Tag Archives: UNSG

#RtoP Weekly: 30 July – 3 August 2018

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

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

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


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

Nigeria
Philippines
South Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Gaza / West Bank:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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


Libya:

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

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


Mali:

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

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

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


Philippines:

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

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


South Sudan:

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


Syria:

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

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

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


Venezuela:

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


Yemen:

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

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


Other:

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

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

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

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#RtoPWeekly: 30 January – February 3

UntitledSecretary-General and other top UN officials denounce
discriminatory migration policies

Following the announcement of the recent Executive Order in the United States regarding immigration, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a statement on Tuesday denouncing any policies founded in discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or nationality as both “ineffective” and “against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based.” Mr. Guterres also noted that discriminatory migration policies breed fear, anger and the very violence they claim to prevent. Above all, Mr. Guterres expressed his particular concern regarding decisions around the world that have jeopardized the integrity of the international refugee protection regime, preventing refugees from receiving the protections they are in desperate need of and are entitled to under international law.

Secretary-General Guterres, who previously served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has stressed the importance of the pursuit of peace and has repeatedly underscored the primacy of prevention and diplomacy in international peace and security, stating during his first official address as the UN chief that, “peace must be our goal and our guide.”  Speaking with media at UN Headquarters on Wednesday Mr. Guterres specifically addressed the actions of the US prohibiting migration and refugees from specific countries and expressed belief that the measure should be reversed. Recalling the written statement he had made the day prior, Secretary-General Guterres emphasized that the measures put in place by the US administration are not the way to protect the US, or any country, from the threat of terrorism. He went on to firmly state that “these measures should be removed sooner rather than later.”

The Secretary-General’s calls have been also echoed by other officials and experts within the UN. On Wednesday, five independent human rights experts released a joint statement through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN Special Rapporteurs on migrant rights, racism, human rights and counter-terrorism, torture and freedom of religion jointly expressed their expert opinion that the US policy is discriminatory, a “significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection,” and risks violating international humanitarian and human rights law. The current UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, also made an impassioned plea for solidarity and compassion for refugees fleeing devastation in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. Mr. Grandi said “The world has to go back to solidarity, has to think again of these people – not with fear, not with suspicion, but with open arms, with an open mind, with an open heart.”

Earlier this week the Mr. Grandi also expressed his deep concern over the uncertainty now faced by thousands of refugees in the process of resettlement in the United States due to the ban. The High Commissioner noted that in the first week of the Executive Order alone, 800 of some of the most vulnerable refugees were turned away from the US after already being cleared to restart their lives in the country. In total, the UNHCR (Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees) estimates that 20,000 refugees could have been resettled over the 120 days prohibited by the Executive Order. Recalling the history of the US as a leader in the protection of refugees, the High Commissioner voiced clearly his hopes that the “US will continue its strong leadership role and its long history of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.”

The UNHCR released a new infographic this week on Refugee Resettlement facts, focusing on the process within the US and globally. To view the UNHCR’s infographic, please click here.

Catch up on developments in…

CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen 
Other

Central African Republic:

President Museveni of Uganda called on all regional leaders participating in the fight against the remainders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to better cooperate with regional forces. While noting that the regional forces have reduced the LRA’s capabilities enough that they no longer attack military targets, he also noted that the group’s continued attacks on civilian and soft targets is an embarrassment for the governments unable to protect their citizens. Earlier in the week acting the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR reported that the Ouaka province is at major risk of civilian casualties should conflict spillover from neighboring regions.

Top UN officials have approved an allocation of 6 million USD from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support responses to new violent emergencies in the CAR. Part of this will allow the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to reach 36,800 people facing food insecurity due to the violence in recent months.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The UN has stated that human rights abuses rose by over 30 percent in the DRC in 2016, with a documented total of 5,190 human rights violations across the country. The increase is allegedly tied to election-related repression and increased activities of several armed groups.

The representatives of the Guarantors of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region (PSC Framework) held a meeting in Ethiopia, on 27 January, in which they considered efforts to address instability in eastern DRC, including support to the neutralization of armed groups. The representatives also discussed dialogue processes in the DRC and Burundi. However, political parties failed to agree on a new peace deal agreement, which has been in progress since the beginning of the year. The representatives reportedly could not agree on the method of appointing a new Prime Minister and experts worry the likelihood of organizing a nationwide poll by the end of the year will be extremely difficult and costly.


Gaza/West Bank:

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), made claims based on an internal report, accusing Israel of “unlawful” and “systematic killings” of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The assembly called on the 324 parliamentarians from 47 countries to support the possibility of launching a formal investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).


Iraq:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported the disappearance and torture of minors by the regional government of Kurdistan. Over 180 boys under the age of 18 are purportedly being held without being charged according to HRW estimates. Furthermore, the government has not informed the children’s families, increasing the probability of being disappeared.

The UN envoy for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said this week that Iraq’s liberation from the Islamic State (ISIL) is soon to come, but fighting and massive challenges will continue. Kubis also stated that Iraq will need substantial and sustainable international support and any scaling-down of engagement will only repeat past mistakes. Kubis also noted his concerns over ISIL’s continued targeting of civilians, adding that they will be at extreme risk when fighting in western sections of Mosul begins. Human Rights Watch also claimed in a report on Thursday that groups within Iraqi military forces known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have been involved in the abuse, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances of men fleeing Mosul, carrying out secret screenings in unidentified detention centers.


Libya:

Over the weekend, German diplomats reported that the private camps used by human traffickers to hold refugees and migrants are rife with cases of rape, torture and execution. The leaked memo detailed evidence compiled by the German Foreign Ministry of, what they called, “concentration-camp-like” conditions. The report comes days before the beginning of a special European Union (EU) summit of heads of state in Malta on Friday where the European migrant situation is to be discussed. On Wednesday Human Rights Watch (HRW)called on the EU and the heads of state meeting in Malta to put human rights and the protection of migrants from future abuses in Libya. The UN-backed Prime Minister of Libya also said on Wednesday that his government would consider allowing NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or EU ships to operate in national waters in cooperation with Libyan coastguard operations.

Elsewhere in Libya, forces loyal to Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the self-declared Libyan National Army (LNA), continued combat operations in an effort to retake Benghazi. The LNA reported that their forces had suffered heavy casualties, but the civilian impact from the offensive is currently unknown.


Nigeria:

Nigerian police have reported that clashes between mostly Christian Mumuye farmers and mostly Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed six people and resulted in the razing of 80 houses in Taraba state in central Nigeria. The violence began on Friday and continued through the weekend into Tuesday, when Mumuye youth reportedly attacked a Fulani village. Ethno-religious tensions in Taraba state escalated earlier in January when the state’s governor was quoted by media urging Christian farmers to fight back against those he dubbed terrorists.

The situations faced by civilians in the country’s embattled north has become whollyunacceptable, according to local media outlets and humanitarian agencies on the ground such as Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Food and medicine shortages, caused in no small part by corruption in the government-run humanitarian sector, has left camp residents in dire situations, with MSF reporting that in a camp visited in July 66 percent of children were emaciated and 1,200 graves had recently been dug. Residents in one camp protested conditions and claimed that they were able to eat only once a day and that inadequate shelter and medical care had made disease rampant. Security is also a concern with surveys of internally displaced people in the camps, the majority of whom are women and children, found two thirds of camp residents reported that guards are engaging in sexual abuses against the very civilians they were tasked with defending. Of the 1.8 million internally displaced people in Nigeria, many are children. Over 30,000 of these children have been separated from their parents while fleeing the fighting.


South Sudan:

Renewed violence broke-out in the city of Malakal in the upper Nile region this week as rebels and government forces engaged in heavy fighting causing civilians in the area to flee for safety. The UN mission in South Sudan noted great concern over the intensification of violence and called on both parties to cease hostilities, with observers warning of the potential for the breakdown of the security situation into an all-out war. The clashes are a continuation and escalation of sporadic fighting that occurred in Malakal last week.

The expansion of the fighting in Malakal to Wau Shilluk, a town to the north, forced the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to halt humanitarian operations for thousands of displaced persons and evacuate 14 staff to safer locations.

Fighting reported to have broken out between government and rebel soldiers in a town on the southern border with Uganda also forced many civilians to flee into the neighboring state this week.

Following the joint statement released by the UN and African Union (AU) on 29 January, which expressed deep concern regarding the current violence and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), a leading civil society organization in South Sudan, called on the UN, AU and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to move from statements to action in South Sudan. CEPO maintains an active and ongoing mapping of violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed in South Sudan’s ongoing civil war on their website. Exiled rebel leader Riek Machar, currently residing in South Africa, supported the joint calls of the UN, African Union and IGAD to end the conflict, but disagreed with the calls for dialogue until a reinstatement of the ceasefire is reached.

The Enough Project has released a report on corruption in the South Sudanese military and the pursuit of profits and powers as fuel for violence and conflict in the country, entitled “Weapons of Mass Corruption: How corruption in South Sudan’s military undermines the world’s newest country.” The report identifies incidents of fraud and other forms of corruption amongst military officials as being a major obstacle to the assurance of peace and the protection of civilians from violence in the country.


Sri Lanka:

Torture and impunity for such heinous acts continues to be a serious concern in Sri Lanka,according to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez. Several organizations have released press statements regarding Mr. Mendez’s report and criticizing the collapse of the system in the country meant to investigate and prosecute torture.


Sudan:

New reports of violence in Darfur have arisen this week, as well as details of an allegedrevenge attack carried out by government forces on the civilians of Nertiti, which resulted in the deaths of nine people at the beginning of January and injured 69 others. UNAMID, the joint UN and African Union mission in Darfur, has been criticized by locals for allegedly failing to intervene in the reported attack despite having a base of operations in the town.

In commemoration of the 12 year anniversary of the “Port Sudan Massacre,” activists from eastern Sudan called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the incident from 29 January 2005 that is alleged to have involved the killing approximately of 20 unarmed protesters by government forces.


Syria:

The UN World Food Programme resumed air drops to besieged Deir al-Zor on Tuesday, where roughly 93,500 citizens are believed to still be trapped. Syrian and Russian forces have increased the intensity of their offensive on rebel and Islamic State (ISIL) held portions of the city, with Russian air force bombers reportedly hammering ISIL positions with unguided bombs. Despite this, the siege lines have yet to significantly change as the humanitarian need for the nearly 100,000 trapped civilians grows more desperate as access to clean water has been eliminated.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that a midnight airstrike on Wednesday in the city of Idlib hit offices of the Syrian Red Crescent, injuring several staffers, including the director of the local branch. It is still unclear which forces are responsible for the strike.

On Thursday, the US military reported that 11 civilians were killed in four separate airstrikes by the US-led Coalition in Iraq and Syria between 25 October and 9 December last year. An attack on 7 December near Raqqa, Syria proved the most lethal for civilians as a Coalition airstrike hit a building allegedly containing ISIL combatants, killing seven civilians. The statement claims that the total number of civilians killed since the beginning of the air campaign is 199, but this number drastically conflicts with independent monitoring groups such as Airwars, who have totalled the civilian death toll at 2,358. According to US military data, the Coalition has conducted 17,861 airstrikes since the beginning of the operation, 6,868 of which have struck in Syria.

The UN-orchestrated peace negotiations in Geneva have been delayed until late February according to Russian sources. However, the UN has not yet confirmed this delay. The US and Saudi Arabia are reported to have come to an agreement on cooperating to establish safe zones in Syria, but no further details have yet emerged.


Yemen:

A US raid on alleged al Qaeda allies last Sunday caused an unknown amount of civilian casualties, with conflicting reports. US military officials have said 14 militants were killed and one commando killed with others injured. Medics on scene reported a total of 30 fatalities, including 10 women and three children including, reportedly, the eight-year old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was targeted and killed by US drones in 2011. On Thursday, the USadmitted to the likelihood civilians, including children, had been killed by their raid, but were silent on the number believed killed. US naval bombardment on positions believed to be held by al-Qaeda continued into Thursday according to Yemeni security officials.

UN experts have warned that airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen may amount to war crimes. The expert panel reviewed 10 attacks between March and October 2016 that are believed to have killed at least 292 civilians. The panel found that in all cases the Saudi-led forces did not meet the minimum standards of proportionality and precautions for attack found in international law. The experts said that despite their inability to travel to Yemen that they had achieved the highest achievable standard of proof and were near certain of their findings. The panel also expressed concern over actions of the Houthi rebels that may also amount to war crimes.

On Monday, rockets reportedly fired by Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia on Mondaydamaged a UN building. In condemning the attack the on the De-escalation and Coordination Committee building UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed noted that the building attacked was supposed to host the committee that will oversee the cessation of hostilities and report on violations.

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) released a report on the healthcare situation in Yemen this week. The report, entitled “Yemen: Healthcare Under Siege in Taiz,” focuses on the events occurring in the embattled city, but MSF officials say the situation in Taiz is representative of Yemen as a whole. MSF reported that both sides of the conflict have regularly demonstrated a lack of respect for the protection of civilians and healthcare workers and facilities. The UN also stated that Yemen is exposed to the risk of widespread famine and food shortages once the city’s limited stores of stable foods are depleted, likely within the next 3 months. Torture, murder and abuse of migrants by traffickers and kidnappers in Yemen as also beenreported.


What else is new?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has published a new report on the implementation of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention). In 2016, ICRC surveyed capacity for the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in 25 African states and identified how states could best meet their responsibilities towards displaced persons. The findings are summarized in the new report, “Translating the Kampala Convention into Practice: a stocktaking exercise,” which is available here for free PDF download or for hard-copy purchase.

ICRtoP member the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) is co-sponsoring a panel discussion on the relationship between legal accountability and the prevention of atrocity crimes on Thursday 9th February. The event is entitled “Accountability and Prevention of Mass Atrocities: International Criminal Justice as a Tool for Prevention” and will be hosted at the New York City Bar Association. For more information on this event or to register your attendance, please click here.

The Yale MacMillan Center will also be hosting an event from 16-17 February, entitled “Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect.” Both days of programing will be held at Yale University in New Haven, CT. For more information please click here.

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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

Ban.jpg

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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