sunday. The two warring factions previously drafted a cessation of hostilities agreement to end fighting in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan  but continue to disagree on humanitarian access routes. The Sudanese government has rejected the SPLM-N demand for 20% of humanitarian aid to be delivered through the Ethiopian border town of Assossa.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, appealed to the Sudanese government on Tuesday to cooperate with future investigations regarding the possession of chemical weapons. Ladsous noted both that the UN has found no evidence that Sudan has utilized chemical weapons against opposition in Jebel Marra region of Darfur and that UNAMID is unable to investigate the situation due to lack of access to areas where hostilities are occurring.

Security developments

Two people have been killed by four unidentified gunmen in South Darfur. The shooting took place outside of the administrative headquarters of the al-Malam locality.

The humanitarian situation

A United States delegation visited Darfur on Monday and Tuesday to assess the humanitarian situation in the region. The delegation met with various parties including UN members, IDPs, and civil society leaders to assess how American aid benefits those in the throes of the crisis. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Darfur in the world.


Syria: 

Political and security developments

The United States has suspended talks with Russia regarding the crisis in Syria. The US has cited Russian collaboration with Syrian government forces in brutal aerial assaults that have killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children, in recent days as the reason for ending communication with the Kremlin. Russia has responded by withdrawing from a disarmament agreement which required both the US and Russia to dispose of approximately 34 tons of plutonium, a material used to create nuclear weapons.

France and Spain have drafted a UN Security Council agreement for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Aleppo. The resolution specifically calls for suspension of all flights around the city and an end to all fighting on the ground. The initiative for UN-sponsored truce monitoring proposed in the resolution was met with ridicule from Russian representatives as they implied it was unlikely to create peace in the area as the current mechanism in Geneva has failed to achieve the same goal.

The humanitarian situation

At least seven civilians were killed in airstrikes on the M10 hospital in rebel-held territory of eastern Aleppo on Monday. The hospital has been targeted three times in the past six days and is now completely out of service. Several bunker buster bombs have also forced an underground hospital in the city of Homs to suspend medical services to civilians.

At least 34 people, including 11 children, were killed in a suicide bombing perpetrated by the Islamic State in the city of Hasakah on Monday. The attack took place at a wedding where ISIL was targeting members of a Kurdish political party.

Oxfam has issued a press release stating that an estimated 1.5 million civilians have been without running water in Aleppo since last Friday. Continuous waves of offensive Russian-Syrian military action have ravaged key water and electricity infrastructure. Civilians are now forced to rely on bottled water from undependable aid convoys and local wells which may be contaminated. A representative from Oxfam stated that targeting water supply in any capacity amounts to a war crime.

The UN Special Envoy in Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called upon Russian and Syrian government forces on Thursday to avoid the complete and total destruction of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Mistura issued a public warning that the city could be completely devastated by year’s end should the current wave of violence persist. At least 376 people have been killed and 1,266 wounded in the last two weeks in Aleppo.


Yemen:

Since the collapse of peace talks last month, civilian casualties are increasing, with the UN reporting that more than 4,000 civilians have been killed since March 2015. Both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels are blamed for the rapid increase in civilian deaths, but blame also falls on the US government. Human rights groups are increasing the pressure on US to stop their military support for Saudi Arabia.

The civil war in Yemen continues with daily airstrikes and a sea blockade aimed at hurting the Houthi rebels. On Friday, a shell fired from Yemen killed a Saudi Arabian border guard and wounded three civilians, according to the authorities. On Monday, two bombs fired by rebels killed six civilians, three of them children, and injured eight as they hit a market in Taiz, according to military and medical sources.

The UN warned that the blockade is stopping shipments of aid into Yemen, causing starvation in the country. On Tuesday, it was reported that the government decision from last month to reorganize the central bank may lead to food shortages getting even worse as traders said it makes it harder to bring in supplies. The UN hascalled for humanitarian workers to be given free access as more than half of the 28 million Yemeni population do not have enough food and the population is on the brink of famine.

Airstrikes from Houthi rebels hit an Emirati aid ship on Saturday that contained medical aid and other supplies for civilians in Yemen. A spokesman for the rebels called the aid ship a “legitimate target” since they view anything belonging to the Saudis and Emiratis as belonging to the enemy. A statement from the foreign ministry of the United Arab Emirates called the incident an “act of terrorism”.

On Sunday, the Shiite rebel alliance, who are controlling Yemen’s capital, appointed the former governor of Aden as their new Prime Minister as the first step to form a “national salvation” government. On Tuesday, the rebels also voiced new demands for the continuation of peace talks with the government, including the resignation of the president and that an agreement on the presidency must be reached between the two parties. The UN rejected the rebels effort to set up a rival government and assured continued support of the internationally recognized administration of President Hadi.


What else is new?

On Thursday, the UN Security Council unanimously nominated Mr. Antonio Guterres of Portugal to serve as the international organization’s next Secretary-General. The General Assembly will likely meet next week to approve of his appointment to the position. Mr. Guterres was formerly the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the Prime Minister of Portugal. The UNSC’s decision follows unprecedented efforts to make the selection process more transparent, and increased advocacy to diversify leadership through the appointment of a qualified female candidate as the UN has yet to be led by a woman.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) hosted a meeting in Geneva that brought together African delegations and representatives from the African Union to discuss and agree upon final steps to address the Rwandan refugee situation that was the result of civilians fleeing ethnically charged violence in the country from 1959 to 1998. The meeting follows seven years of negotiations on the issue.

The African Task Force on the prevention of mass atrocities, an initiative of ICRtoP member the Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities will present their report “African Regional Communities and the Preventions of Mass Atrocities” in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, October 11.

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