11 May 2012
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I. Madariaga – College of Europe Foundation, Global Action to Prevent War, Global Governance Initiative and ICRtoP host workshop and release e-book on operationalizing RtoP’s third pillar
1. E-Book: Operationalizing the Responsibility to Protect: A Contribution to the Third Pillar Approach
1.. Hamid Dabashi, AlJazeera –Don’t Let Syria Become Libya
2. Amnesty International –Detained Syrian human rights defenders report torture
1.Dismas Nkunda, The Observer –The two Sudans must come back to their senses
2.International Refugee Rights Initiative –Letter imploring US and China to help solve conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan
3. Human Rights Watch –Sudan: Crisis Conditions in Southern Kordofan
1. Human Rights Watch—Mali: War Crimes by Northern Rebels
2. International Crisis Group –Taylor Verdict a Warning to War Crimes Perpetrators
1. Simon Adams, Huffington Post –Barack Obama—Atrocity Preventer
2. Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict –The Responsibility to Prevent – Developing Ad hoc and Systemic Strategies
3.30 May, Film Screening and Panel Discussion: “Cambodia- A Quest for Justice” –Museum of Tolerance and the Holocaust and the UN Outreach Programme
1. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon –Remarks at a lunch hosted by the American Society of International LAW (ASIL)
2. Kofi Annan – Speech: Prevention, promotion and protection: our shared responsibility
I. Madariaga – College of Europe Foundation, Global Action to Prevent War, Global Governance Initiative and ICRtoP host workshop and release e-book on operationalizing RtoP’s third pillar
In preparation for this year’s United Nations (UN) General Assembly dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect, which will focus on the broad range of measures available under the norm’s third pillar, ICRtoP in collaboration with the Madariaga College of Europe Foundation, Global Action to Prevent War, and the Global Governance Institute held a workshop on 26 April at the Vesalius College in Brussels entitled Operationalising the Responsibility to Protect – the Challenges of the Third Pillar Approach. The full day, two panel event culminated from a call for papers launched in January. Workshop coordinators published a policy brief on the subject ahead of the workshop, which includes policy recommendations.
The workshop opened with remarks by Ms. Gillian Kitley, Senior Officer of the UN Joint Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect. Ms. Kitley began by reflecting on the use of RtoP in UN rhetoric by various actors over the course of the past year, including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and in numerous country specific situations including Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, and Syria. Ms. Kitley emphasized that the third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect includes a wide range of humanitarian, economic, and political measures, with the use of military response only as a tool when peaceful means have proven unable to protect populations. Reflecting on the cases of Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, she noted the importance and increased involvement of regional organizations to prevent mass atrocities. In closing, Ms. Kitley quoted the Secretary-General, stating that ‘the world has embraced RtoP not because it’s easy but because it’s right’.
Panelists in the workshop’s morning session focused their presentations on the methods and policy options available to improve timely and decisive response, answering key questions such as what more could be done by regional actors if called upon to protect populations as well as the pressing subject of how to enhance the UN Security Council’s ability to act in situations where there is an imminent threat of mass atrocities and increase the legitimacy and consistency of such responses. Emphasis was placed on the need to increase trust in UN institutions and amongst civil society actors as well as to diversify the voices involved in discourse on RtoP. In discussing the case of Libya, the preventive and reactive responses employed to protect populations were examined, as were the questions and concerns that arose from the implementation of various measures. The role of specific actors was central to the morning session as speakers analyzed China’s capacity to respond to the threat of atrocities as well as the country’s reluctance to certain aspects of the norm, particularly tools within the third pillar; the responsibility of the business community as an actor within the RtoP framework; and the role of regional organizations in responding to the threat of mass atrocities and the questions and challenges that arise with the ‘regionalisation’ of the norm.
Following lunch, the afternoon panel centered on assessing civilian and military tools available under the norm’s third pillar, particularly discussing the effectiveness of conflict prevention capacities of the UN and regional organizations, assessing the role of peacekeeping forces in preventing or halting crimes within the norm’s scope by reflecting on past country cases, and analyzing the use of coercive measures as response mechanisms to mass atrocities. The importance of engendering response was emphasized in this session as it is imperative that women not be viewed as victim populations, but as crucial actors across the norm’s spectrum. In an effort to promote the full continuum of RtoP measures as well as reduce the selectivity of the norm’s application, standards were introduced to identify situations of mass atrocities in early stages of crises. Noting that non-military tools under pillar three have not received a great deal of attention, international justice mechanisms and the use of sanctions were analyzed with emphasis on the importance of responsibly implementing such measures. Discussion also focused on the development of regional response forces, with particular focus on the capacity of the European Union’s ‘battlegroups’ format and the challenges that remain for the regional body in rapidly responding.
The workshop’s concluding remarks were provided by MEP Franziska Brantner of the European Parliament. Ms. Brantner noted that discourse on RtoP has emphasized the prevention of crimes under the norm’s framework and rebuilding following crises and intervention, with little debate on the implementation of non-military measures. Focusing on Brazil’s recent concept of ‘responsibility while protecting’ (RwP), Ms. Brantner stated that RwP should be viewed as a positive contribution to RtoP’s normative development but reflected that the call for criteria for the use of force, the need for clear mandates when authorizing military missions, and the importance of assessing such mandates during and following implementation are points emphasized in the ICISS report and other areas of international law.
A podcast of the workshop will become available in the coming weeks.
Monitors Arrive on the Ground
Following the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) 24 April call for the rapid deployment of military observers, UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon appointed Norwegian Major General Robert Mood on 27 April as head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) established by the unanimously adopted UNSC Resolution 2043 of 21 April. The Syrian National Council welcomed the Resolution, calling on “all Syrians and members of the Free Syrian Army to cooperate with the international observers in order to fulfill Annan's peace plan”; however, in lauding the plan as “guaranteeing the right to…uproot the dictatorship” the SNC indicated its strong belief that Assad should rescind power. Li Baodong, China's Permanent Representative to the UN, stated that China, who cosponsored the Resolution, was "actively committed to promoting the just, peaceful and proper settlement of the Syrian crisis through political dialogue”. Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN, also showed support, and stated that the Resolution was “of fundamental importance to push forward the peace process in Syria”.
According to a 1 May statement made by Hervé Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, commitments from different countries had been received for 150 out of the 300 observers authorized by UNSCR 2043, but the Syrian government has refused at least three visa requests. By 6 May, 50 monitors were confirmed as being on the ground and Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan stated two days later that the full mission of 300 would be operational by the end of May.
Heavy violence continued with deadly blasts in the city of Idlib on 30 April, resulting in the death of at least 20 civilians according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Just days later, on 2 May, Human Rights Watch issued a press release reporting that war crimes had been committed in the city during peace negotiations over the course of March and April 2012. In early May, military operations by both state and opposition forces began to increase in the region of Aleppo. On 2 May, opposition forces ambushed government troops killing 15 soldiers. The following day, Assad forces, accompanied by armed supporters, killed four students in a campus raid and arrested another 200, leading the United States to accuse the Syrian government of “making no effort” to abide by the UN peace plan. Hervé Ladsous stated on 1 May that UN military observers were reporting that both sides of the conflict, committed truce violations, and by 8 May, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated that, in some areas, the violence amounted to civil war. Kofi Annan confirmed this in a press conference the same day, stating “[The six-point plan] is the only remaining chance to stabilize [Syria]…There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descent into full civil war.” Concern was also raised on 8 May by Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN Special Envoy to the Middle East, regarding the smuggling of weapons across the border between Syria and Lebanon in both directions and the possible threat of conflict spilling over into Lebanon. Roed-Larsen said that it was necessary for the Security Council to be prepared to take action.
On 9 May, a roadside bomb struck near a UN monitor envoy. Although the blast did not result in the death or injury of any monitors, about eight Syrian guards were injured. It was unclear who the perpetrators were or what they were targeting. The same day, the Free Syrian Army announced that they planned to “regroup” and “strengthen their hand”. Shortly thereafter, UNSG Ban Ki-moon released a statement declaring that, “Such incidents, in addition to the continued violence reported in many cities in Syria, call into question the commitment of the parties to the cessation of violence and may have a direct impact on the future of the [U.N.] mission.”
In a surge on 10 May, two bombings in the Syrian capital of Damascus resulted in 55 deaths and wounded hundreds more. It was once again not clear who committed the attacks. The UNSC issued a press statement in response “condemn[ing]” the terrorist attacks in the “strongest of terms” and “reaffirm[ing] that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security”. UNSG Ban Ki-moon also condemned the attacks, reiterating the need for all sides to comply with their “obligations to cease armed violence in all its forms, and to protect civilians”. Burhan Ghalioun, the leader of the Syrian National Council accused the Syrian regime on 11 May of “trying to kill this Annan plan, and by a new technique which is terrorism.” The European Union also reacted to the attacks and, on 11 May, announced their plan to impose new sanctions on Syria, including an asset freeze and visa ban on three people and two firms, stating that they would continue to impose measures “as long as repression continues”. The EU is set to discuss provisions on 14 May.
Civil society organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, also remained skeptical as to whether or not the peace plan is succeeding and remained distressed over human rights abuses - including execution, arbitrary detainment and torture - not being properly monitored. On 27 April, Amnesty International expressed concern that human rights defenders in Syria were being arbitrarily detained the tortured.
1. Don’t Let Syria Become Libya
1 May 2012
Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
All the indications are that the US and its regional allies are gearing up for a Libyan déjà vu in Syria. That is a dangerous and potentially catastrophic turn of events for Syria, and for the region at large, resulting in even more blood than the murderous Syrian regime has shed so far.
The recent Al Jazeera report that the Lebanese navy intercepted "a ship loaded with three containers of weapons destined for Syrian opposition forces" is the most recent indication that the incessantly increasing violence has long since assumed regional and transnational proportions. The ruling regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting their proxy wars on the backs of the Syrian people.
To be sure, just like Gaddafi's, the bloody ruling regime in Syria is chiefly responsible for the carnage that has unfolded over the past year - for if they had allowed peaceful demonstrations to result in a peaceful transition to democracy, the US and its regional allies would not have had the opportunity to try to fish from the bloody water that Bashar al-Assad has created, nor would there be any room for the opportunist manipulations such as those proffered by Russia, China or Iran.
A former secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan is a perfectly credible intermediary, perhaps the only one with such a credential at this point, and it seems that his plan is quite comprehensive. It calls for an immediate end to bloodshed, the delivery of humanitarian aid, a process for opposition demands to be peacefully articulated, the release of political detainees, allowing foreign reporters into the country, and permitting peaceful demonstrations.
But the ruling regime in Syria is abusing the Annan plan to murder more Syrians. Weeks after the Syrian acceptance of the Annan plan, Al Jazeera continues to report a massive and bloody crackdown upon the opposition: "Syrian troops," Al Jazeera reported as of April 24, 2012, "have killed dozens of civilians in the city of Hama, activists have said, as UN military observers toured protest centres near the capital Damascus, and both Brussels and Washington imposed new sanctions." (…)
But it is now all but evident that at least the more belligerent factions within the ruling regime in Syria is trying to abuse the Annan plan to try (in vain) to crush the uprising once and for all. The Assad regime is, of course, criminally ignorant - and that is the case not because the Saudis or the US are trying to abuse the situation to their advantage, but because the Syrian uprising, long in process and integral to the rest of Arab revolutions, will not die and will resurface. (…)
But the Syrian regime is not the only party trying to abuse the Annan mission. US officials are itching for it to fail, as the EU foreign ministers too have imposed a new round of sanctions on Syria, without allowing for the Annan plan to have a chance. (…)
All these otherwise logical and perhaps even necessary gestures can systematically accumulate into a pretext for a US-NATO military strike along the lines of the Libyan model. (…)
Remember the Libyan uprising, when African countries wanted to negotiate a deal with Gaddafi, but the NATO bombing did now allow it to develop - sharing responsibility with Gaddafi's own criminal banality trying to abuse that peace plan to stay in power. The task that now Kofi Annan is facing is that which South African President Jacob Zuma was trying to accomplish in Libya, when he conducted incessant shuttle diplomacy on behalf of the African Union to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. (…)
This time in Syria, let Annan be Annan - a peace envoy, a harbinger of non-violent transition in Syria - and not an excuse for the US-led military intervention. It is not just the criminal ruling regime in Syria that is trying to abuse the Annan plan hoping to crush the opposition. The US and its allies too are trying to abuse Annan as an excuse to wage a military strike. But Annan's plan can work. (…)
2. Detained Syrian human rights defenders report torture
27 April 2012
Concern is growing for three human rights defenders being held incommunicado at a military base near Damascus, amid reports they may be facing ongoing torture, Amnesty International said.
Hani Zitani, Abd al-Rahman Hamada and Mansour al-Omari are being held in the town of al-Mo’damiya outside the capital, at a base run by the Fourth Armoured Division, under the de facto command of the Syrian president’s brother Maher al-Assad.
Another three of their colleagues detained with them there from 19 March until 22 April were brought before a military court on Sunday, where they alleged that Fourth Armoured Division officials had tortured, including by beatings, all six men during that time.
The six men – prisoners of conscience accused of “having an illegal recording with a view to distribute banned publications” – were among 14 men and women arrested in February during a security forces raid on the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus. (…)
The latest news about the detained human rights activists in Damascus comes as armed clashes and shelling continue in cities across Syria, despite the presence of UN observers deployed as part of a 12 April agreement brokered by the Arab League-UN envoy, Kofi Annan.
Earlier this week Annan’s spokesperson said that people who interact with the UN observers apparently risk being “harassed or arrested or even worse, perhaps killed” by Syrian security forces.
Amnesty International is particularly concerned by recent reports about violence intensifying in Syrian cities soon after visits by UN observers. The organization has received the names of 362 individuals reported to have been killed since UN observers began work in Syria on 16 April. (…)
Both Countries Vow to End Violence
The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council adopted a seven-point roadmap on 24 April, calling for the countries to halt hostilities immediately, restart negotiations by 8 May, and reach an agreement within three months. On 2 May, the UNSC adopted Resolution 2046, supporting the African Union’s roadmap and stating its intention to take “appropriate measures under Article 41”, which can include sanctions, if Sudan and South Sudan failed to return to peace negotiations within two weeks. Not only would peace negotiations aim to end the violence but also to resolve outstanding issues from the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which include citizenship and statelessness, sharing wealth from resources such as oil, debt-sharing and border demarcations.
South Sudan accepted the AU roadmap on 3 May and stated that it would “fully commit” in accordance with time limits. The following day, just hours after South Sudan alleged that Sudan had bombed the Unity State, located in the disputed border region, Sudan agreed to the AU’s seven-point roadmap and vowed to comply with Resolution 2046 to end hostilities, but reserved the right to defend itself against “aggression”. Sudanese President Bashir followed up, stating on 10 May that, “We will implement what we want and, what we do not want, no one can impose upon us -- neither the U.N. Security Council nor the African Union Peace and Security Council,” and that he would not begin peace negotiations on outstanding issues until security disputes along the border were resolved. As of 11 May it was reported that the governments of Sudan and South Sudan may be taking steps in preparation for further conflict by calling on civilians to donate to and enlist in the states’ militaries, despite that attacks between the countries have subsided.
During a 9 May UN General Assembly meeting, UNSG Ban Ki-moon reiterated the international community’s call for a cessation of violence, stating “I call on both parties to disengage, resume post-independence negotiations and immediately establish the Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mechanism — as required under the May 2nd Security Council resolution. I note that the deadline for compliance is today.”UN High Commission for Human Rights Navi Pillay traveled to South Sudan on 8 May for five days to meet with South Sudanese President Kiir, government officials, UN personnel, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, the Jonglei Peace and Reconciliation Committee and civil society organizations, to discuss concerns regarding the protection of civilians since violence had flared on the border.
South Sudan initiates internal peace efforts
South Sudan initiated an attempt at domestic peace on 4 May when tribal leaders from six ethnic groups in the oil-rich Jonglei state, including the Luo Nuer and Murle, signed a deal at the Jonglei All Community Peace Conference to work towards ending tribal violence in the region. Ethnic violence between the Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups resurged in December 2011 and was the deadliest clash in South Sudan in recent months, resulting in the displacement of 50,000 civilians, the death of 3,000 people. Special Representative of the Secretary-General to South Sudan, Hilde F. Johnson, stated “Today is the opportunity to say ‘No’ to violence”. Despite these remarks, many conference participants remained skeptical of the impact the deal would have on quelling violence in the region as only certain issues were discussed, including cattle raiding, child abduction and indiscriminate killings. The Lou Nuer chiefs, among other conference attendees, accused the Murle of continuing attacks as the peace conference was being held and noted that other motivations for violence, including isolation and poor infrastructure, had not been discussed.
Civil Society reacts to renewed violence
Meanwhile, reports of human rights violations elsewhere in Sudan continue. On 23 April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that civilians in the Blue Nile region were “bearing the brunt of abuses in Sudan’s simmering border conflict,” and stated that possible war crimes had been committed. On 4 May, HRW also reported that civilians in the Nuba Mountains area of South Kordofan who face conditions of severe hunger and have been denied access to humanitarian services remained under indiscriminate attack by the Sudanese government in mid-April, only exacerbating the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded since the independence of South Sudan in July 2011. Other organizations expressed concern over unresolved issues, such as Refugees International which reported on 26 April that “the ongoing conflict between the Sudans affects daily life for everyone here, whether through fuel shortages or price inflation. But beyond the conflict zone itself, few have been more affected than the hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese returning from the north”.
1. The two Sudans must come back to their senses
6 May 2012
Dismas Nkunda is Co-Director of Uganda-based ICRtoP Steering Committee member International Refugee Rights Initiative.
There is a worrying war going on in Uganda’s northern neighbourhood of Sudan-South Sudan.
If the images coming from South Sudan, Africa’s youngest nation, are anything to go by, then there’s cause for fear. For the last few months, the two Sudans have been talking and making war. Khartoum’s President Omar el-Bashir, told a gathering that he would finish off “the insects” of the south.
In legal terms, that is regarded as hate speech with genocidal intentions. But coming from Bashir, who has an arrest warrant hanging above his head for committing similar crimes in Darfur, it isn’t surprising in the least.
These words, coming just days after the 18th commemoration of the Rwanda genocide, remind one of the words used in that country in 1994 when Hutu militias were urged to kill “all the cockroaches” in reference to the Tutsi.
It’s not only President Bashir who has raised the tempo in this war. Ahmed Harun, the governor of South Kordofan, was filmed addressing his troops and telling them to “take no prisoners.”
Like Bashir, Harun is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur. (…)
Meanwhile, war on the ground rages on. Over 400,000 people have already fled South Kordofan and Blue Nile. But the most disturbing aspect of the conflict is the aerial bombardments that have forced many to live in caves like animals. (…)
Last Wednesday, in resolution 2046, UN Security Council called upon Sudan and South Sudan to stop fighting and resolve their outstanding issues, or face possible sanctions. This war is not about the two Sudans alone. This is a war that has the potential of engulfing all the other countries in the region.
2. Letter imploring US and China to help solve conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan
International Refugee Rights Initiative, in collaboration with 150 African and Arab civil society organizations
4 May 2012
China and the United States are in a unique position to encourage Sudan and South Sudan to resolve their internal and cross-border conflicts through peaceful negotiation, said a coalition of leading Arab and African civil society organisations in letters sent to the US Secretary of State and Chinese Foreign Minister ahead of the US-China strategic dialogue in Beijing, May 3-4.
The signatory organisations, which include the Institute for Security Studies and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, warn that recent escalation of cross-border violence between Sudan and South Sudan poses a very grave threat to international peace and security. (…)
The letters call on the US and China to show leadership and use their influence with the two parties, and their status as permanent members of the UN Security Council, to encourage Sudan and South Sudan to return to the negotiating table and resolve outstanding post-secession issues.
The organisations warn that the impending rainy season means that time is running out to help hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by fighting, many of whom are already facing serious food shortages. They stress the need for Sudan to uphold its commitment to addressing the underlying causes of conflicts in South Kordorfan and Blue Nile states, which can have ‘no military solution’. (…)
The specific issues the organisations say need to be resolved are:
• Implementation of the requirements of the African Union and UN Security Council
• Cessation of attacks on civilians, a cessation of hostilities and unimpeded humanitarian access across Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States, Sudan
• Expeditious finalisation of transitional financial arrangements, including oil transit fees
• Prompt resolution of the future status of Abyei and demarcation of the border
• End international arms transfers to Sudan and South Sudan
• Respect for human rights and the rule of law
3. Sudan: Crisis Conditions in Southern Kordofan
Human Rights Watch
4 May 2012
The Sudanese government forces are conducting indiscriminate bombings and abuses against civilians in the Nuba Mountains area of Southern Kordofan, Human Rights Watch said today. Such attacks may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and are creating a humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the government’s denial of access to humanitarian agencies outside government-controlled towns, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch researchers went to the region in mid-April 2012 and interviewed victims and witnesses in three areas. They consistently described almost-daily aerial bombardment by government forces, the destruction of grain and water sources that are critical to their survival, arbitrary detentions, and sexual violence against women. (…)
Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) are locked in an armed conflict in Southern Kordofan state and neighboring Blue Nile state, both of which lie north of the border with South Sudan, which gained independence in July 2011. Communities in both states were aligned with the southern rebels during Sudan’s 22-year civil war.
The Sudanese government forces’ actions are serious violations of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch said. The government should immediately halt indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, rein in abusive forces, and release civilians captured and now arbitrarily detained by its forces.
On May 2, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning recent cross-border violence between Sudan and South Sudan, but failed to condemn Sudan’s indiscriminate bombing inside its own territory in areas such as Southern Kordofan. The UN Security Council and the African Union should unequivocally condemn these attacks, insist that Khartoum free all civilians unlawfully detained and facilitate access for aid agencies, Human Rights Watch said.
The civilian deaths and injuries from aerial bombing investigated by Human Rights Watch occurred mostly in civilian areas, where witnesses indicated that there was no apparent military target or presence of rebel fighters at the time the attacks occurred.
In recent weeks, fighting between Sudanese and South Sudanese forces in the oil-producing area of Heglig has overshadowed the ongoing crisis in Southern Kordofan, where conflict between the Sudanese government and remnants of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army first erupted in June 2011, and in Blue Nile, where the conflict spread in September 2011. (…)
More than 350,000 people are estimated to be internally displaced within Southern Kordofan, according to Sudanese civil society and humanitarian groups. At least 25,000 have fled to refugee settlements in South Sudan. (…)
The Sudan government has permitted UN staff to go to Kadugli, in Southern Kordofan, and Damazin and Roseiris in Blue Nile, but has blocked humanitarian aid to the most severely affected areas and rebel-held areas in both states since the conflict began.
The laws of war require all parties to the conflict, including the Sudanese authorities, to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian assistance for civilians in need. Although the Sudanese authorities have a right to control the delivery of aid, they may not arbitrarily deny access to humanitarian agencies and must allow access to humanitarian organizations that provide relief on an impartial and non-discriminatory basis if the survival of the population is threatened.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on the United Nations and African Union to demand an end to indiscriminate bombing in civilian areas and humanitarian access to populations in need in both Southern Kordofan and neighboring Blue Nile State, and to authorize an independent investigation into serious crimes against civilians in both states. (…)
Read the full press release or read the 23 April report, “Sudan: Blue Nile Civilians Describe Attacks, Abuses”.
1. Mali: War Crimes by Northern Rebels
Human Rights Watch
30 April 2012
Separatist Tuareg rebels, Islamist armed groups, and Arab militias who seized control of northern Mali in April 2012 have committed numerous war crimes, including rape, use of child soldiers, and pillaging of hospitals, schools, aid agencies, and government buildings, Human Rights Watch said today. An Islamist armed group has summarily executed two men, amputated the hand of at least one other, carried out public floggings, and threatened women and Christians.
Human Rights Watch also received credible information that Malian army soldiers have arbitrarily detained and, in some instances, summarily executed ethnic Tuareg members of the security services and civilians. (…)
Human Rights Watch conducted a 10-day mission to the Malian capital, Bamako, in April and documented abuses by several armed groups that operate in northern Mali. The separatist Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) seeks autonomy for the North, which it calls Azawad. The Tuareg are a traditionally nomadic Berber people. Ansar Dine is an Islamist armed group that wants to impose a strict interpretation of Sharia – Islamic law – throughout Mali. A local ethnic Arab militia, based in and around the historic city of Timbuktu, was allied with the Malian government, but on the day Timbuktu fell, it switched sides and has since fractured into at least two groups with unclear military and political objectives. (…)
(…) The rebels’ swift advance occurred as they took advantage of the political and security chaos created when junior Malian military officers staged a coup on March 22 in response to what they viewed as the government’s inadequate response to the MNLA rebellion. Many Tuareg fighters in both the MNLA and Ansar Dine had previously supported the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi and reentered Mali with weapons from Libya after he was ousted.
The recent fighting and insecurity, scarcity of food and medicine, and lack of functioning banks, schools, and services have caused tens of thousands of Malians to flee to the government-controlled South and neighboring countries. Witnesses described buses and trucks overflowing with fleeing civilians, who often faced extortion at MNLA checkpoints as they fled.
The United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that since January 2012, at least 284,000 residents had fled their homes as a result of the armed conflict in the North, of whom about 107,000 are believed to be internally displaced and some 177,000 have fled to neighboring countries, notably Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria, and Mauritania. (…)
Human Rights Watch calls on the military and political leaders of each armed group in northern Mali to:
• Adopt all necessary measures to abide by international humanitarian law.
• Immediately issue orders prohibiting mistreatment of persons in custody, rape, pillage, and other violations of international humanitarian law.
• Immediately issue orders prohibiting attacks on civilians and civilian structures, including medical facilities, schools, and places of worship.
• Cease the recruitment and use of children under 18 in hostilities, release all children from their forces, and work with child protection agencies to return these children to their homes.
• Secure and protect the basic human rights of civilians in areas under their control, including those who fled their homes and have returned.
• Investigate and appropriately discipline commanders and fighters who are found to have carried out violations of international humanitarian law, including abductions, rape, child soldier recruitment, pillage, and other abuses. Suspend those against whom there are credible allegations of abuse, pending investigations.
• Cease cruel and inhuman punishments prohibited under international law, such as the executions, floggings, and amputations carried out by Ansar Dine.
• Facilitate impartial and unhindered access to organizations providing humanitarian assistance.
• Implement all feasible measures to warn persons in areas under their control of the threat of unexploded ordnance and seek to exclude civilians from dangerous areas, including by marking and monitoring affected areas, educating people about never handling unexploded ordnance, and sharing information with all warring parties on the types, quantities, and locations of weapons used to facilitate clearance.
Human Rights Watch also calls on the government of Mali to invite the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and investigate human rights abuses in the North. (…)
2. Taylor Verdict a Warning to War Crimes Perpetrators
International Crisis Group
26 April 2012
The landmark guilty verdict today against former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor is a warning to those most responsible for atrocity crimes that they can be held accountable.
A decade after the war in Sierra Leone, the Special Court’s ruling marks the first time that a former head of state has been found guilty of war-time atrocities by an internationally-backed court since the Nuremberg trials. The verdict is a fresh lesson to all those in power that they do not enjoy impunity and a sign of hope in Sierra Leone that those most responsible for the heinous crimes of the eleven-year civil war (1991-2002) are being brought to book. Nevertheless, Liberians are still waiting for Taylor and others to be tried for atrocities committed in the civil war in their country. (…)
(…) The verdict has been a long time coming. Taylor was indicted in March 2003 on multiple counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law. He was accused of helping to plan, order and encourage acts including murder, terrorising civilians, mutilation, rape, sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers. The charges stemmed from his support for Sierra Leone rebel groups as commander of the National Patriotic Front for Liberia from 1989 and after becoming president in 1997.
Under the peace agreement that ended Liberia’s civil war in 2003, Taylor resigned as president. He was granted exile in Nigeria but extradited in March 2006 to Freetown, at the request of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and after he violated the terms of his exile by meddling in Liberian politics. Owing to regional security concerns, his trial before the SCSL – a court set up jointly by the government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations – was held in The Hague.
This verdict ends the work of the court, which also convicted eight other individuals. Its mandate was to prosecute only those most responsible for the crimes within its jurisdiction. That brief was heavily criticised because it meant that many lesser perpetrators would go free, particularly given the weaknesses in Sierra Leone’s justice system. While the judgment sends a strong message that heads of state can be prosecuted, many Liberians may feel short-changed. Despite the long and costly work of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which recommended prosecutions for the main perpetrators of atrocities during the Liberian civil war, impunity still prevails and remains an obstacle to national reconciliation. (…)
1. Barack Obama – Atrocity Preventer
9 May 2012
Dr. Simon Adams is the Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.
On April 23 (…) Obama declared that "preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility" of the United States. (…)
Obama announced the establishment of an inter-agency Atrocities Prevention Board. This represents the first comprehensive attempt by a government to develop ongoing capacity to respond to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Obama made the obvious point that these most "conscience shocking crimes" did not disappear with the liberation of Auschwitz.
Strangely, however, in a speech dedicated to confronting modern crimes against humanity, Obama only mentioned the United Nations once, in reference to peacekeepers in Ivory Coast. (…)
Obama's coyness may stem from embarrassment over the U.N.'s obvious shortcomings. (…) There are still many Americans today who believe that the U.S. would be a better place if the government would just reclaim 3 U.N. Plaza and restore it as a district of slaughterhouses. Less overblown diplomacy, more commercial butchery.
For American conservatives in particular the U.N. is a soft election year target. Ron Paul has called for the U.S. to withdraw from the U.N., echoing the sentiments of the bumper sticker to "Get the U.S. out of the U.N. and the U.N. out of the U.S.!" Rick Santorum wants to cut funding to the U.N. in half. Mitt Romney has called for a halt to the "slow motion genocide" in Darfur, but has also been playing political footsie with President Bush's former Ambassador, John Bolton, whose obstructionism at the U.N. was the stuff of undiplomatic legend. As for Newt Gingrich, he has only spoken about genocide when he accused Romney of taking kosher meals away from Holocaust survivors in retirement homes. He did, however, offer Bolton the job of Secretary of State in a Newt-led White House before he dropped out of the race.
By contrast, Obama's support for the U.N. includes being the first U.S. president to chair a meeting of the Security Council. His not mentioning the U.N. at the Holocaust Museum was especially curious as atrocity prevention is an area where the U.N. has some genuine achievements. While the U.N.-authorized intervention in Libya was the most dramatic example of an international response to atrocity crimes while they were in progress, there have also been significant improvements in holding perpetrators of past crimes accountable. (…)
Although Syria haunted Obama's announcement, the U.N.'s inadequacy in confronting the crimes of Damascus also needs to be put in context. For over a year the Syrian government has carried out mass murder while the U.N. Security Council has been unable to pass even a tepid resolution calling for sanctions. This failure has been a direct result of the anachronistic structure of the Security Council where five permanent members (called the P5) have vetoes. The United States has been a fierce critic of Russia's use of its veto in defence of the homicidal Assad regime. But all of the P5 have used and abused this partisan prerogative in the past, including the United States.
Despite this, an overwhelming majority of the world wants action. (…) It is also reflected in burgeoning support for a proposal from a group of states calling themselves the S5, or "Small 5", for the big P5 on the Security Council to refrain from using their veto in cases that involve mass atrocities. Idealism perhaps, but global moral pressure occasionally works wonders.
Beyond Syria, Obama's Atrocities Prevention Board needs to transcend rhetoric and U.N. vetoes in favour of meaningful multilateral engagement. Ghana, Australia, Costa Rica and Denmark are organizing "Focal Points" to uphold their global Responsibility to Protect (R2P). The intention is for these senior officials to act as mobilizers within their respective governments. More than a dozen countries, including the U.S., have already appointed a Focal Point and are actively building an international atrocity prevention network.
At the launch President Obama declared that, "remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture." But for future action to occur in Syria or elsewhere, both political will and institutional capacity are essential. The Atrocities Prevention Board will need to work closely with partners at the U.N. The age of mass atrocity crimes might not be over, but the era of unilateralism certainly is.
2. The Responsibility to Prevent – Developing Ad hoc and Systemic Strategies
Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict
The idea of a ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) has been the international community’s primary response to the problem of humanitarian intervention to prevent gross violations of human rights. We will contribute to strengthening this norm by developing our understanding of the prevention mechanisms within R2P.
ELAC was awarded funding for a two year project in 2010-11 entitled 'The Responsibility to Prevent – Developing Ad hoc and Systemic Strategies' from the Australian Responsibility to Protect Fund.
Led by Professor Jennifer Welsh and Dr Serena Sharma, this project aimed to advance the implementation of the principle of R2P by elaborating on how one of its key elements – prevention – can be operationalized in international society. Whilst conflict prevention has been an area of much discussion among policy makers, academics, and civil society, much less analysis has been carried out in relation to the specific crimes covered by R2P. More specifically, the project had four main aims:
• To develop an overall framework for understanding the prevention of mass atrocities, organized broadly around the categories of ‘ad hoc’ and ‘systemic’ approaches;
• To analyze and synthesize the 'best practice' on prevention from other contexts, and build this evidence base into the strategic framework;
• To demonstrate how prevention works in relation to the other components of R2P; and
• To highlight possible barriers to the successful implementation of prevention, and how they might be overcome.
As part of the project, ELAC co-hosted a series of policy dialogues throughout 2011 with influential policy makers, academics and NGOs, partnering with key organisations in the US, UK, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. The final conference was held in Oxford in December 2011, with the keynote address being given by Edward Luck, UN Special Advisor for RtoP.
ELAC have produced a short policy briefing which is being sent to policy-makers and those involved in the project dialogues and research. (…)
An edited volume of research papers is planned for 2013 and ELAC hopes to continue research on this important theme in the future.
3. Film Screening and Panel Discussion: “Cambodia: A Quest for Justice”
Museum of Tolerance and The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme
30 May 2012, 6:00 – 8:00pm
Museum of Tolerance, 226 E. 42 St. New York, NY USA
From Nazi Germany to Rwanda to the former Yugoslavia, the world has attempted to bring some measure of justice to the victims of mass atrocities. In Cambodia, a reign of terror obliterated one-quarter of the population more than three decades ago. The Emmy-nominated United Nations documentary “Cambodia: A Quest for Justice” tells the unforgettable story of the first case ever heard at the United Nations-backed international tribunal.
In July 2010, the tribunal found Kaing Guek Eav, better known as “Duch”, guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes for overseeing the torture and killings of thousands of prisoners at an infamous prison known as Tuol Sleng or S-21. “Cambodia: A Quest for Justice” explores the trial through the compelling and emotional stories of two men: one a victim of imprisonment and brutal torture, and the other a prison warden who committed the torture.
Since the film aired, the tribunal heard the appeal of “Duch” and in February 2012 they increased his punishment, imposing a life sentence for his crimes. The exceptional efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice in Cambodia will be the subject of an event organized by the United Nations Holocaust Programme and held at the Museum of Tolerance, New York from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on 30 May 2012. The documentary film “Cambodia: A Quest for Justice”, produced by the United Nations News and Media Division, will be screened and panellists will discuss what the trial means for Cambodia and the prevention of future genocides. (…)
The event will include a film screening and panel discussion. Speakers on the panel will include Andi Gitow and Susan Farkas, co-producers of the film; Patricia O’Brien, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs; Professor Alex Hinton, Executive Director for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights at Rutgers University; and Socheata Poeuv, founder and CEO of Khmer Legacies, which is creating an archive of survivor testimonies; and will be moderated by Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Relations, Simon Wiesenthal Center.
1. Remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a lunch hosted by the American Society of International LAW (ASIL)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Office of the UN Secretary-General
7 May 2012
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave the following remarks at a luncheon hosted by the American Society of International Law (ASIL) in Washington, D.C.
(…) I am very concerned about a number of situations where the rule of law is fragile or failing. In my position as Secretary-General, I am constantly on the phone with leaders trying to calm tensions. Day and night I receive reports from my peacekeeping operations about disturbing signs of violence. And I have to anticipate how shifts in power today will affect alliances and hotspots tomorrow.
I am concerned about fighting on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. I am worried about Mali, where fighting could reverberate across the region. And I am especially disturbed by the blood that continues to spill in Syria. (…)
In Syria and elsewhere, the United Nations is addressing challenges the same way a good lawyer would approach a case: carefully, systematically, and using all of our best tools.
Our newest tool is the Responsibility to Protect.
If someone hears their neighbour beating a child, they have a responsibility to intervene. It would be immoral and unacceptable to simply stand by knowing that child was being abused.
R2P gives expression to a growing, global conviction that it is immoral and unacceptable for States to commit or allow serious international crimes against their people. It holds the international community responsible for preventing and addressing these crimes.
Last year, R2P went through the reality test — and passed. The results were not perfect, but tens of thousands of lives were saved in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, in Yemen and Libya. We took action in support of the solemn promise that was made over the graves of Srebrenica and Rwanda. We pledged to do more when faced with acts or threats of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes or crimes against humanity.
Protecting civilians from these atrocity crimes is a defining purpose of the United Nations in the twenty-first century.
I visited a site of mass killings in Libya. I was deeply shaken. You could smell the corpses – somebody’s father, somebody’s friend, killed for a dictator. It was a chilling reminder of what more could have happened if we did not live up to our Responsibility to Protect..(…)
Read the full statement.
2. Prevention, promotion and protection: our shared responsibility
Kofi Annan Foundation
24 April 2012
Former UN Secretary-General and current UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy in Syria gave the following speech at Lund University in Sweden.
(…) On this point, much of the discussion in recent years has centred on the Responsibility to Protect, or R2P. Building on our evolved understanding of sovereignty, R2P asserts that when states cannot or will not protect their populations from the worst crimes, other states, acting through the UN, should do so. The endorsement of this principle by UN Member States in 2005 was a momentous step. It made clear that hand-wringing and appeals to conscience by the international community are not enough. We must be ready to use all diplomatic, humanitarian and other means -- including targeted sanctions against the leaders responsible -- to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It also means that, as a last resort, the international community will be prepared to take collective action, including military force, through the Security Council to protect populations from these crimes. We must be clear, however. Military action really must be the last resort. It may be necessary in some situations but the decision must never be taken lightly. War, even when waged lawfully and in defence of threatened populations, is destructive and inherently unpredictable. Once engaged, the resort to force has its own logic. Hostilities may escalate quickly beyond a limited objective or outside intended boundaries. War waged against “terror” or to protect civilians may, unintentionally, have disastrous consequences. We also have to be realistic. Only on rare occasions will there be an international consensus in its favour or an international coalition willing to act.
Where a crisis occurs in an area of little strategic importance, where political will is lacking, or when the utility of a forceful response is in doubt, R2P may not offer much protection to those at risk – as we’ve seen in Darfur.
The reality is that military intervention to prevent mass atrocities will never be an easy option, and even where it is feasible it may be inadvisable. We must, therefore, devote our energies to strengthening and using those measures short of the use of force. These must include more effective and enforced use of targeted financial, travel, and economic sanctions on the leadership. We need to see greater use of anti-impunity measures such as international commissions of inquiry and threatened criminal prosecutions, including by referral to the International Criminal Court, as well as assistance to local human rights defenders, arms embargoes and other measures. Indeed, I believe such measures ought to be more systematically engaged as tools in the preventive diplomacy I spoke of earlier. Crimes against humanity may occur even before a conflict erupts. When they do, tough measures like threatened prosecutions must be invoked wherever possible. Their deterrent effect should not be under-estimated. (…)
Read the full speech.
Thank you to Amelia Wolf for compiling this listserv.