25 January 2011
I. UN General Assembly approves key funding for positions on the prevention of genocide and RtoP
II. Ivory Coast: stalemate and international concerns continue
III. Human Rights Watch denounces the failures of quiet diplomacy in confronting human rights violators
IV. The United States and growing efforts to prevent mass atrocities
V. Country-specific news and updates
1. UN GA votes to fund three additional staff in the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide
On 24 December 2010, the Fifth committee of the General Assembly voted to fund three additional posts in the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (OSAPG): a Senior Political Affairs Officer (P-5), a Political Affairs Officer/Analyst (P-4) and an Information Officer (P-3). The P5 and P3 positions will carry out the functions of the current P5 and P2 which were previously supported through extra-budgetary resources. The P4 position will reportedly be focused on assisting with the emergency convening mechanism (as described in the SG’s report on Early Warning, Assessment and the Responsibility to Protect). The Office will also incorporate all four crimes and violations (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing) into its method of work, signaling the integration of the Responsibility to Protect into the work of the Office. These developments are in line with the SG’s 2009 report and 2010 report to establish a Joint Office that would integrate the prevention of genocide and RtoP mandates.
The Fifth Committee is the Committee of the General Assembly with responsibilities for administration and budgetary matters. Based on the reports of the Fifth Committee, the General Assembly considers and approves the budget of the Organization in accordance with Chapter IV, Article 17 of the UN Charter. For more background on the Fifth Committee process, click here. The funding for the OSAPG falls under Section XIII of the budget A/C.5/65/L.22, and deals with “special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council, and strengthening the Department of Political Affairs.” In budget for the 2011-2012 biennium, the Assembly authorized the appropriation in the coming year of $643.1 million for 29 special political missions, including everything from the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
As outlined in the UN Department of Public Information summary of the discussions (see excerpt below), there was some controversy over whether the logical framework of analysis, used by the OSAPG to determine whether there is a risk genocide, should be expanded to include the four crimes under RtoP (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing). Venezuela led the charge against the inclusion of the four crimes and proposed an amendment to the budget which would have limited the logical framework to cover only genocide. This amendment was ultimately rejected.
In the end, three main votes were taken:
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today wrapped up the main part of a sixty-fifth session that aimed to boost the Organization’s efficiency by overhauling how tens of thousands of staff around the globe are hired, trained and paid, while continuing to modernize its outdated information and communications technology system.
(…) During informal consultations, Venezuela had expressed concerns that the Office of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide had sought to include concepts that did not enjoy international agreement. That was a serious failure, she said, requesting a review of the logical framework of the Office of the Special Adviser. Just over a year ago, she said, the first substantive debate on the responsibility to protect had been held in the General Assembly. Delegates had agreed on only one point — the need to continue to consider the responsibility to protect. The presentation of a logical framework by the Special Adviser implemented the recommendations from the Secretary-General’s report (document A/64/874), which had not received any action by the Assembly. Venezuela was concerned that that was included as a fait accompli, and presumed the existence of concepts regarding the responsibility to protect. There must be a “detailed and profound debate” that distinguished the work of the General Assembly and the United Nations. Venezuela reiterated that the primary responsibility to protect lay with the States.
The representative of Canada said he was against the proposed amendment and requested a recorded vote. He urged all Member States to vote against the proposed amendment.
The representative of the Netherlands said she was against the proposed amendment and wanted a recorded vote. The Fifth Committee was charged with budget and administration issues and the substance of the proposed amendment went beyond those responsibilities.
The delegate of Cuba said that section XIII of draft resolution A/C.5/65/L.22 contained proposals for resources for special political missions that his delegation could not support, as had been reiterated repeatedly. He was dissatisfied with the way he had been compelled, possibly, to adopt those proposals. During consultations, some delegations had focused on lobbying developing countries to adopt those proposals, he said. Further, in no existing Assembly resolution had there been agreement that the responsibility to protect was part of the Office of the Special Adviser. That responsibility could easily fall into the hands of manipulative delegations, he said.
Nicaragua’s delegate said he joined Venezuela and Cuba in denouncing the “trampling” on the part of the Secretariat of the legislative and intergovernmental mandates of the United Nations Organization. The report of the Secretary-General under consideration had not been the subject of action by the Assembly, he said, adding that the Secretariat was therefore “self-mandating”. For that reason, he supported the amendment presented by the delegation of Venezuela.
The representative of Belgium, again on behalf of the European Union, said the discussions in the Fifth Committee should refrain from topics that belonged in other United Nations forums. The European Union considered the activities of the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, were fully justified based on both Assembly and Security Council actions. The European Union would therefore vote against the amendment, and requested other delegations to do the same.
The Committee then, by a recorded vote of 68 against to 17 in favour, with 51 abstentions, rejected the amendment submitted by the representative of Venezuela. (Annex III)
Cuba’s delegate then requested a recorded vote on the whole section XIII of the draft resolution.
In explanation of position before the vote, the representative of Brazil said the Office of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide corresponded to the mandate given by the Assembly. Brazil shared the concerns on the framework of the political missions and the lack of review by intergovernmental processes. It was necessary to formulate an adequate framework. There should be more consistency for the budgets of all special political missions.
Nicaragua’s delegate said he would vote against section XIII because of the non-adoption of Venezuela’s amendment. Nicaragua was in favour of the rest of the budget items.
The representative of Venezuela said she would vote against section XIII because it did not include a review of a logical framework of the Office of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide. It was not against the other political missions.
The Committee then approved section XIII of draft resolution L.22 by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 9 against (Bolivia, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Zimbabwe), with 4 abstentions (Solomon Islands, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). (Annex IV)
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Iran asked to take a recorded vote on the entire draft resolution.
The Committee then approved draft resolution A/C.5/65/L.22 as a whole by a recorded vote of 144 in favour to 1 against (Iran), with 3 abstentions (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Syria). (Annex V)
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Israel disassociated himself from the section XIII of the resolution.
Cuba’s representative said its support of resolution A/C.5/65/L.22 did not mean that Cuba supported the mandate of the Office of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.
See full text here
1. UN: Violence, rape spread across Ivory Coast
The United Nations warned Thursday that violence is spreading across Ivory Coast, citing nearly two dozen rapes in the country's west and one case where a political opponent was sexually tortured.
Local U.N. human rights chief Simon Munzu said Thursday that 23 women have been raped in the last week in western Ivory Coast, where 16,000 people have taken refuge since the disputed Nov. 28presidential runoff vote. Another 29,000 people have fled across the border to Liberia. (…)
Munzu said Thursday that security forces loyal to Gbagbo had used sexual torture techniques on at least one Ouattara supporter, following a raid on Ouattara's party headquarters two weeks ago in which 63 people were arrested.
"This young man was sodomized by eight members of the Republican Guard who wanted to extract information about his fellow members of the (pro-Ouattara) RHDP," Munzu said.
There was no immediate reaction from Gbagbo's camp, though his spokesman has previously denied allegations that security forces were behind cases of abduction and torture.
The U.N. voted Wednesday to beef up its peacekeeping force in the country by sending 2,000 more troops, bringing the total to almost 13,000 in this volatile West African country.
Gbagbo's government reacted harshly to the announcement Thursday, reiterating its claim that the U.N. has overstepped its mandate and is no longer impartial.
Despite increasing attacks on U.N. patrols, Munzu downplayed the impact of the reinforcements that include two attack helicopters.
"Adding 2,000 more troops to an existing mission in (Ivory Coast) is nothing spectacular and we would like to hope that all parties concerned will see it like that and not put things out of context."
Ouattara benefits from international recognition and has begun replacing Ivory Coast's ambassadors abroad. However, Gbagbo retains control of security forces, the civil service, and the exports of oil and cocoa.
Gbagbo and his allies have been targeted with a travel ban by the European Union and the United States. Switzerland joined them on Wednesday, freezing the assets of Gbagbo and his entourage.
The latest attempt at negotiation failed Wednesday when African Union mediator Raila Odinga cut short his second visit, saying Gbagbo hasn't been keeping his promises.The West African bloc of countries known as ECOWAS has threatened to oust Gbagbo by force if negotiations fail, but has set no deadline for such an intervention.
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In the wake of a unanimous Security Council decision this morning to strengthen by 2,000 troops the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Côte d'Ivoire — where a power struggle persisted over the presidential election result — the possibility of genocide and related crimes were of grave concern, said United Nations experts during a press conference at New York Headquarters today.
During the briefing, Francis Deng, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for the Prevention of Genocide, and Edward Luck, the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, said they were disturbed by allegations that the armed forces and militia groups that backed opposing camps in the current political crisis were recruiting and arming ethnic groups allied to each camp. They were also deeply troubled by reports of hate speech that appeared to be aimed at inciting violent attacks against particular ethnic and national groups. (…)
The Special Advisers further said that "urgent steps" should be taken, in line with the responsibility to protect, to avert the risk of genocide and ensure the protection of all those at risk of mass atrocities.
To date, some 28,000 Ivorians had fled to neighbouring countries and 16,000 were internally displaced as a result of ethnic clashes, they said. There was a real risk that the clashes could spread across the country. While noting that the crisis could culminate in mass atrocities if left unchecked, Mr. Deng stressed that allegations of genocide were not yet being made. The task, he said, was to highlight the elements that had the potential to lead to genocide — and to allow the relevant international bodies to act accordingly.
In that vein, Mr. Luck said that today's Security Council resolution 1967 (2011) — which would reinforce the 9,000-strong United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) — was an encouraging development. "The Council members are quite united in terms of what they expect and what they hope to happen in Côte d'Ivoire," he said.
Regarding the ethnic nature of the clashes there, the Special Advisers stressed that groups aligned with both sides of the conflict were fleeing in "mutual" numbers. That assessment echoed that of other high-ranking United Nations officials, who in recent days had emphasized that no single ethnic group was being targeted more than any other. "It is not a question of pointing fingers," said Mr. Luck. "It's very important that all parties recognize that the international community is watching," he added.
"We need to heighten concern," agreed Mr. Deng.
Responding to a question, which compared the situation in Côte d'Ivoire to that in Rwanda in the 1990s, Mr. Deng said that the access of troops on the ground – including new troops just added by the Security Council - was an extremely important element of preventing mass atrocities from occurring. "Our experience with Rwanda has clearly sharpened the readiness of the international community to act," he said.
He added that other, more recent situations, including Kenya's 2008 post-election crisis, showed successful cases of prevention by the United Nations and other international players. "What happened in Kenya was a very good demonstration of the active will of the international community to prevent the situation from escalating to genocide levels," he said.
Mr. Deng responded to a question about his work in nearby Nigeria and Guinea, where he was seeking to "demystify" the idea of genocide prevention. "The word genocide tends to make people a little nervous and sometimes not so responsive," he said. "I see genocide as an extreme form of identity-related conflicts – not resulting from mere differences, but the way we manage our differences." He hoped that more leaders, including in West Africa, would be open to discussing "prevention from a constructive angle".
Responding to questions about his native Sudan, where he characterized the recently concluded status referendum as "credible", he said that, following years of "terrible conflicts" in that country, "what has just happened in the south is a very impressive achievement".
3. Towards an enduring peace in Cote d’Ivoire
Odein Ajumogobia is Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of ECOWAS.
Cote d'Ivoire is at a critical juncture in its history: faced with a complex and multi-dimensional predicament. The present crisis of leadership and succession single handedly precipitated by Mr. Laurent Gbagbo its erstwhile President unless curtailed, will inevitably lead to anarchy and chaos, or worse, a full blown civil war with the attendant impunity, violence, inconceivable humanitarian challenges and unprecedented civilian casualties.
As the impasse deepens with each passing day and the direct threat to regional peace and security becomes more imminent, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) requires unequivocal international support through an appropriate United Nations Security Council resolution to sanction the use of force. This is the only way to legitimize the use of external force to effectively contain the increasingly volatile internal situation and ensure an enduring peace in Cote d'Ivoire and the West African sub region.
It is clear that Mr. Laurent Gbagbo is determined to defy and treat the entire international community with absolute disdain. In the interest of global peace and security and in order to preserve and deepened the growing democratic culture in Africa, he cannot, he must not be allowed to prevail. (…)
The threat of legitimate force
The use of 'legitimate force' is however not exclusively about military warfare in the conventional sense and therefore does not necessary connote an "invasion" by troops. Legitimate force can include, for example, a naval blockade to enforce sanctions which might be imposed against Mr. Gbagbo.
Mr. Gbagbo must be made to understand that there is a very real prospect of overwhelming military capability bearing down on him and his cohorts. It is only then that he will give serious consideration to the demands that he step down immediately. The deployment of armed force for this purpose can only however be 'legitimate' pursuant to an appropriate UNSC Resolution. That was indeed the purport of the rather misunderstood resolution of the ECOWAS Heads of State led by President Jonathan of Nigeria sanctioning the use of legitimate force as a last resort. I strongly suggest that that timely communiqué of the ECOWAS leaders prevented carnage in Cote d'Ivoire, and created the limited space that still exists for the relatively peaceful resolution of the conundrum which the legal, political and diplomatic situation in Cote d'Ivoire presents.
UN security council resolution
The death of scores of civilians and the rumours of mass graves, the engagement of mercenaries and the rumoured supply of armaments, and the increasing harassment of UN peacekeepers are all pointers that this is the time to employ all the tools of preventive diplomacy which must include the mobilization of armed forces under the auspices of the UN, if necessary to contain the threat to regional peace and security.
Peace enforcement measures
It is time to look at the prospect of applying legitimate force - peace enforcement measures within the framework of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. In other words, the direct involvement of the UN Security Council in this regard has become an imperative in order for ECOWAS and the International community to be able to consolidate the peace efforts so far made, and to prevent the complete reversal of processes in which the International Community has so substantially invested. (…)
Threat to foreign nationals
The political crisis in the Cote d'Ivoire is likely to disrupt the trend towards democracy in the sub region and create a dangerous precedent for a continent in which twenty presidential elections are to hold within the next eighteen months. Consequently, the impunity of Mr. Gbagbo must be regarded as a challenge to the entire international community. It is indeed a test for democracy in the West African sub - region in particular and the larger African continent beyond.
Beyond Chapter VII of the UN Charter
This is unfortunate. I do believe that peace enforcement by the UN Security Council in Cote d'Ivoire is now the required response to the impunity that we are witnessing in Cote d'Ivoire. The International Community has universally and unequivocally rejected the nominal constitutional mandate of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo. We cannot therefore leave Mr. Alassane Ouattara to enforce the legitimate and internationally recognized mandate given to him by the people of Cote d'Ivoire. That would be to sanction civil war, against the very ethos of the United Nations.
International responsibility to protect
On a more cogent level however, the crisis in the Cote d'Ivoire goes beyond election results and the dispute between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara on the definition of who is a citizen of the Cote d'Ivoire that is eligible for presidential election. Both leaders have a large following that operate along ethnic lines. Both leaders have the control of armed forces: Gbagbo the apparently divided national army and Ouattara the Nouvelle Forces formerly commanded by his newly appointed Prime Minister Guillume Soros. The threat to the peace and security of Cote d'Ivoire and the entire sub-region is therefore at risk on account of the impunity of one man and his cohorts.
It is in view of this that the ECOWAS, in general, and the Government and people of Nigeria, call upon on all peace-loving nations of the world to underscore the need for preventive diplomacy in all its ramifications including the mobilization of force. Cote d'Ivoire needs international help. ECOWAS under the leadership of President Jonathan has taken a firm and principled stand against impunity in governance. What is needed now is unequivocal international support to be able to enforce peace in Cote d'Ivoire.
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4. Who will pay for violence in Ivory Coast
Matt Wells is a researcher in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch.
Does this sound familiar? An election in Ivory Coast meant to unite a divided country instead ignites pre-existing tensions, leading to rampant human rights abuses. (…)
But Ivorians are likely to remain trapped in the current conflicts so long as the country's leaders and security forces operate with impunity, and the international community does not insist on justice for major human rights crimes.
After the 2000 elections, investigations by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and others found a post-election death toll of 200, with hundreds more seriously wounded, and scores tortured - the vast majority actual or perceived supporters of Ouattara. A mass grave on the outskirts of the financial capital, Abidjan, contained 57 bodies - most massacred while in detention.
Despite extensive evidence of these abuses, no one was brought to justice for the crimes. The captain at the detention camp where the executions occurred was even promoted.
Initial international demands for prosecutions diminished and ongoing abuses were met with ever-softer calls for justice. The U.N. Security Council, for example, has still not made public the findings of a 2004 U.N. Commission of Inquiry that investigated serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law and prepared a list of actors deemed most responsible for crimes committed during the civil war and its aftermath.
Security Council resolutions have long called for sanctions against those who threatened peace and security in Ivory Coast, but only three individuals were subject to them, largely for inciting attacks on U.N. personnel and foreigners. (…)
The November presidential election has brought new violence to Ivory Coast as Gbagbo has refused to accept the results of a vote in which, nearly the entire international community agrees, Ouattara was elected president. Over the past several weeks, pro-Gbagbo forces have abducted perceived political opponents from their homes in Abidjan; many remain missing, and the U.N. has put the death toll at almost 200.
Human Rights Watch has also documented abuses in the northern half of the country against Gbagbo supporters who, because of intimidation and some violence by forces supporting Ouattara, have fled to neighboring Liberia. (…)
While the determination to end the stalemate is to be applauded, Ivory Coast's history shows that this approach must not be taken at the expense of accountability.
In recent weeks, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, have affirmed that human rights violations committed in the post-election period must be punished, calls echoed by the Security Council and major governments.
Perhaps most importantly, the ECOWAS Commission, a regional body of African states, has warned "all those responsible that they will face international trial for human rights violations at the earliest opportunity."
These words must be followed by determined action this time around. Security forces and others who commit human rights abuses must know that they can and will be held to account for heinous acts. Political leaders must understand that violence is no way to cling to power. The Ivory Coast will only emerge from its recent bloody history if these lessons are learned.
1. World Report: Governments soft-talking abusers
Dialogue and cooperation are important for addressing human rights concerns, and achieving cooperation is a key goal of human rights advocacy, Human Rights Watch said. But when there is a lack of political will to respect rights, pressure changes the cost-benefit analysis that leads a government to choose repression. (…)
IV. The United States and growing efforts to prevent mass atrocities
1. Congress resolution recognizing the US’ national interest in preventing mass atrocities
On December 22, 2010, the Senate adopted a resolution condemning genocide and mass atrocity crimes and reaffirmed the commitment of the United States government to prevent and mitigate such acts. The Resolution was sponsored by former Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and was cosponsored by 20 other senators. The passage of S. Con. Res. 71, although not legally binding, is of great importance as it recognizes the role of the U.S. in prevention and encourages the development of a whole government approach to averting genocide and mass atrocity crimes. The document stated:
(…) Whereas, in 2005, the United States and all other members of the United Nations agreed that the international community has ‘a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapter VI and VIII of the United Nations Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’; (…)
(…) urges the President: to direct relevant departments and agencies of the United States Government to review and evaluate existing capacities for anticipating, preventing, and responding to genocide and other mass atrocities, and to determine specific steps to coordinate and enhance those capacities; and to develop and communicate a whole of government approach and policy to anticipate, prevent, and mitigate acts of genocide and other mass atrocities; (…)
Read the full text of S. Con. Res. 71.
2. Sudan, Ivory Coast underscore need to prevent large-scale killing
Vlad Sambaiew is president of The Stanley Foundation, a nonpartisan foreign policy nonprofit based in Muscatine, Iowa. Sambaiew previously spent 30 years as a US Foreign Service Officer in postings around the globe.
The current referendum on independence in southern Sudan and mounting tensions over the presidential leadership stalemate in the Ivory Coast remind us once again that too many people around the world live their lives under threat of large-scale killing and atrocities. While the immediate vote was generally calm, much of the last decade in Sudan has been aptly described as “genocide in slow motion.” These crises and others (Congo is a prominent example) evoke the urgent need for a comprehensive international approach to prevent the use of mass violence as a political tool.
Encouragingly, putting a stop to deliberate and systemic murder recently became an explicit US diplomatic priority. Top policy directives now commit the United States to engage actively “in a strategic effort to prevent mass atrocities and genocide” and develop real-life plans to that effect. S. Con. Res. 71 passed in December with strong bipartisan support and calls for a “whole of government” approach to such prevention. These are major steps forward, yet still only a start. As always, translating good intentions into successful global action will be a long, hard slog.
The challenge for all of us is the same: survival. While some decry “human rights” as a Western construct, the fact is that surviving the day anywhere in the world should be the most basic and universal human right. And, unfortunately, the record of preventing deadly political violence during the last 100 years is not good. (…)
We continue to take other potentially constructive steps to stop mass killings. The principle of “responsibility to protect” (R2P) was adopted at the United Nations in 2005 by more than 170 national leaders, including then-President Bush. The R2P concept obligates nations to protect their populations – whether citizens or not – from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has spoken forcibly about R2P as “one of the more powerful ideas” of our time. R2P underscores that that governments and the broader international community have a duty to provide basic protections to vulnerable groups.
Much remains to be done, but more governments, international organizations, and nongovernmental groups now actively seek practical approaches to prevent the use of mass murder and atrocities as a political strategy. Unlike during the period of the Rwandan genocide, willful ignorance is no longer viable policy. Today key international actors, including the United States, are actively engaged in efforts to avert deadly conflict in both Sudan and the Ivory Coast.
The expanding efforts to give actual meaning to the words “never again” assume that the worst is not inevitable, and that we can do better in the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities than we have in the past. The US needs to build on its leadership in this critical area. Sustained high-level political will, stemming from all branches of government, is essential to success in these nascent but critical human protection initiatives.
If we get it right, the next decades will not be a replay of earlier failures or indifference to protect populations at risk. We might even do better than we think possible.
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1. UN worried about upsurge of fighting in Darfur
There has been a worrisome increase in fighting between rebel and government forces in Sudan's conflict-torn western Darfur region, the U.N. chief said in a report published on Monday.
"I am deeply concerned over the upsurge in fighting between government and (rebel) movement forces ... and its humanitarian consequences," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a quarterly report on the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as UNAMID.
Ban said he was particularly worried about the fighting between government forces and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) loyal to Minni Minnawi. Last week Sudan's army said it clashed with fighters from JEM and Minnawi's SLA faction in a four-hour fight that left 21 people dead.
A string of cease-fires and accords has failed to stop the fighting in the remote western territory where mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003. JEM rejoined fitful Darfur peace talks in December, seven months after walking out of the negotiations.
Although UNAMID is nearing deployment of its mandated full strength of 26,000 troops and police, Ban complained that Khartoum has been delaying the issue of visas for non-Arabic-speaking police officers and other personnel. (…)
He also urged Khartoum to lift restrictions for humanitarian workers trying to reach people in the remote Jebel Marra region. Ban said civilians in Jebel Marra "have been cut off from humanitarian assistance for almost one year."
Separately, UNAMID said on Sunday that the Sudanese government had failed to honor an agreement to notify the peacekeeping force about an extensive cordon-and-search operation in the Zam Zam displaced persons camp in Darfur.
"The operation resulted ... in the arrest of 37 individuals, for reasons unknown, the impounding of ten 4x4 vehicles, the seizure of three assault rifle magazines, unspecified quantities of ammunitions, and suspected stolen goods and illegal substances," UNAMID said in a statement.
Darfur activists and human rights groups have urged the United Nations and United States to step up efforts to secure peace in Darfur, where U.N. officials estimate that as many as 300,000 people have died since 2003. (…)
Activists and rights groups say that U.S. and U.N. officials have focused on north-south Sudan tensions due to the referendum on southern independence that took place earlier this month but now need to pay more attention to Darfur.
"The United States and international community must act to stop future violence and to ensure humanitarian access to care for these displaced people in Darfur while continuing high level engagement on north-south issues," said Amir Osman of the Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition.
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2. DR Congo Army Officer ‘led mass rape’ in Fizi
An army commander in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been accused of leading the recent mass rape of at least 50 women. One of the victims, as well as sources quoted in a UN report, all accuse Lt Col Kibibi Mutware of links to New Year's Day rapes in the town of Fizi.
There have been numerous cases of mass rape in DR Congo's conflict but this is believed to be the largest single incident allegedly involving the army.
Lt Col Kibibi has denied the charges. He said that the soldiers who raided the town had disobeyed orders.
From an everyday fight between two men over a woman, violence escalated into a brutal punitive expedition by a group of government troops against the population of Fizi. "A soldier was killed here right beside the hospital," explains Dr Faise Chacha, the head of Fizi hospital.
"That started the panic and all our patients fled. We came back at 0500 the next morning and we started taking in people who had been stabbed and others - women - who had been raped."
Dr Chacha and the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres have treated 51 rape victims so far, but they expect more as women who fled the attacks slowly return home. (…)
An internal report by investigators sent to Fizi by the UN peacekeeping mission Monusco and seen by the BBC also quotes local leaders and police sources who accuse Lt Col Kibibi of directing the atrocity.
Monusco sent patrols from the day after the violence from its Baraka base, just over one hour's drive away, and has maintained a 24-hour presence in Fizi since 5 January, which has encouraged the population to come back. (…)
In a statement, the UN's special representative on sexual violence, Margot Wallstrom, called on the Congolese authorities to conduct an investigation "thoroughly and without delay".
"Impunity for these types of crimes must not be tolerated," she added.
Lt Col Kibibi is a former member of the CNDP rebel group, which has previously been accused of numerous human rights abuses.
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3. Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State
Despite the November 2010 electoral exercise in Burma (also known as Myanmar), the military
junta still controls all branches of government and leverages its power to suppress ethnic nationalities, who represent approximately 40% of the population occupying 55% of the land area of this Southeast Asian country. Since 1996, over 3,600 villages in Eastern Burma are estimated to have been destroyed, forcibly relocated, or abandoned, comparable in scale to the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur, forcing over 500,000 people from their homes. Forced relocation is often accompanied by widespread abuses against ethnic civilians, including confiscation of land and property, destruction of food supplies, arbitrary taxation, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture, and extrajudicial execution. Several reports have been published on the situation in Eastern Burma, highlighting the widespread and systematic nature of such human rights violations, and underlining the need for an independent, impartial, international investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
By contrast, comparatively little has been written about the situation in Western Burma. Chin State, an isolated, mountainous region in Western Burma, has poor health outcomes and lacks basic infrastructure. There is no network of roads connecting the nine major townships of Chin State; the few roads that exist are unpaved and often impassible in the rainy season. Access to Chin State is problematic from the bordering northeast Indian States of Mizoram and Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts area of Bangladesh, as those areas are designated restricted zones, limiting the possibilities for cross-border humanitarian assistance to Chin State.
While the people of Chin State have not suffered the protracted 60-year conflict of Eastern Burma, rapid militarization in Chin State since 1988 has resulted in widespread human rights violations.
Since 1988, estimates place more than 75,000 displaced Chin in India, and another 50,000 in Malaysia. Decades of neglect and widespread abuses have debilitated the Chin who remain in Chin State and rendered them highly food insecure and vulnerable to the current famine.
Qualitative research has shed light on the atrocities committed by successive military regimes over the past five decades. While some quantitative research has been carried out in Eastern Burma, this research represents the first quantitative study on Western Burma to assess the scale and scope of alleged crimes against humanity, defined as the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. These crimes include murder, torture, rape, group persecution, and other inhumane acts, which are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.
See full report
4. USA: Investigate alleged war crimes by Sri Lankan President
The United States should investigate Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa, on a surprise visit to the US today, for his alleged role in perpetrating torture and war crimes, Amnesty International said today.
See full press release