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24 October 2013
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1. Satellite Sentinel Project: Human Security Warning: Sudan Army Poised for Offensive in South Kordofan or Abyei
2. Medicins Sans Frontieres: CAR: Tens of Thousands Flee Attacks and Killings
3. FIDH: CAR: A Country Overwhelmed by Terror More Each Day
4. Human Rights Watch: Syria: Executions, Hostage Taking by Rebels
 
1. 4 November 2013: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Our Walls Bear Witness: The Plight of Burma’s Rohingya
2. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: 2014-2015 Security Council Elections and the Responsibility to Protect
3. Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Responses of Asia-Pacific States to the Secretary-General’s Report on RtoP
4. Cardozo Human Rights Program Report: A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect
 


 
On 18 October 2013, the United Nations Security Council held a debate on Women, Peace, and Security, entitled “Women, rule of law and transitional justice in conflict-affected situations.” In particular, the debate focused on full implementation of Resolution 1325 (2000), which highlights the role of women in such areas as conflict prevention and resolution, negotiations, and peacebuilding.  Notably, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2122 (2013), which creates a “roadmap” for systematic approaches to the implementation of measures previously outlined in Resolution 1325, including the goal of convening a 2015 high-level panel to assess progress on this issue.  Under Resolution 2122, the UN will also undertake its first-ever thematic mission on women, peace, and security; as well a study regarding the implementation of Resolution 1325.
 
The Women, Peace, and Security agenda is closely aligned with RtoP, as noted in the severalpublications issued by the Asia-Pacific Centre for R2P (APCR2P) on the linkage between the two.  In addition, ICRtoP’s “R2P and…Exploring the Relationship Between the Responsibility to Protect and Your Sector” also identifies how women, peace, and security issues are tied to work on RtoP by, for example, reinforcing that “gender-based crimes can be an early warning indicator of RtoP crimes.”
 
Please see the Coalition’s publication “The role of women and RtoP for more information.
 
On 12 October 2013, the Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union (AU) convened an extraordinary summit on international justice and Africa’s relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 12 October 2013. With less than a third of African states attending, the AU released a decision calling for immunity from ICC prosecution for any sitting head of state and requesting the United Nations Security Council to defer the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for one year. (President Kenyatta is currently accused of crimes against humanity committed during Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence.) According to the AU and the government of Kenya, the deferral is a matter of international peace and security, as President Kenyatta must deal with the increasing terrorism threat in Kenya after the attack on the Westgate shopping mall on 21 September 2013.
 
Several civil society groups and prominent figures have decried the AU decision, including the Coalition for the ICCFIDH, and Human Rights Watch. In a joint letter, 163 civil society organizations in Africa and international organizations urged African state parties to the ICC to recognize that any withdrawal from the ICC would “send the wrong signal about Africa’s commitment to protect and promote human rights and reject impunity.”
 
Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu declared that without the ICC, there “would be no brake on the worst excesses of world leaders”, while former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan dismissed notions that the Court was anti-African, noting that African “victims deserve justice and they want justice.”
 
At the same time, several civil society organizations recognize that many states have legitimate concerns with some operations of the ICC. Convened by the International Refugee Rights Initiative and the Pan-African Lawyers Union in Arusha, Tanzania, a gathering of 20 international justice and human rights experts released several recommendations for the Court. These suggestions included proposals that the ICC acknowledge its own operational shortcomings and be open to constructive criticism; that the Court enhance its communications and exchanges with the AU; and that the ICC pay “due attention to the political, socio-economic and cultural exigencies of each situation in which it intervenes”. As the ICCannounced on 18 October following a review of a request submitted by Kenyatta’s defense team, the Kenyan President will not be required to attend his entire trial in The Hague.
 
For more information on the relationship between the ICC and RtoP, see the Coalition’s 2012 blog poston the subject
 
 
1. Human Security Warning: Sudan Army Poised for Offensive in South Kordofan or Abyei
Satellite Sentinel Project
22 October 2013
 
The Satellite Sentinel Project is issuing a human security warning for civilians living in Buram, Tess, and other areas to the south of Kadugli in Sudan’s South Kordofan state. Re-positioned aerial assets also place the highly contested Abyei area within range of the Sudanese army's arsenal. DigitalGlobe satellites will continue to monitor the Abyei area and watch for increased activity near Buram and Kadugli. We will issue additional alerts on signs of the Sudanese army's southbound movement.
 
The threat of renewed attacks on Sudanese civilians in South Kordofan, which could cause further displacement, is particularly worrying as food insecurity increases for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people with the advent of the dry season. The people of South Kordofan have faced over two and a half years of aerial bombardment, and the deliberate destruction of homes and farmland, which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity..
 
Humanitarians have been denied access to help those in need. Those in Abyei have been displaced twice by Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, attacks in the past five years: first in 2008 and then in 2011. Another offensive will deepen the humanitarian crisis in the region and poses a serious threat to human security. 
 
Earlier Than Expected
DigitalGlobe imagery confirms increased troop movements and a significant buildup of ground and air materiel at several military installations. Following what many analysts describe as a deeply embarrassing rebel siege of Abu Kershola earlier this year, the Sudanese government has increased military spending, with the acquisition of new aircraft, including Fencer Su-24 from Belarus. To close its yawning budget gap, allow for these military expenditures and comply with the IMF's economic directives, the Sudanese government recently committed itself to removing subsidies on fuel and other commodities.
 
All of these indicators together point to a potential military campaign threatening vulnerable communities in the region. When considered along with the recent destruction of Buram Bridge in South Kordofan, this buildup suggests a possible new offensive, even before the rain waters subside. Since the strategic advantage from destroying the Buram bridge would be limited once the river dries, the Satellite Sentinel Project's analysts warn that an offensive might come earlier than expected. Increased aerial assets could also play a role in an offensive against the disputed Abyei region, where the Ngok Dinka community is planning a unilateral referendum.
 
The effects of the recent heavy rains are expected to last for at least another month, limiting mobility and clashes between the Sudanese army and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army-North, or SPLA-N. Military engagements between the SAF and the rebel SPLA-N, have traditionally slowed during the rainy season due to increased mobility constraints. However, the significant troop increases observed in October 2013 DigitalGlobe imagery, along with increased SAF military activity and bombardment around Um Shuran, Buram and Teith El Taice, or Tess, all south of Kadugli, signal a possible resurgence in activity, even before rain waters fully recede. Following the Abena protests at the end of September 2013, the SPLA-N rebels ended their month-long unilateral ceasefire and announced that they would be returning to the battlefield to "enhance" the prospects of the peaceful uprising in Sudan's northern cities. Already Médecins Sans Frontières has reported that at least 2,500 Sudanese fled their homes due to fighting in the Warni and Kau-Nyaro areas in the southeast of South Kordofan. These new refugees have arrived in the towns of Kodok and Lelo, in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. Evidence of the Sudanese army's recent buildup suggests that more civilians might be at risk. 
 
Satellite Imagery Reveals Heightened Activity
Satellite images reviewed by DigitalGlobe Analytics show unusually high levels of activity in several military installations in Sudan’s North and South Kordofan states and at both the El Obeid and Kadugli Air Bases. The military buildup at El Obeid, which is centrally located, could facilitate deployments south toward Kadugli, Abu Kershola, Al Abbasiyah or a combination of those locations. 
 
DigitalGlobe images of military locations show that El Obeid Air Base in North Kordofan's normal contingent of bomber jets was augmented with attack helicopters, a close-air-support aircraft, and a transport aircraft. The number of aircraft at Kadugli Air Base in South Kordofan has almost tripled, with the usual three to four attack helicopters now supplemented by three additional helicopters and two transport aircraft. A probable Motorized Infantry Battalion at Kordofan Garrison staging base has increased in size to levels last observed in April 2013, during the height of the rebel incursions in Abu Kershola
 
DigitalGlobe imagery indicates that the Motorized Infantry Battalion now includes tanks, cargo trucks, and probable truck-mounted heavy machine guns ("technicals"). The number of tanks has more than tripled at El Obeid Headquarters Garrison, and the number of heavy equipment transporters and armored personnel carriers has grown, signaling a level of activity that has not been observed in the past year. A sequence of DigitalGlobe images collected between October 2 and 12, 2013 at El Obeid West show the massing and departure of a military convey. On October 15, 2013, more than a dozen new vehicles appeared at El Obeid Garrison South. Images from the same day showed new tents, personnel, and vehicles positioned at El Obeid Garrison South
 
(…)
 
Threat to the Most Vulnerable
The dispatch of military engineers to destroy the Buram bridge, the increased troop buildup, and the appearance of new ground and air materiel at several military installations in North and South Kordofan collectively point to a possible new campaign, even in advance of the end of the coming dry season offensive. This buildup directly threatens vulnerable Sudanese civilians in South Kordofan. The re-positioned aerial assets at El Obeid and Kadugli potentially also signal a threat to Abyei, where tensions are running high ahead of a planned Ngok Dinka unilateral referendum.
 
Read the full article.
 
2. CAR: Tens of Thousands Flee Attacks and Killings
Medicins Sans Frontieres
16 October 2013
 
Tens of thousands of people have fled a new wave of attacks and ruthless killings by armed groups and government forces in northwestern Central African Republic (CAR), the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
 
More than 30,000 people are displaced in the town of Bossangoa, and thousands in surrounding areas. All are living in precarious conditions with limited or no access to shelter, clean water, food, and sanitation. MSF calls for all armed groups to respect the safety of civilians, medical staff, and aid workers, and for an urgent increase in humanitarian assistance.
 
"In the last month, we have treated more than 60 people in Bossangoa—including women and children—for injuries that are the result of violence, largely gunshot and machete wounds," said Erna Rijinierse, an MSF surgeon. "More than 80 percent of surgeries have been for wounds that are conflict-related. We are horrified by what we are seeing, including burnt villages and appalling scenes of murder. Those who are fleeing are in desperate need of assistance, as well as the sense of protection that the presence of aid agencies can bring," she said.
 
MSF has received numerous firsthand accounts of attacks based on religious identity. In one incident, armed men reportedly executed eight people who were separated from a larger group fleeing by truck. In another, two men were targeted and killed in a village, prompting many of their coreligionists to take flight.
 
In this climate of fear and violence, people are fleeing for their lives into the bush or gathering in large groups to seek safety. In Bossangoa, an estimated 28,000 people are sheltering in a Catholic mission, far exceeding its capacity. Other nearby displaced groups include 1,000 people seeking shelter next to an airstrip, about 400 people in a school and 1,200 people in a hospital, effectively turning half of the building into a makeshift camp.
 
(…)
 
Armed conflict has been reported in recent weeks in Bouca and Garga in northwestern CAR and Mbaiki in the southwest of the country. In Bouca, MSF continues to assist 400 families who have been living in one compound since their houses were burned down in September. In all its facilities, MSF treats people based on medical need, regardless of political, religious, or any other affiliation.
 
Civilians, medical staff, and humanitarian workers have all been subject to physical aggression and attack. MSF has directly witnessed the execution of a local health worker, as well as multiple violent attacks on other humanitarian personnel.
 
CAR has experienced decades of political-military conflict that have caused a chronic humanitarian and health emergency. Following the March 2013 coup d'état led by the Seleka rebel alliance, the situation has deteriorated even further as deadly clashes between armed groups and government forces continue in different areas of the country.
 
The conflict exacerbates a health system already suffering from a lack of qualified staff and few public facilities outside the capital. Shortages of essential medicines are frequent and many people cannot afford to pay fees required for treatment.
 
(…)
 
Read the full statement.
 
3. Central African Republic: A Country Overwhelmed by Terror More Each Day
FIDH
15 October 2013

During the last month, fighting between members of the former Seleka and vigilante groups called "Anti-Balaka" has killed at least 170 people. FIDH wishes to draw the attention of the international community to these clashes that are becoming more inter-communal and thus placing the civilian population at the center of the fighting and in a state of ever-worsening insecurity.
 
In its latest investigative report on the situation in the Central African Republic, FIDH denounced the murders, sexual crimes, kidnapping, looting, and destruction of property—which qualify as war crimes—committed with impunity by members of the former Seleka rebel group which has controlled the entire country since the coup d’État on the 24th of March 2013. 

The lack of law enforcement in the country, as well as the inability of the troops in the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (AFISM-CAR) to protect the population, has forced villagers to form self-defense militia groups. Recurring conflicts between these militias and the former Seleka are deadly and are characterized by sectarian clashes; ex-Seleka troops, led by warlords from northern Central African Republic, Sudan, and Chad, are arming the Muslim population to confront the Anti-Balaka groups. 

During the first half of September, in and around Bossangoa, clashes between former Seleka members and the militias have led to more than 100 deaths and the burning of several villages. 

On October 3rd, more than two dozen civilians were killed by ex-Seleka members in Bangui-Bouchia in the region of Lobaye, less than 100 km south of Bangui. 

(…) 

On the 7th and 8th of October 2013, in Garga, in the locality of Yaloké, 200 km northwest of Bangui, Anti-Balaka militias killed three members of the former Seleka. In retaliation, the elements of the former Seleka are said to have distributed weapons to the Muslim population and killed more than thirty villagers and injured dozens of others. 

(…) The UN must now immediately support efforts by the African Union, or risk a certain increase in the massacres of civilians,” said Eric Plouvier, head of the FIDH mission to the CAR. 
 
(…) To ensure the safety of the civilian population, the UN Security Council must also provide strong support for international troops in CAR, including by considering the transformation of AFISM-CAR into a UN Peacekeeping Mission. (…)
 
Read the full article.
 
4. Syria: Executions, Hostage Taking by Rebels
Human Rights Watch
11 October 2013
 
Armed opposition groups in Syria killed at least 190 civilians and seized over 200 as hostages during a military offensive that began in rural Latakia governorate on August 4, 2013, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. At least 67 of the victims were executed or unlawfully killed in the operation around pro-government Alawite villages.
 
The 105-page report, “‘You Can Still See Their Blood’: Executions, Indiscriminate Shootings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside,” presents evidence that the civilians were killed on August 4, the first day of the operation. Two opposition groups that took part in the offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are still holding the hostages, the vast majority women and children. The findings strongly suggest that the killings, hostage taking, and other abuses rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said.
 
“These abuses were not the actions of rogue fighters,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This operation was a coordinated, planned attack on the civilian population in these Alawite villages.”
 
To provide victims a measure of justice, the UN Security Council should immediately refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch has also documented war crimes and crimes against humanity by Syrian government forces.
 
Hostage Taking
According to opposition sources, including an opposition military officer from Latakia involved in negotiations, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are holding over 200 civilians from the Alawite villages as hostages, the vast majority women and children. Nine residents from the Latakia countryside separately told Human Rights Watch that their relatives had been taken hostage. Three of these residents said they saw their relatives in the background of a video published on YouTube on September 7. The video showed civilians from the area held hostage by Abu Suhaib, the Libyan local leader of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar.

A Barouda resident told Human Rights Watch that 23 of her relatives were missing. She said she saw several of them on the YouTube video: “The oldest son of my brother… [who was executed] would have just been starting school … He has two sons, [one] who is six, and [another] who is four-and-a-half.

Other residents told Human Rights Watch about cases in which opposition fighters executed adult male family members, and then captured women and children from the family as hostages.
 
Groups that hold hostages should ensure they are treated humanely and immediately released, Human Rights Watch said. Countries with influence over these groups should urge them to release the hostages.
 
Some of the opposition atrocities during the operation had clear sectarian motivation. For example, in Barouda, opposition fighters intentionally damaged an Alawite maqam (a site where a religious figure is buried) and appear to have intentionally damaged and dug up the grave of the religious figure buried there. On August 4, opposition fighters abducted and later executed Sheikh Bader Ghazzal, the local Alawite religious authority in Barouda who presided over the maqam. The opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra released a statement on what is believed to be their website acknowledging that its members executed the sheikh, who was a relative of Fadl Ghazzal, an adviser to former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, because the sheikh supported the Syrian government.

Recommendations for Neighboring and Other Concerned Governments

All concerned governments with influence over these armed opposition groups should press them to end deliberate, indiscriminate, and disproportionate attacks on civilians, Human Rights Watch said. In addition, all governments, companies, and individuals should immediately stop selling or supplying weapons, ammunition, materiel, and funds to these groups, given the compelling evidence that they have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
 
Support for these five groups should continue to be withheld until the groups stop committing these crimes and those responsible are fully and appropriately held to account. Anyone providing or selling arms and military assistance to the groups may be complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
 
Governments should also not permit the use of their national territory for shipment of arms, ammunition, and other materiel to these groups, Human Rights Watch said. (…)
 
Universal jurisdiction laws also are a key backstop against impunity for heinous abuses, especially when no other viable justice options exist, Human Rights Watch said. Countries, such as Turkey should investigate people credibly linked to atrocities in Syria and avoid being a safe haven for human rights abusers.
 
Read the full report.
 
 
 
1. Our Walls Bear Witness: The Plight of Burma’s Rohingya
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
4 November 2013
 
Join us in bearing witness to the suffering of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Burma long considered among the world's most persecuted peoples. Denied citizenship and rendered stateless by the Burmese government, the 800,000 Rohingya lack basic rights, including the right to work, marry, and travel freely, and routinely suffer severe abuse. Following violent attacks in 2012 that destroyed numerous Rohingya communities, more than 100,000 are now confined to displacement camps and segregated areas where they continue to be subjected to violence including crimes against humanity. 

Building-sized images of the Rohingya displaced in Burma and in exile taken by prize-winning photographer Greg Constantine will be projected each evening from November 4 to 8 on the Museum's exterior walls on 15th Street SW (Raoul Wallenberg Place).

Greg Constantine, Holly Atkinson, and Maung Tun Khin will discuss the current situation of the Rohingya and increasing violence against Muslims elsewhere in Burma.
 
 
2. 2014-2015 Security Council Elections and the Responsibility to Protect
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
17 October 2013
 
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect welcomes today’s election of Chad, Chile, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Security Council for 2014-2105. With the addition of Chile and Nigeria, 10 of the 15 members of the Security Council in 2014 are members of the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). It is our hope that they will use this opportunity to uphold their commitment to R2P and to take timely, preventive action to avert the horrors witnessed in Rwanda, Srebrenica and, more recently, Syria and Sudan.
 
Security Council members have a particular responsibility to ensure that populations are protected from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, regardless of where these crimes are occurring. To this end, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect urges newly-elected Security Council members to:
 
• Hold a UN Department of Political Affairs Horizon Scanning briefing during their presidency to inform council members of situations where there is a serious risk of mass atrocity crimes;
• Request briefings from the UN Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, as well as relevant Special Rapporteurs on situations where populations are at risk;
• Uphold the preventive component of the Responsibility to Protect by taking early action to avert mass atrocity crimes, and be prepared to take timely and decisive action should those efforts fail;
• Support diplomatic initiatives aimed at restraining the use of the veto in mass atrocity situations by permanent members of the Security Council.
 
The Global Centre has compiled brief profiles on each of the newly-elected Security Council members. These provide an account of their engagement with R2P, including their participation at the UN General Assembly, whether they have appointed a national R2P Focal Point and their positions on ongoing country situations.
 
Other relevant background information includes their contribution to UN peacekeeping operations, their status with regard to the Genocide Convention, the Rome Statute to the ICC and the Arms Trade Treaty, as well as their affiliated groupings or bloc at the regional level and within the UN.
 
(…)
 
Read the full brief, with specific details on each new member’s stances on RtoP, peacekeeping, ICC, etc. here.
 
3. Responses of Asia-Pacific States to the Secretary-General’s Report on RtoP
Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
17 October 2013
 
On 11 September, some 69 member-states of the United Nations participated in the annual interactive dialogue on R2P held in New York, along with the European Union and two civil society organizations. This year’s dialogue—the fifth since 2009—was based on the Secretary General’s 2013 Responsibility to Protect Report on State Prevention and Capacity. The Report focused on the first pillar of the R2P principle, which identified a number of risk factors for mass atrocity crimes and the targeted measures that states can adopt in order to strengthen their capacity to prevent these crimes. Thirteen states from the Asia Pacific region participated in the dialogue, which included four members of ASEAN (i.e., Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand), Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka. It is important to note that this is the first time since 2009 that Thailand participated in the dialogue, the second time for Indonesia, and the third time for both Malaysia and Singapore since 2009. (Singapore is the only member of ASEAN that is part of the informal Group of Friends of R2P since it was launched in 2009.) The Philippines and Myanmar participated in the first dialogue in 2009, but no member of ASEAN participated in 2010 and 2011. Vietnam participated in the dialogue in 2012, together with Singapore and Malaysia. South Korea, Pakistan, China and Australia are among only 20 states that have participated in all five debates, which is a relatively strong showing from the Asia Pacific region.
 
The highlights of responses to the SG Report by states from the region are presented in separate sections below, based on their formal statements read and/or articulated in the UN General Assembly1. The conclusion section presents some observations on these responses and recommendations on how to maximize the impact of the SG’s Report in this part of the world.
 
Read the full issue here.
 
4. A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect
Cardozo Human Rights Program
7 October 2013
 
On 7 October 2013, the Cardozo Human Rights Program, together with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, hosted an event in New York launching a report entitled “A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect.”
 
The report seeks to advance the implementation of R2P by elaborating on how one of its key elements – prevention – can by operationalized. Research and publication of the report was led by Professor Sheri P. Rosenberg of the Cardozo Human Rights Program, with significant input from Ekkehard Straus.
 
The report :
 
1. addresses the need to systematically develop a common standard against which relevant actors can assess information in relation to potential mass atrocities and R2P;
2. develops guiding principles for the application of the standard; and
3. rigorously assesses the benefits of, and challenges to, adopting a common standard.
The standard is intended to be utilized by states, international and regional organizations, civil society, academia and other actors applying an R2P framework to any potential mass atrocity situation.
 
Read the full policy brief and  full report.
 

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