23 September 2013
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1. Michael Ignatieff, New York Times: The Duty to Protect: Still Urgent
2. Prevention and Protection Working Group: Letter to President Obama on Syria
3. Tim Dunne, Alex Bellamy: Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: R2P Ideas in Brief: Syria
4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies: “No to Tyranny… No to War”: 20 Arab Organizations Decry America’s Strike and Assad’s Crimes in Syria
5. Mike Abramowitz, Washington Post: Does the United States have a ‘responsibility to protect’ the Syrian people?
1. FIDH: Omar Al Bashir at the UN General Assembly: U.S. must arrest him if he sets foot on U.S. territory
2. International Crisis Group: Justice on Trial in Guatemala: The Rios Montt Case
3. Human Rights Watch:Central African Republic: Horrific Abuses by New Rulers
4. Steven Kierson, The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention: A Formula for Ethnic Cleansing in Burma
5. The Sudan Consortium, Human Rights Update: Southern Kordofan State, Sudan
1. Corrie Hulse, The Mantle: Samantha Power—Leading on Atrocity Prevention?
2. Genocide Alert: The Responsibility to Protect and Germany’s 2013 Election
3. East African Legislative Assembly Passes a Resolution on Halting Genocide Ideology and Denial in the Region
I. Commentary on threat of force in Syria; many calling for prioritizing protection from atrocities
1. The Duty to Protect, Still Urgent
New York Times
13 September 2013
In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, on which I served, developed the idea that all states, but especially democracies, have a "responsibility to protect" civilians when they are threatened with mass killing. For those of us who have worked hard to promote this concept, it’s obvious that our idea is facing a crisis of democratic legitimacy.
Let’s be clear what the problem is: it’s not just compassion fatigue, isolationism or disengagement from the world. It’s more than war weariness or sorrow at the human and financial cost of intervention. It goes beyond disillusion at the failures to build stability in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya.
The core problem is public anger at the manipulation of consent: disillusion with the way in which leaders and policy elites have used moral and humanitarian arguments to extract popular support for the use of force in Iraq and Libya, and then conducted those interventions in ways that betrayed their lack of true commitment to those principles. To quote the Who, the people are saying they “won’t get fooled again.”
Rebuilding popular democratic support for the idea of our duty to protect civilians, when no one else can or will, is a critical challenge in the years ahead.
The first step is to re-emphasize that protecting civilians is about preventing harm, not primarily using force. The public knows an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It has no major problem with conflict resolution, foreign assistance, law and order training, or any of the other elements of prevention.
The real challenge comes when prevention fails, when force becomes the last resort. Here the public’s problem is mission creep, the way protection of civilians morphs into regime change. Many people who were prepared to stop Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s slaughtering of civilians in Benghazi grew increasingly uneasy when that mandate was used to bomb Tripoli. We need to make sure that the military puts civilian protection first and last as its sole legitimate purpose.
The third challenge, most difficult of all, is how to protect civilians when the Security Council blocks the use of force. For all the talk about American exceptionalism, the American people don’t like using force if the United Nations is against it, and they are uneasy if allies won’t stand with them.
The reality, however, is that if the United States wants to stop atrocity crimes, it may have to go it alone. With Syria, the United States’ threat of force has played a role in the diplomatic breakthrough involving Russia that just might protect civilians against further use of chemical weapons. If there are rare cases like this where the threat of force may be "illegal but legitimate" (as an international commission on Kosovo called the NATO bombing), the American people want to know how to keep the use of force from getting out of control.
This is why President Obama’s decision — and Prime Minister David Cameron’s, too — to seek democratic authorization for the use of force was the right way to go, even though it hasn’t turned out the way they wanted.
As they’ve both discovered, when you go to your legislature for authorization, there is a price to pay. When democracy becomes the venue for testing the legitimacy of force, the bar of justification is set high. Democratic legitimacy is not a substitute for international legality, but it performs one of the crucial functions of law, which is to subject the use of force to strict control.
Democratic consent, of course, can be manipulated, as it was over Iraq in 2003. But when it is, democratic peoples have learned from the experience and have raised the bar higher.
Their reluctance to use force is not a passing phenomenon. Immanuel Kant was right that when the people bear the cost of war and get a chance to tell their leaders what they think, they are reluctant to authorize it.
Still, it is critical that they be willing, in the right circumstances, to do so. In the future, the Security Council may be deadlocked about intervening, and presidents and prime ministers will have to turn instead to their people for permission to save civilians. If the case for action is made honestly, if no one’s consent is manipulated, let’s hope the people say yes. We can’t fight genocide, ethnic cleansing and chemical weapons attacks unless they do.
Read the article online.
In response to this article, see L. Michael Hager’s letter to the editor.
2. Letter to President Obama on Syria
Prevention and Protection Working Group
13 September 2013
Dear President Obama,
We, the undersigned organizations, write in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria, the recent horrendous chemical weapons attack, and the stated U.S. response. We urge that all policy decisions regarding events in Syria moving forward be made through an atrocities prevention lens that prioritizes the protection of civilians, avoids actions that are likely to lead to further bloodshed, and focuses on building long-term peace and stability.
More than 100,000 have been killed and a third of Syria’s population displaced in Syria’s civil strife. While we share your unequivocal condemnation of any use of chemical weapons, we also condemn the continued indiscriminate killing of civilians with conventional weapons that has characterized this conflict from the beginning. We caution against prioritizing a response to chemical weapons use over ensuring the safety of millions of citizens who will continue to be affected by this protracted conflict. The overarching U.S. strategy in Syria should be to prevent further abhorrent violence against civilians, end the broader conflict, and ensure the survival of civil institutions necessary for a stable Syrian society.
Consideration of any action undertaken by the U.S. and the international community must include:
• Atrocity prevention specialists from the Atrocities Prevention Board and other civilian agencies engaged at the highest level of decision-making, in consultation with civil society.
• Clear analysis of the potential impact of any form of intervention on civilians, including IDPs, refugees, host communities, and humanitarian actors.
• Comprehensive planning for civilian protection.
• Accelerated diplomacy with Russia, Iran, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, Lebanon, U.K., E.U., France, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to halt support for the Syrian government and armed extremist groups, and to negotiate a political solution.
• Analyzing risks to individuals and groups who may be vulnerable to revenge attacks or discrimination based on their perceived ethnic, political or economic affiliation with the Syrian government or opposition groups, and supporting efforts to protect them, and launching robust reconciliation programs within refugee camps to mitigate tension between ethnic and political groups.
• Analyses of which actors in Syria have access to or would be likely to produce or use chemical weapons, and how U.S. policy would impact further use of such weapons on other civilians.
• Support for continued U.N. investigations of alleged chemical weapons attacks and other human rights abuses.
To find the full list of organizations who co-signed the letter, click here.
3. R2P Ideas in Brief: Syria
Asia-Pacific Centre on Responsibility to Protect
Tim Dunne and Alex Bellamy
This briefing is designed to shed light on the complex interplay between the situation on the ground in Syria and the normative context that has informed – and continues to inform –the responses of key institutions and actors. There is much that can be learned from the handling of the crisis triggered by the chemical weapons (CW) attacks on Ghoula on 21 August.
Between 21 August and the potentially game-changing remarks by US Secretary of State
Kerry on 10 September suggesting that President Assad could avoid military strikes if he ‘turned over’ all his chemical weapons capability, R2P was invoked to justify the use of force. At the same time, many R2P informed voices opposed this course of action. The fact of the diversity of views on what to do about Syria is not in itself a surprise. But for the epistemic community associated with R2P, there is a need for clarity as to the ways in which the range of possible responses to the CW attack are consistent with, or in breach of, the responsibility to protect. Whether ‘we’ like it or not, ‘any principle that helps to legitimise a course of action will therefore be among the enabling conditions of its occurrence’.
One of the key fault-lines in the post-21 August debate was the necessity of UN Security
Council (UNSC) authorisation, particularly given that Russia had an openly stated preference for keeping the Assad regime in power. This of course is an old fault-line for the human protection regime going back to Kosovo – there was much talk in Washington about the ‘Kosovo precedent’.
Yet the orthodox R2P position is that the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (WSOD) explicitly places the use of force for human protection within the framework of the UN Charter, and therefore limits authorisation solely to the UNSC.
The ‘authorisation’ question is not the only fault-line in recent R2P debates about Syria. There is also a dispute about what actions are permitted in response to a CW attack thatboth breaches an international convention outlawing its use and is shockingly indiscriminate in its effects. As Gareth Evans put it, ‘proven use of chemical weapons would be profoundly in breach of Syria’s “responsibility to protect”.
As the post-21st August phase unfolded, the Obama Administration increasingly chose to frame their proposed military action in relation to the ban on CW, rather than the persistent crimes against humanity that had been perpetrated by conventional weapons for many years. In this respect, to the extent that R2P was informing the President’s framing of the issue, it was now about ‘war crimes’ rather than crimes against humanity.
Prior to discussing R2P in the post-21 August phase, the briefing will re-evaluate the extent to which the framework outlined in 2005 had significant material impact upon the meaning actors gave to the ‘facts on the ground’. We show that however much the main protagonists disagreed about what was to be done in relation to Syria, the fact of mass atrocities having been committed had not been challenged during the crisis - and neither was the claim that the Syrian regime had failed to live up to its responsibility to protect.
Read the full briefing.
4. “No to Tyranny… No to War” 20 Arab Organizations Decry America’s Strike and Assad’s Crimes in Syria
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
12 September 2013
We, as Arab rights organizations, express our full solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people for freedom and human rights, including the right to self-determination through free and fair democratic processes. The Syrian people have undergone deep suffering in pursuit of their rights and freedoms, and we recognize the profound sacrifices that they have made.
In this context, the undersigned Arab organizations state their severe concern over all military plans currently being discussed to launch a military strike against Syria in violation of the Charter of the United Nations. We warn that any such acts of aggression will only serve to exacerbate the armed conflict while doing nothing to resolve the humanitarian crises which have resulted from the crimes committed by the Assad regime against the people of Syria. (…)
Any resolution to the Syrian crisis must be based on an immediate cessation of all military and paramilitary operations both by forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime and by the armed opposition. A peaceful transition of power agreed to by all parties must be begun immediately under the auspices of the United Nations. The situation in Syria must simultaneously be referred to the International Criminal Court to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all parties to the Syrian conflict over the past three years, including criminal investigations into allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the government in Syria.
The repercussions of conducting acts of aggression against Syria – even if carried out on the most limited of scales as proposed by American President Barack Obama – will be catastrophic, as such acts will perpetuate the suffering of the region from political decisions made on the regional and international levels to prioritize military solutions over any political or legal solutions. (…)
The undersigned organizations affirm that any unilateral military intervention without the approval of the United Nations constitutes a crime of aggression punishable under international criminal law. We further assert that all states which are considering taking military action against Syria must realize that war crimes and crimes against humanity cannot be prevented or ended through the commission of additional international crimes.
The undersigned Arab organizations affirm their full solidarity with and respect for the will of the Syrian people, who have endured a brutal war against the Syrian regime. At the same time, we insist that the aspirations of the Syrian people to establish justice, equality, and freedom will not be achieved through direct military strikes. We further express our severe concern at the disregard of basic considerations of international humanitarian law displayed by some armed groups opposed to the al-Assad regime and their lack of respect for the very principles and values which they charge the Assad regime of violating – all of which bodes poorly for the future of post-Assad Syria.
(…) Yet in our view, the only “red line” is the lives of civilians, regardless of the type of weapons used to kill them or who is responsible for their deaths. The international community has failed to uphold this principle over the past three years, and no military strike such as the one announced by the United States will be able to ensure that it is upheld now.
Therefore, the undersigned Arab organizations stress the necessity of the following steps:
1.The League of Arab States should immediately adopt a ceasefire initiative, and its implementation should be strictly overseen by the United Nations Security Council.
2.All foreign militants must immediately leave Syrian territory and surrender their weapons to a UN-mandated disarmament commission.
3.The Security Council must refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court to investigate all crimes committed by all parties to the conflict since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, as recommended by the League of Arab States in Resolution no. 7651.
4.All political prisoners held in detention centers and prisons in Syria must be immediately released, and this process should be overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
5.The Security Council must adopt a resolution under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter imposing a ban on the sale, export, or provision of any form of weaponry or military supplies to any of the parties to the Syrian conflict.
6.The Security Council must see to it that the talks at the second Geneva Conferencearrive at a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
For a full list of the organizations who co-signed this document, as well as to read the full statement, click here. Also available in Arabic.
5.Does the United States have a ‘responsibility to protect’ the Syrian people?
9 September 2013
The “responsibility to protect” — known in international-relations circles as R2P — is a straightforward, if often misunderstood, notion: Nations must protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and must take action to help other nations whose governments can’t or won’t protect their peoples.
It’s hard to see how R2P would not apply in the case of Syria, where more than 100,000 people have been killed, 5 million displaced from their homes, 2 million refugees sent fleeing and numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity committed, including with chemical weapons, according to independent human rights monitors and the United Nations. A recent study for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum concluded that genocidal violence against Christian, Sunni, Alawite and other groups is possible if the conflict escalates.
Yet there is one person who has studiously avoided invoking R2P: President Obama. When making the case for airstrikes, he has stressed the need to enforce the worldwide ban on the use and production of chemical weapons. (…)
Yet the chemical weapons ban is not the only international norm at stake in the Syrian civil war. Although the U.S. government has endorsed R2P — most recently in the president’s 2010 National Securtiy Strategy — U.S. officials appear unenthusiastic about invoking it as a rationale for combating mass murder and atrocities. While the Syrian conflict has grown in scale and intensity, Obama and his aides have not used “responsibility to protect” to rally the international community to help civilians.
Of course, R2P is not the only tool the administration has to address genocide and other mass atrocities. Officials say their policy is to work aggressively to stop such crimes, though not necessarily through the prism of R2P. (…)
The Obama administration’s apparent distancing from R2P speaks to the tremendous challenge of mobilizing Americans — whether politicians or the public — to support action on humanitarian grounds. Saving lives is a hard sell these days.
Adopted by U.N. member states (including Syria) at the 2005 World Summit in New York, R2P places the onus for protecting civilians on governments themselves; only if they fail to protect their own civilians — or even worse, if they attack them — should the international community step in. Even then, military action is supposed to be a last resort, and only after approval by the U.N. Security Council.
There have been reasonable criticisms of R2P. It does little to address the roadblocks in the Security Council that have often impeded effective action against countries perpetrating atrocities. Nations in the developing world complain that it is a cover for regime change by Western countries, such as in Libya.
But R2P has been a useful frame for focusing diplomacy and peace-building efforts in a number of countries at risk of horrific violence against civilians. In Kenya, for example, the United Nations and some governments used R2P as a rallying cry for their work, along with Kenyans themselves, to prevent the violence that some expected after this year’s presidential elections. Similarly, in 2011, as South Sudan prepared for its historic referendum and ultimate separation from Khartoum after a devastating 23-year civil war, R2P’s preventive powers were brought into high relief. An international coalition — including such unlikely allies as Russia, China, Norway, the Arab League, the African Union and the United States — “flooded the zone” with preventive diplomacy, expanded peacekeeping mandates and used high-level political involvement to ensure that the separation did not ignite new bouts of violence.
However unpopular or unknown R2P might be in the United States, it has emerged as a preferred vehicle in other parts of the world for mobilizing support for action against potential mass atrocities. Even China and Russia have endorsed the concept, and in the case of Libya, they allowed an intervention justified in the name of R2P to go forward. It is usually in the hardest, most extreme cases, such as Syria — where it is too late for prevention and diplomatic efforts have not deterred the regime from slaughtering its citizens — that R2P has failed to erase the polarizing debates over military intervention.
(…) Another possible drawback to R2P is the erroneous perception that it requires a military deployment or other steps that Americans may not believe are in the national interest. R2P contemplates a range of preventive moves intended to forestall the need for military force. If properly working, it should be a stimulus for international action, not a straightjacket.
Ironically, the U.S. government has initiatives that could improve its capacity to implement R2P. The intelligence community recently completed its first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on mass atrocities, a document that should focus policymakers’ attention on countries at risk of genocide or crimes against humanity. The Pentagon has created a planning doctrine on how to respond to mass atrocities, and such outposts as the U.S. Africa Command now routinely include atrocity-prevention missions in their scenario planning. A new White House-led Atrocities Prevention Board, while hectored by some for appearing feckless in the face of violence in Sudan and Congo, is highlighting the need for new tools for nonmilitary prevention and response, such as a global sanctions system that would target perpetrators and could lessen the need for military action.
At its core, R2P works best in prevention. If the world had thought of Syria as an R2P problem two years ago, when only a handful of protesters had been shot dead by the Assad regime, we might have brought much greater financial, legal and diplomatic tools to bear and been in much better shape than we are today, facing only unpalatable options for halting the slaughter. Americans’ understandable reluctance to get involved in more military actions abroad makes it imperative that such tools be further developed. Our best chance to rid the world of genocide and other forms of mass atrocity will be in trying to make sure they don’t begin.
1. Omar Al Bashir at the UN General Assembly: U.S. must arrest him if he sets foot on U.S. territory
23 September 2013
FIDH, its member organization in Sudan, the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) and in the United States, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), call on the United States to arrest Omar Al Bashir should he set foot on U.S. territory to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that starts tomorrow.
Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir is subject to two arrest warrants for genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court (ICC), issued in 2009 and 2010, respectively. He has reportedly applied for a visa to attend the General Debate of the 68th session of the UNGA in New York, scheduled to take place from 24 September to 2 October.
The ICC has called on the competent US authorities to arrest Al Bashir and surrender him to the Court, in the event he enters their territory .
Our organizations call on the US and any States whose territory Al Bashir would come through to arrest and transfer him to the Hague in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1593 which“urges all States and concerned regional and international organizations to cooperate fully” with the ICC.
“We are deeply concerned by Al Bashir’s potential participation in the UNGA. His participation would be the ultimate affront to the millions of victims for whom he constantly denies justice. His place is at the International Criminal Court,” said Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH.
In Darfur, violence and armed conflict, including attacks by Government forces on civilians, continue to result in the loss of civilian lives and mass displacement. A surge in violence forced more than 300,000 people to flee their homes in Darfur in the first five months of 2013 alone.
“10 years on from the start of the conflict in Darfur, States must end the climate of impunity that perpetuates serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Sudan”, said Osman Hummaida, Executive Director of ACJPS.
“The U.S. can help prevent further atrocities by acting now to assist the ICC in executing the warrant for Al Bashir, and in the process help strengthen international law and an institution critical to the pursuit of global justice,” said Vincent Warren, CCR Executive Director.
According to the UN Headquarters Agreement, the U.S. government is called upon to facilitate the attendance of States at the UN. Although the U.S. is not a State party to the ICC, the undersigned groups call on the U.S. to implement UNSC Resolution 1593 if and when President Al-Bashir is present on its territory. This would not be the first time the US contribute with the ICC, in particular when it transferred the Congolese accused Bosco Ntaganda to the Court.
“Participation in the UN session is no excuse for the U.S. to shirk its obligations to prosecute or extradite those accused of torture under the Convention against Torture. The U.S. should transfer Al-Bashir to the ICC or prosecute him under U.S. criminal laws,” said Pamela Merchant, Executive Director of CJA.
Read the full article.
2. Justice on Trial in Guatemala: The Rios Montt Case
International Crisis Group
Within ten days, Guatemalan courts made and unmade legal history. The trial and conviction of former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt on 10 May 2013 for genocide and other human rights violations was an extraordinary achievement for a justice system that must grapple simultaneously with the legacy of a vicious internal conflict and the contemporary scourges of gang violence, corruption and illegal drug trafficking. Victims had barely finished celebrating, however, when the Constitutional Court annulled the verdict in a confusing decision that raised questions of outside interference. Widespread impunity for past and present violence continues to have a corrosive effect on the country’s democracy. Failure to renew the trial for mass atrocities against Rios Montt and pursue justice for the victims of violent crime would undermine its halting progress toward rule of law, including a strong independent judiciary.
The case against Rios Montt and former director of military intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez has been passed to a new tribunal, though legal challenges make its renewal uncertain. If and when proceedings resume, the new judges will have to rehear testimony regarding massacres, rapes, torture and the forced displacement of Maya-Ixil communities in 1982 and 1983, when Rios Montt was the de facto head of state. Prosecutors charged both retired generals with genocide and violations of international humanitarian law, arguing that they targeted the Ixil people for extermination to deprive guerrillas of support. Though the tribunal convicted Rios Montt, it acquitted his co-defendant. Thanks to decades of work by victims associations, human rights investigators and forensic anthropologists, prosecutors could draw on abundant oral, documentary and physical evidence. An attorney general with a background in human rights work, Claudia Paz y Paz, pushed the case forward, along with other high-profile prosecutions of both ex-government officials and organised crime figures. The UN-sponsored International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) helped engineer creation of the high-risk court that heard the case, providing specially trained and vetted judges with extra security.
The result was a largely exemplary public trial, including testimony from more than 100 victims, plus experts from both sides, and opportunities for cross-examination. Images broadcast on national television of the ex-dictator facing witnesses from one of the poorest indigenous communities vividly demonstrated the principle that all citizens are equal before the law.
But what happened in the courtroom was only part of the story. Defence attorneys filed more than a dozen petitions to delay or derail the proceedings. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly warned that procedural actions are used in Guatemala to obstruct justice in human rights and other high-profile cases, fuelling perceptions that justice is for sale and making victims less likely to cooperate with authorities.
As the trial reached its conclusion, powerful interest groups intensified their campaigns against the process. An “anti-terrorist” foundation led by military veterans attacked human rights advocates as guerrilla collaborators in the media. The business chambers warned that the trial was fomenting polarisation and immediately after the conviction demanded that the Constitutional Court annul the verdict. President Otto Perez Molina, a retired general himself, repeatedly stated his view that the military never committed genocide, though he promised to respect the judicial process.
When the Constitutional Court short-circuited the appeal process and threw out the verdict on 20 May in a poorly explained decision, it appeared to many that the judges were responding to political pressure. Although the court technically cancelled only part of the trial, their decision forced the original three-judge panel to withdraw, sending the case to a new tribunal.
These new judges must now be allowed to work without interference, weighing carefully both prosecution and defence arguments. Although Rios Montt authorised summary military proceedings as dictator, he has the right to a fair trial, like all defendants under democratic governments. But the victims also have rights. The Ixil people have already waited 30 years for justice. Will a new tribunal be able to reach an evidence-based verdict that sticks? Or will the process drag out, and the trial end in confusion and controversy again, casting doubt on Guatemala’s ability to prosecute powerful defendants? Whatever the answer, it will send a powerful message about rule of law under the country’s still fragile democracy.
Guatemala will face another test of its judicial system in 2014, when it begins the process of selecting nominees for a new Supreme Court and other appeals tribunals and either chooses a new attorney general or gives Paz y Paz another term. Political authorities should act urgently to ensure that candidates are selected on merit in a transparent process that enhances the prestige and independence of judges. At stake is the ability to deal with not just past abuses, but also the crime and corruption threatening democracy today.
Read the full media release.
Read the report.
3. Central African Republic: Horrific Abuses by New Rulers
Human Rights Watch
18 September 2013
The Seleka, a coalition of rebel groups that took power in the Central African Republic in March, has killed scores of unarmed civilians, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Seleka has also engaged in wanton destruction of numerous homes and villages.
The 79-page report, “‘I Can Still Smell the Dead’: The Forgotten Human Rights Crisis in the Central African Republic,” details the deliberate killing of civilians – including women, children, and the elderly – between March and June 2013 and confirms the deliberate destruction of more than 1,000 homes, both in the capital, Bangui, and in the provinces. Many villagers have fled their homes and are living in the bush in fear of new attacks. Human Rights Watch documented the deaths of scores of people from injuries, hunger or sickness.
Human Rights Watch carried out extensive research in the country from April to June, including numerous interviews with victims, relatives of victims, and witnesses. Researchers assembled detailed accounts of attacks on civilians in both Bangui and the provinces.
The Seleka should immediately end its killings and pillage, restore order, and allow access to desperately needed humanitarian assistance, Human Rights Watch said. The Seleka leadership should control its forces, denounce killings by its members and supporters, restore civilian administration throughout the country, and ensure accountability for the crimes committed.
International bodies and concerned countries should help the African Union peacekeeping mission to carry out its job and should impose targeted sanctions on those responsible for human rights abuses, including Seleka leaders.
“The Central African Republic truly is a forgotten human rights and humanitarian crisis,” Bekele said. “Driven from their homes by the Seleka, countless people are living in the bush in tents made from trees and leaves, and without access to food or water. They need immediate assistance and protection.”
Outside the capital, and away from the eyes of the small African Union peacekeeping force, the Seleka has attacked villages with total impunity. Human Rights Watch recorded more than 1,000 homes destroyed in at least 34 villages in the north between February and June. In one instance, a self-appointed Seleka official coordinated the killings of five men who were tied up and executed.
In interviews with Human Rights Watch, representatives of the transitional government, many of them former Seleka leaders, including the transitional president, Michel Djotodia, downplayed the scale of the killings, claiming that most were the work of “false Seleka” or those loyal to Bozize. But Human Rights Watch research points to a consistent pattern of abuse by forces credibly linked with Seleka.
Human Rights Watch also documented crimes that had been committed under Bozize and interviewed former prisoners who were recently released from the Bossembele military training center outside of Bangui. Detainees told Human Rights Watch that they were held incommunicado and in inhumane conditions for months or years, many of them tortured.
The Seleka has failed to investigate or prosecute any of the abuses committed by its own members. Instead, it has pursued justice for crimes committed by the former government. On May 29, the national prosecutor announced an international arrest warrant against Bozize, who fled CAR; recent reports indicate he is in France.
The absence of thorough investigations and prosecutions has eroded public confidence in the judicial system and in the rebel government, which has promised elections in 18 months.
“The Seleka might have real grievances against the former regime, but nothing excuses this level of violence against civilians,” Bekele said. “The Seleka seem more focused on looting and targeting the general population than on reestablishing a functioning government that can protect people from abuse.”
In recent weeks, violence has increased in northern Central African Republic around the Bossangoa area. On September 7two employees of the French non-governmental organization the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development were killed outside of Bossangoa. Their killers are reported to be Seleka fighters.
On September 13 transitional president Djotodia dissolved the Seleka coalition and announced official state forces were in charge of security. No detail was provided as to how these forces would neutralize the thousands of Seleka fighters across the country.
Read HRW’s Lewis Mudge’s article “The Forgotten Crisis in the Central African Republic.”
Read a report by FIDH on the CAR: “The International Community Must Help the Country Surmount the Current Chaos.
4. The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention: A Formula for Ethnic Cleansing in Burma
28 August 2013
Yesterday’s failed attempt to initiate violence by 969 members, including Buddhist monks, illustrated something of the method of ethnic cleansing in Burma. A masked man in Thandwe attacked a Buddhist woman. While there was no way to determine the attacker’s ethnicity, organized Rakhine crowds operated under the assumption, or ruse, that the man was Muslim.
Here was a clear attempt by ultra-nationalist organization 969,, to stage a crime in order to initiate ethnic cleansing in Thandwe using the same formula successfully employed in other Burmese locales including Thandwe itself earlier this year.
, a rumor that a Muslim man had set a Buddhist woman on fire was circulated. (…) Security forces tolerated the violence for days before restoring order.
, a rumor that a Muslim man had sexually assaulted a Buddhist woman was circulated. (…) While security forces were able to disperse the crowd, three Muslims were injured.
, a rumor that a Muslim man had sexually assaulted a Buddhist woman was circulated. (…) A Member of Parliament who later went to investigate the violence was refused access to the alleged 12 detainees and told by locals that many of the rioters were not from Htan Kone.
Something of a pattern is emerging with regard to ethnic cleansing in Burma. In all above examples, as well as ethnic cleansing conducted in Sittwe, Meiktila, and Okkan, the formula was followed more or less to the letter:
(…) The police are able to maintain the appearance of upholding the rule of law. When the mobs commit violence, however, security forces stand by and do nothing, or, in some cases as the BBC reported, have been observed to be actively involved in the violence. This latter feature has waned recently, with security forces restoring order in two to three days, after the bulk of ethnic cleansing has been achieved. (…)
See full article here.
5. The Sudan Consortium: Human Rights Update: Southern Kordofan State, Sudan
International Refugees Rights International
[This update is intended as the first in a series of monthly updates to be produced by the Sudan Consortium in cooperation with local human rights monitors on the ground to highlight ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the region.]
In the six week period from 1 June to 15 July, the Sudanese Air Force and Sudanese Armed Forces bombed and shelled civilian areas in Southern Kordofan. During the reporting period, the Sudanese Air Force systematically bombed civilian settlements in opposition-held areas of Heiban, Al Buram, Kadugli and Um Dorein Counties in Southern Kordofan. The Sudanese Armed Forces also shelled populated areas in Al Buram and Um Dorein.
Local human rights monitors working in Southern Kordofan documented more than 50 such attacks during the reporting period, with the majority of attacks being bombing raids carried out by Antonov bomber aircraft. These aircraft drop large, crudely constructed, and unguided bombs from high altitude – relying on methods and means of delivery which are inherently indiscriminate.
As a result of these attacks, ten civilians (including seven children and one woman) were killed, and 25 were injured during the reporting period. According to the monitors who documented these attacks, all the locations where these casualties occurred were clearly identifiable as being civilian in character, were not being used for military purposes and did not represent legitimate military targets.
Read the full update.
1. Samantha Power: Leading on Atrocity Prevention?
12 September 2013
It was barely over a month ago that newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power gave her first public address as Ambassador. (…)
Fast-forward to this past week, and Ambassador Power has found herself in the middle of a heated debate over U.S. involvement in Syria. Far from the fuzzy, uplifting address she gave on August 10, she is now out front, calling on the international community, and Americans in particular, to stand up to their responsibility to protect civilians in harm’s way.
A long time advocate of atrocity prevention, Power was an exciting appointment for many. She is well known for her work as a journalist, writing from places such as Bosnia and Sudan, as the author of books such as A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, and also for her more recent role as the director of President Obama’s Atrocity Prevention Board (APB). Further, she comes into this position well-versed in the principle of R2P, and with a broad understanding of what mass atrocity prevention entails.
Organizations such as the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (Global R2P) and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) are excited about the appointment, and confident in Ambassador Power’s abilities to lead.
Sapna Chhatpar Considine, Program Director at the ICRtoP explained, “There are a lot of things that I think we are hoping that Samantha Power will get behind here at the UN. And a lot of it is... making sure that we’re really kind of engaging multilaterally, working with other governments to prioritize atrocity prevention, encouraging other countries to really use this frame of atrocities prevention in their interventions and in their resolutions and their statements, and saying that it’s a priority for the U.S. and that it should be a priority for other governments.”
In recent years, particularly under the Obama Administration, the U.S. has become a strong leader in atrocity prevention. While the specific terminology of R2P is not necessarily always front and center, the core belief that states have a responsibility to protect civilians from the four major crimes is prominent. When asked about the U.S. role in atrocity prevention, Dr. Adams explained, "I think this current president has been more committed in principle to the whole idea of mass atrocity prevention than probably any other U.S. president in history, as evidenced by the establishment of PSD 10 and then by the establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board... and that's not just meaningless rhetoric, it's also actual governmental action on the level of the bureaucracy of government."
In her address on Syria, Ambassador Power highlighted the failure of the UN to take meaningful action to protect civilians: "In short, the Security Council the world needs to deal with this urgent crisis is not the Security Council we have." She comes into this position as the situation in Syria is far past when R2P ought to have been enacted, and many would say beyond any realistic options for a successful solution. Dr. Adams stated further, "Syria stands out as a glaring, depressing, traumatic and traumatizing example of the inability of the UN system when it comes to institutional inadequacies, with or without R2P."
At this point, with the United States on the verge of a potential military strike against the Syrian regime, we are working outside the parameters of R2P and outside the approval of the Security Council. A key role of organizations such as Global R2P and ICRtoP, and one they hoped Ambassador Power would take on, is education about R2P and atrocity prevention. Considine explained that, "for us, our task is making sure we remind governments when R2P is being used properly and improperly...to ensure that we continue to build understanding for what it is and what it isn't."
In concluding her address at the Fourth Estate Summit in August, Ambassador Power challenged those in attendance to participate in a dialogue with her about what matters to them. She started the hashtag #WhatMatters and asked them to tweet at her the topics they think are most important in today's world. The majority of the Twitter dialogue centered on atrocity prevention, and the need to take legitimate action to protect civilians.
As she embarks on her time as US, Ambassador to the UN, hitting the ground running in the midst of this Syrian crisis, let's hope she continues to remember #WhatMatters. Let's hope that she hears her own words, knowing that in her new role we need her positive moral vision and her vision of justice. We need her to continue to push the boundaries of U.S. foreign policy, moving us toward living up to our moral responsibility, and taking the time to see the world outside of what is politically beneficial for the United States.
2. The Responsibility to Protect and Germany’s 2013 Election
The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) or “Schutzverantwortung” has made significant inroads in terms of cementing itself on the German domestic political scene. With the elections just ten days away, how do the major parties plan to deal with the principle? How does it figure, if at all, in their policy platforms? What can we expect from the major parties regarding their support for RtoP for 2013 and beyond? (…)
The Political Parties of Germany
Germany has five major political parties likely to win a significant percentage of the vote on 22nd September 2013.
1) The Christian Democrat Union (CDU) along with its sister party, the Christian
Social Union (CSU), is the country’s main conservative party and picked up 33.8% of the vote in the 2009 election.
2) The Free Democratic Party (FDP) is a classical liberal party and the junior partner in the current ruling coalition with the CDU/CSU, having received14.6% of the vote in 2009.
3) Alliance ‘90/The Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), formed in 1993 from the merger of the two political parties following the end of the Cold War, is Germany’s green party and typically sits on the centre left of the political spectrum but does not always permit such easy categorisation. It represents a perhaps more pragmatic and centrist line than many Green parties and 2009 saw its biggest election success to date with 10.7% of the ballot.
4) The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) is a traditional centre-left party with its roots in, and much of its support coming from, the labour movement. It is presently the largest opposition party having picked up 23.0% of the vote at the last federal election.
5) The Left Party (Die Linke) is a recent amalgamation (since 2007) of a breakaway left wing faction of the SPD and the post-communist ruling left wing party of East Germany. It is an outright left party and received 11.9% of the ballot in 2009.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
The CDU has not had much to say on RtoP, which is unfortunate considering its position as the senior partner in the current ruling coalition. There is no explicit mention of the concept in its 2013-2017 policy platform and it seems reluctant to take a leadership role on the issue, both domestically and internationally.
The party tends to take a more indirect approach, implicitly touching on notions including human rights and political freedom as well as the prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity. (…)
The Liberal Democrats (FDP)
The junior partner in the current ruling coalition has been a little more proactive on the matter, even including a brief mention of RtoP in its policy platform, Bürgerprogramm 2013, p.88:
“We want a further strengthening of the international criminal jurisdiction such as, for example, strengthening of the International Criminal Court. Under the auspices of the United Nations, we want to define and further develop the human rights notion of 'Responsibility to Protect'. Under the pillars "to prevent, to react and to rebuild", the strengthening of prevention should be of particular importance.”
(…) Wanting Germany to be a good international citizen, it supports the notions of human rights, international application of criminal law, etc. but does not make RtoP a major part of its foreign policy platform. Its focus lies on prevention, indicating an unspoken cautious attitude towards violations of sovereignty and military applications of RtoP. (…)
The Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen)
The Greens have no doubt taken the lead on RtoP in Germany. To this end, they have devoted almost four pages of their 2013 policy platform document to the theme under the heading “A World of Peace and the Responsibility to Protect”.
Whilst accepting that such a world must ultimately be reached politically, their conception of RtoP recognises that military force may sometimes be a necessary emergency measure to halt genocide. (…)
Further to the extended clarification and discussion of their own party position in the lead up to the election, the Greens have sought to have the matter debated in greater detail at a federal level. This culminated in the submission of a motion to the Bundestag on 9th May 2012 entitled “Developing and Effectively Implementing the Responsibility to Protect”. (…)
The Social Democrats (SPD)
(…) The SPD has included a somewhat cautious mention of RtoP in its election policy document Regierungsprogramm 2013-2017, p. 113:“We stand for a strengthening of the United Nations system. (…) The principle of Responsibility to Protect must primarily focus on civilian measures.”
(…)The SPD exhibits clearly defined support for the principle of Responsibility to Protect and its correct application through UN procedures. It is perhaps a little wary of explicitly defining how it sees the military application of RtoP and its election platform calls for an interpretation focusing on civilian measures. (…)
The Left Party (Die Linke)
Die Linke stands firmly opposed to the principle and has, perhaps for this reason, not included any reference to RtoP in its election programme. It tends to take a strictly pacifist line regarding international relations and sees such discussions through a classical left-wing lens of international class struggle and the assertion of power and will by the strong on the weak. (…)
It is highly unlikely that any party will secure enough of the vote to form government itself, which makes a coalition almost certain. There are essentially four plausible configurations, usually discussed in Germany according to the colours of the respective parties:
- The Grand Coalition (CDU/SPD) (…)
- The Christian Liberal Coalition (CDU/FDP) (…)
- The Red-Green Coalition (SPD/Greens) (…)
- The Black-Green Coalition (CDU/Greens) (…)
(…) As the issue continues to advance on the international arena, Germany and its political parties have the option of being at the forefront of the discussion or watching as the debate is led by others. Its position as a major European power dictates that it should not be content with allowing the latter.
Read the full policy brief.
3.Halt Genocide Ideology and Denial in the Region
East African Legislative Assembly
22 August 2013
The East African Legislative Assembly is calling on the EAC Summit of Heads of State to institute a mechanism and to undertake a comprehensive study of the security impact of genocide ideology and denial.
EALA has at its plenary this afternoon passed a Resolution to this effect, setting stage for Partner States to develop policies and legal instruments punishing genocide ideology and denial.
Consequently, the Assembly has requested the Summit to direct the Council of Ministers to propose an Action plan to deal with the matter and to further the Community’s obligations under the United Nation’s Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle. The Assembly has also approved the formation of a Select Committee to study and to make recommendations to the House on the likely security impact of genocide ideology to the region.
The Resolution moved by Hon Abu Bakr Ogle notes that some of the groups in the region sowing terror are driven by sectarian and genocide ideologies and denials. This move, Hon Ogle asserts, continues to happen whereas the Convention on the Prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9th December 1948, and that it came into effect two years later.
Genocide denial is often defined as an attempt to deny or minimise the scale and severity of an incidence of genocide. The Resolution according to Hon Ogle is buoyed by the fact that the Summit is entitled to review the state of peace, security and good governance in accordance with Article 11 of the EAC Treaty.
At the same time, under article 124 of the Treaty, the Partner States undertake to co-operate and to enhance handling of joint measures for maintaining and promoting peace and security. The Assembly is concerned that despite regional efforts to contain groups promoting terror, such groups continue to pose a threat to the peace and security of the people of the region. This is despite the fact that United Nations has asserted the need to adhere to the R2P Principle.
The Resolution follows another one moved by EALA in April 2013 castigating the United Nations over its failure to prevent the Genocide against the Tutsi, nineteen years ago, despite having reports to that effect. The Resolution in part admonished the UN for its decision then, to reduce the numbers of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) troops, leading to the deaths of thousands of people who had sought refuge at the UNAMIR sanctuary. This, the Resolution stated, was done despite a UN Resolution of 21/912 which had adjusted UNAMIR’s mandate and Resolution 918 (1994) that expanded the force.
Read the full press release.