In this issue...
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As Thousands of Muslims Flee CAR, UN and Civil Society Officials Declare Exodus Amounts to Ethnic Cleansing
On 12 February 2014, both civil society organizations and UN officials declared that violent attacks against Muslims and their forcible displacement by the anti-Balaka militias in western Central African Republic qualify as ethniccleansing. Through hundreds of interviews and investigations of serious human rights abuses, Amnesty International's newest report concludedthat entire populations of Muslims have been forced to flee, and that some attacks by the mostly-Christian anti-Balaka militias "have been committed with the stated intent to forcibly displace these communities from the country." Human Rights Watch echoed Amnesty's pronouncement, revealing that "the anti-Balaka militias are increasingly organized and using language that suggests their intent is to eliminate residents from the CAR." Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, concurred with Amnesty and Human Rights Watch on 12 February, stating that CAR's Muslim civilians were facing "massive ethno-religious cleansing." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, meanwhile, warned that the changing demography caused by the crisis meant that "the de facto partition of the CAR is a distinct risk."
As Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch noted, the failure of the international community to rapidly respond and deploy troops to vulnerable areas to protect civilians has contributed to the increased power of the anti-Balaka. Amnesty demanded that the international community supply international forces with the necessary resources to confront the rapidly unraveling tragedy in CAR and to station these troops in areas where the remaining Muslim population is threatened. The transitional authorities, meanwhile, must take measures to "supplant the de facto power of lawless anti-balaka militias, not consolidate it" during the process of rebuilding the security sector. The Secretary-General agreed that more needed to be done, stating that "the international response does not yet match the gravity of the situation."
Ethnic cleansing (the purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious groups from certain geographic areas), along with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, is one of the four crimes and violations which the international community agreed it had a responsibility to protect against in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.
More editorials/statements on CAR:
On Wednesday 12 February, the United Nations Security Council held its first open debate of 2014 on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (POC). Broadly, POC refers to measures, grounded in universally accepted obligations under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), International Human Rights Law (IHRL), and refugee law, which can be taken to protect the safety of civilians during times of war.
The discussion narrowed its focus to one of the five core protection challenges identified by the Secretary-General in 2009: strengthening protection by UN peacekeeping and other missions. The primary overarching theme was how to build capacity surrounding implementation of the existing normative framework on POC in country-specific situations. States overwhelmingly acknowledged the need to invest more in mediation, diplomacy, and active prevention.
Sixty-two delegations participated in the debate, with briefings by High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay (via VTC), Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Yves Daccordalso. Amos and Pillay bothaddressed the need for continued engagement to increase coordination of peacekeeping missions, with Pillay discussing the current partnership of her office with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in this capacity. Additionally, Amos emphasized the importance of the civilian contribution to operations, with many later speakers echoing this need to take into account local context and involve those who know the situation on the ground best. Ladsous and Pillay made initial remarks on the ‘Rights up Front’ initiative, presented by Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson on 17 December 2013 to ensure that “human rights awareness and knowledge permeate the UN system.” They discussed how this aids in the recognition of early warning signs and improves UN preparation when those prevention efforts fail. This initiative found support in many Member States’ statements, including Estonia, Germany, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, and Luxembourg.
At least ten States made explicit their support for the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), including incoming Council members Chile and Lithuania. As Australia noted, the primary responsibility to protect civilians rests with all parties to conflict, declaring that “this is a responsibility this Council needs to uphold.” Croatia maintained that this was a “vital part of efforts needed to prevent civilians from suffering.” Many others, including Mexico, Belgium, and Liechtenstein, showed support in backing France’s proposal of the voluntary suspension of the right to veto in cases of mass crimes. And finally, the Netherlands, affirming their close relationship of shared legal and normative foundations, distinguished RtoP from POC as more narrowly concerned with the four crimes and violations of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, applying regardless of whether an armed conflict is active.
The outcome of the debate was the release of a Presidential Statement, whereby the Council reaffirmed its commitment to the range of relevant measures it has adopted since POC became a thematic issue in 1999. The statement calls for further engagement by senior mission leadership to involve all levels of the command chain in the protection mandate, as well as for the UN to better correspond and collaborate with regional and sub regional institutions to better the implementation and achievement of civilian protection.
The ICRtoP will produce a full summary of the debate, along with relevant statements, on its website in the coming days.
How the UN Should Handle South Sudan
5 February 2014
(…)The peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, known as UNMISS (the United Nations Mission in South Sudan), was initially made up of a relatively modest 7,000 troops and 900 civilians with a mandate to protect civilians. Deployed in 2011, it focused its protection efforts on early warning, prevention, and support to the government of South Sudan to fulfill the state’s responsibility to protect its people. But while Security Council members backed this strategy, they didn’t adequately invest in its success through coordinated pressure on the government of South Sudan to make reforms that could have prevented this crisis.
This approach to protecting civilians turned out to be foolishly idealistic and wholly inadequate when government forces turned against their own citizens, opposition and irregular forces rose up to join in the abuses, and communities committed crimes against their neighbors. (…)
To address the violence, the Security Council authorized thousands of reinforcements in December, which would nearly double UNMISS’s size. Yet while this and the ceasefire are important steps to preventing conflict down the road, the international community and UNMISS must maintain a focus on preventing atrocities now by taking four key steps:
First, UNMISS must define and implement strategies to use its current capacity to protect civilians. As many cases have demonstrated, the deployment of reinforcements can take a very long time, and indeed sometimes never occurs. Second, effective strategies hinge on timely intelligence and expert planning. Not all threats to civilians will be deterred by the mere presence of blue helmets. UNMISS must be able to determine which threats must be stopped by force, which could be dissuaded by the risk of accountability, and which require mediation. (…)
Read the full article.
More reports/statements on South Sudan:
Syria: Another Form of Negotiation is Needed
8 February 2014
(...) Transposed onto the Syria tragedy, the three stages of the negotiation would be organized as follows. At its basis, dialogue between Syrians – those representing the current government and those speaking on behalf of the opposition. In relation to the discussions that have just been held, two major changes are necessary. Firstly, the dialogue in Geneva should be ongoing and not episodic. To give it every chance of being completed, it should be spearheaded by a figure of high moral stature such as Kofi Annan, who lives in Geneva and was the first Special Representative speaking on behalf of the United Nations and the Arab League.
Then and above all, in addition to immediate subjects such as local ceasefires and the channelling of humanitarian aid, the dialogue between Syrian representatives should concern not the details of the transition but the future of the country. It is essential to build a solid consensus addressing the key questions: What kind of republic? What constitutional safeguards for religious or ethnic minorities regarding their involvement in the exercise of power and their role in the state, when Sunnis represent at least 70% of the population? (…)Finally, the third stage would be that of action by the major powers. (…)
Read the full article.
More statements on Syria:
Germany Needs to Embrace the Responsibility to Protect
13 February 2014
(…) But can the mixed results of past interventions justify inaction in the face of new bloodshed? To take the concrete case of the Syrian civil war, with its 100,000 dead: Is it acceptable to reject the use of force—for example, to enforce a no-fly zone—even though a failure to act would lead to even more killings?
Gauck touched on this in his speech in the Bavarian capital. “Brutal regimes must not be allowed to hide behind the principles of state sovereignty and nonintervention,” he said. “This is where the concept of ‘responsibility to protect’ comes to bear. . . . In the very last resort, military means can be used.” Yet in Syria, the UN, the United States, and the EU have done very little to live up to their responsibility to protect.
It is this aspect of responsibility that should be central to the debate that has finally begun in Germany. Accepting that responsibility means that the use of force cannot be excluded. (…)
Read the full article.
From R2P to RANP: Sri Lanka and the Responsibility After Not Protecting
7 February 2014
The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine sets out a three-fold responsibility. First, states have a primary responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Second, the international community has a responsibility to assist states so that they can fulfill their R2P. Third, if the state in question ‘manifestly fails’ to fulfil its R2P then the international community has a responsibility to act in a “timely and decisive manner” on a “case by case basis”.
But what happens when both the host state and the international community fail to fulfil their obligations under the doctrine of R2P? I argue that the international responsibilities under R2P survive after mass atrocities have been committed and after a failure of prevention and protection. I argue that inherent to R2P is ‘RANP’ – Responsibility After Not Protecting – and I employ the example of Sri Lanka to demonstrate the value of this concept. (…)
Read the full article.
More on Sri Lanka:
Myanmar Conflict Alert: A Risky Census
International Crisis Group
12 February 2014
The nationwide census planned for 30 March to 10 April 2014 risks inflaming tensions at a critical moment in Myanmar’s peace process and democratic transition. The census process should be urgently amended to focus only on key demographic questions, postponing those which are needlessly antagonistic and divisive – on ethnicity, religion, citizenship status – to a more appropriate moment. By doing so, the government, United Nations and donors can demonstrate that they are sensitive to the serious risks presented by the census as currently conceived, and that they are willing to respond to the deep reservations expressed by many important groups in the country.
While the collection of accurate demographic data is crucial for national planning and development – it has been over 30 years since the last census – the coming census, consisting of 41 questions, is overly complicated and fraught with danger. Myanmar is one of the most diverse countries in the region, and ethnicity is a complex, contested and politically sensitive issue, in a context where ethnic communities have long believed that the government manipulates ethnic categories for political purposes. In addition to navigating its political transition from authoritarian military rule to democratic governance, Myanmar is struggling to end decades-old, multiple and overlapping ethnic conflicts in its peripheries. At the same time, recent months have seen an increasingly virulent Burman-Buddhist nationalist movement lead to assaults on Muslim minority communities. A census which risks further increasing these tensions is ill-advised.
Read the full article.