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25 May 2009 News Update
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In this issue : Latest activities of the ICRtoP Secretariat and NGO partners

I. Press conferences in advance of the UN debate on RtoP
1. ICRTOP AND FEMNET ORGANIZE PRESS CONFERENCE IN MALI TO INTRODUCE SG REPORT ON RTOP

II. ICRtoP attends ACHPR Forum for Civil Society toP language included in Resolution
1. NGO FORUM PRECEDING THE 45TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS

III. Seminar n international and a Norwegian Responsibility to Protect rimes against humanity in Eastern Burma?
1. CALLS FOR THE UN TO INVESTIGATE THE ATROCITIES IN EASTERN BURMA ETTER TO BAN KI-MOON

I. Press conference in Mali in advance of upcoming UN debate on RtoP

1. ICRtoP and FEMNET organize press conference in Mali to introduce SG report
15 April 2009

Wednesday April 15, 2009, the African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) in cooperation with the Peoples Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE/PDEDH) and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) organized a press conference in Bamako, Mali on the RtoP norm. This press conference included the participation of the Defense Ministry and the National Security and Civil Protection Ministry, Mali non-government organization and the media. The objective of the Mali press conference was to inform the media and civil society about the RtoP and to press decision-makers and public opinion in Mali to support the implementation of the norm based on Secretary-General Ban Ki moons January 2009 report entitled Implementing the Responsibility to Protect. This initiative is part of ICRtoPs efforts to raise awareness of the report, and was part of a series of press conferences organized in Tanzania, Ghana and Mali.

Mrs. Mama Koit Doumbia, President of FEMNET/Mali introduced FEMNETs efforts in promoting and protecting human rights for the last 21 years, including for the past five years support and activities to further the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). She also introduced the launch of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect last January.

PDRHEs Secretary-General, Mr Mohamed El Moctar Mahamar gave an introduction to the RtoP as a new international paradigm to address the occurrence of genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes after the failure of the UN to prevent and halt atrocities in situations such as Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia.

Mrs. Doumbia distributed a summary of the January 2009 report of the Secretary General on the RtoP and presented its content. She underlined that RtoP applied specifically to genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity and that the norm lies on three pillars, namely 1) the protection responsibilities of the state, 2) international assistance and capacity building, and 3) timely and decisive response to prevent and halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Mrs. Doumbia emphasized for member states to muster political will to see that this important new tool is operationalized. She reminded of the important role of civil society in pushing states to do so and ensuring that Member States embraces their responsibilities. She called on the Mali government to embrace the SGs report in the upcoming debate in the General Assembly.

Media
Twenty representatives of the media attended this very successful event. Please see newspaper articles here or see the following articles online (in French):

- La Quotidien, Mise en vre de la responsabilit de protger : La socit civile simplique
http://www.maliweb.net/category.php?NID=43223

- Mali Actu, La responsabilite de proteger : Comment engager la societe civile?
http://www.maliactu.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=879:la-responsabilite-de-proteger-comment-engager-la-societe-civile-&catid=56:mali&Itemid=87

- Lessor, "La responsabilit de protger": de la parole aux actes
http://www.essor.gov.ml/cgi-bin/view_article.pl?id=13379

II. ACHPR Forum for Civil Society toP language included in Resolution

1. NGO Forum preceding the 45th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights

On 9-11 May 2009, Mr. Voke Ighorodje (Consultant for the ICRtoP housed at the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy) participated in the NGO Forum preceding the 45th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Gambia. The NGO Forum was held from 9 11 May 2009 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, in the Gambia. A total of 216 NGOs including international NGOs and inter-governmental organizations participated.

At the end of the Forum, a total of 11 thematic resolutions, 6 countries resolutions and 4 recommendations were adopted by the Forum. Among the thematic resolutions adopted was the resolution by the ICC/African Court interest group and entitled strengthening international justice in Africa with specific provisions recalling the 2005 Summit Outcome on the RtoP and another provision demanding for the expression of commitment by the AU member states.

45th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR
The 45th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR entitled uman Rights, our Collective Responsibility was declared open by the Honorable Minister for Justice of the Gambia. In the presentation of the NGO Forum report to the members of the ACHPR during the opening ceremony, the Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) made a case in favor of strengthening the protection capacities of member states and promoting RtoP.

During the public session of the ACHPR, WFM-IGP presented a statement making a call for the establishment of a special mechanism for the promotion of the international justice and the RtoP.

Special Interest Group on the ICC/African Court
Special interest groups are formed around major themes that form the discussions of the Forum. Mr. Voke Ighorodje joined the special interest group discussion of the current hostile attitude of the AU heads of state to the ICC, especially since the indictment issued by the Court against the Sudanese President. Within these issues, NGOs discussed the upcoming meeting of the AU on the ICC and the need to increase NGO representation. In addition, NGOs emphasized the need for NGOs to be more vocal in their support for the ICC to counter the arguments of detractor governments.

After deliberations, the group presented a Resolution on strengthening international justice in Africa. Provisions on RtoP were incorporated into the resolution as NGOs agreed that strengthening and implementing the RtoP would work towards making the ICC more effective in Africa.

Side Event on International Justice
FIDH, ACHPR and the ACDHRS organized a special side event on the international justice and the ICC. The meeting highlighted the challenges facing the ICC in Africa. The meeting noted that of the four country-situations in Africa involving the ICC, three of them were requested by the States themselves while the last one was referred by the UN Security Council. The meeting also touched upon human rights violations in the DRC and IDPs in the Sudan since the expulsion of international NGOs and the restriction of local NGOs. The meeting ended with a call on the ACHPR to make strengthening international justice its theme for the next session.

III. Seminar n international and a Norwegian Responsibility to Protect Crimes against humanity in Eastern Burma?

Burma, crimes against humanity and calls for action

The situation in Eastern Burma was the subject of a seminar on April 23rd, organized by the Norwegian Parliaments support group for Burma, Norwegian Church Aid, the Norwegian Burma Committee, the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), the Norwegian Baptist Union and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. The seminar, entitled n International and a Norwegian Responsibility to Protect -Crimes against Humanity in Burma?examined the human rights situation in Burma, arguing that the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Eastern Burma amounted to crimes against humanity. Speakers discussed how Norway and the international community should exercise their responsibility to protect. Marion Arnaud from the ICRtoP attended the conference and will be sharing a report of the seminar soon. See for more info on the event

As featured below, the organizers of the seminar followed the event by writing a letter to Ban Ki-moon to encourage him to establish an international group of experts to report on whether serious violations of international humanitarian law have been committed in Eastern Burma, and to urge the Government of Burma to permit access to all parts of the country for international humanitarian assistance (see the letter below).

US campaign for Burma has issued a call to stop mass atrocities in Burma by pushing for the United Nations to send Burma to the International Criminal Court or establish an international criminal tribunal to arrest and prosecute Burmas military regime. This call was issued just as five of the world's leading international jurists have commissioned a report from the International Human Rights Clinic at the Harvard Law School, calling for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to establish a Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma act on what they describe as more than 15 years of condemnation from other UN bodies on human rights abuses in Myanmar.

For more information: see Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC)s October 2008 report, Internal displacement and international law in eastern Burma for a survey compiling 2008 abuses in relation to the legal framework for crimes against humanity.

New report from Harvard Law School entitled Crimes in Burma finds that UN documents on Burma provide grounds for investigation into international crimes; calls for the UN Security Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta and the Burma Lawyers Council ready to appeal to the ICC to charge Snr-Gen Than Shwe with criminal acts, The Irrawaddy, 20 May 2009: http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=15688


1. Calls for the UN to investigate the atrocities in Eastern Burma etter to Ban Ki-moon
Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights
06 May 2009

Your Excellency

As co-organisers of a conference in Oslo on 23 April 2009 on the situation in Eastern Burma (Myanmar) n International and a Norwegian Responsibility to Protect rimes against Humanity in Eastern Burma? e take the liberty to address you regarding the precarious situation in the eastern part of Burma (Myanmar).

As you know the population of Eastern Burma (Myanmar consists mostly of different ethnic groups. This is the scene of what is widely considered the worlds longest lasting internal armed conflict. It has lasted without interruption since the country gained independence in 1948.

As documented by the Thai Burma Border Consortium and others, the Burmese Government is waging a brutal war not only against the armed resistance movements but also against the local civilian population. Renowned organizations are of the opinion that crimes against humanity are committed as part of the military campaign in Easter Burma (Myanmar). Among other things, the junta controls the worlds largest child army. Members of the Burmese armed forces forcibly recruit and use children down to the age of 11 in the army and compel them to witness and commit violations themselves. Additionally, members of the Burmese armed forces resort to the use of land mines, forced labor, rape and other forms of sexual violation, unlawful executions and torture as means of warfare. The Government does little or nothing to investigate and prosecute these violations.

Our initiative is based on the international norm of a responsibility to protect, the statement adopted by states leaders during the World Summit in September 2005, and the later, unanimous endorsement by the Security Council in Resolution 1674 in April 2006, establishing that the international community has a responsibility to protect the population in sovereign states when the states themselves are unwilling or unable to protect their own citizens from the most serious human rights violations including genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Against this background, the Norwegian Parliaments support group for Burma, Norwegian Church Aid, the Norwegian Burma Committee, the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), the Norwegian Baptist Union and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights joined forces to organize the above-mentioned conference. We wish to convey to you two recommendations for your consideration and follow-up:

- First, to urge the Government of Burma (Myanmar) to ensure the immediate, safe and unhindered access to all parts of the country for the United Nations and international humanitarian organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable parts of the population in Burma (Myanmar); and
- Secondly, to encourage the establishment of an international group of experts to report to the United Nations General assembly and the Human Rights Council on whether serious violations of international humanitarian law are committed in Eastern Burma (Myanmar) and, if so, whether these violations amount to a failure to protect the citizens of Burma (Myanmar) from war crimes and crimes against humanity. ()

Kjell Magne Bondevik, Director, Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights
Hans Olav Syversen, Member of Parliament, Norwegian Parliamentary Caucus for Burma
Inger lise Husy, Director, Norwegian Burma Committee
shild Kols, Program Leader, International Peace Research Institute
Atle Sommerfeldt, General Secretary, Norwegian Church Aid
Magnar Mland, General Secretary, the Baptist Union of Norway

Full letter: Read the full text to the UN Secretary General here
Source: http://www.oslocenter.no/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=182&Itemid=1
 

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