Isn’t it too late to protect populations from the Islamic State (IS)? Aren’t the problems presented by the Islamic State primarily ones of counter-terrorism, not the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P)? A new article in Open Canada by Alex Bellamy argues no to both questions: despite the fact that much more could have been done to prevent the birth and expansion of the brutal terrorist group (and the wider Syrian civil war and turmoil in Iraq), such failures of prevention “must not be allowed to excuse inaction in the face of atrocity crimes.” Furthermore, those who advocate for a narrow counter-terrorism approach ignore the inescapable fact that “terrorism–understood as violence intentionally targeted against civilians–is itself often a crime against humanity.” In several instances–such as with IS, al-Shabaab and Boko Haram–RtoP and counter-terrorism are simply different ways of looking at the same problem, and Bellamy pleads for more understanding of the relationship between the two agendas. He further advocates for a formal declaration by the UN General Assembly or Security Council outlining the clear demands that RtoP places on non-state actors, as well as a redoubled effort by the international community to protect Syrians and Iraqis from “ISIS’s reign of terror.”
One possible avenue to protect populations from IS is to refer the group to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In this regard, the Coalition for the ICC this week examined four possible ways of achieving accountability for IS’s barbaric crimes: 1) the ICC prosecutor could exercise personal jurisdiction over nationals of ICC member states; 2) Iraq and Syria could join the ICC or give it temporary jurisdiction; 3) The UN Security Council could refer the situation to the ICC; or 4) Governments could carry out national prosecutions. Learn about the likelihood of each and add your thoughts about the best way to achieve justice for IS victims here.
In an open letter to the heads of state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the eve of the organization’s 26th summit, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) called for greater recognition of the grave threat the persecution of the Rohingya minority poses to Myanmar and the entire ASEAN region. APHR further demanded an independent investigation into the crisis and the deployment of ASEAN monitors before the 2015 elections. As Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament, underscored “The growing risk of atrocity crimes in Myanmar…undermines our shared commitment to protecting all people from persecution and violence.”
ICRtoP Member Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect also released a statement highlighting that the prevention of electoral violence is “part of the Myanmar government’s primary responsibility to protect from communal violence leading to atrocity crimes”, and provided several recommendations in this regard.
ICRtoP Member Human Rights Watch reported that anti-Balaka fighters are holding captive 42 Muslim Peuhl herders, most of whom are women and girls, noting that such “shocking tactics” amount to war crimes and calling on UN peacekeepers and the government to act immediately to free them. Meanwhile, the CAR transitional authorities postponed a planned peace forum.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a massacre of Ethiopian Christians on a beach purportedly in Libya. The Red Crescent said that the crisis in Libya has displaced 500,000 since May 2014. Fajr Libya, a coalition of militias controlling Tripoli, launched airstrikes against the Islamic State in Sirte.
International mediators set a May 15 deadline for the UN’s proposed peace deal in a bid to increase pressure on Tuareg separatists to sign. Tuaregs are demanding further autonomy for the “Azawad” region. Algeria has threatened tocease its cooperation with the Tuaregs if they continue to refuse the deal. MINUSMA meanwhile suffered its third deadly assault on its peacekeepers this week when militants attacked a UN convoy.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement expressing his hope that the new Buhari presidency would “promote a return to normalcy”. The Nigerian military invaded the Sambisa forest in a bid to find the Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014, reporting that the operation has cut off the terrorist group’s arms supply.
President Kiir unveiled a new road map to peace at the opening of the national assembly, while urging for a law to “better regulate” humanitarian NGOs. Three World Food Programme workers disappeared in Upper Nile State, causing the UN agency to suspend some operations.
Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the ICC, cancelled his trip to Indonesia to attend a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, reportedly after several countries refused permission for his plane to fly over their airspace. Human Rights Watch’s Elise Keppler stated that the change of plans “reinforced al-Bashir’s status as a fugitive from international justice with limited travel options.”
ICRtoP Member International Refugee Rights Initiative released a new report“We Just Want a Rest From War: Civilian Perspectives on the Conflict in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan State.”
A Syrian analyst warned that recent rebel victories have not weakened Assad as much as it appears, noting that a military stalemate benefits Assad more than it does his opponents. Russia announced that it was supplying arms to Iraq and Syria to help them fight the Islamic State. A Washington Post op-ed describeshow the U.S. has abandoned its atrocities prevention doctrine and defended its inaction in Syria.
ICRtoP is pleased to welcome three new members to the Coalition: International Justice Project (New Jersey, USA), which works to promote human rights through the rule of law and to provide support to victims of atrocities; Rural Women’s Network Nepal (Sindhuli, Nepal), which promotes the rights of rural women, youth, and children; and Society for Threatened Peoples (Gottingen, Germany), which campaigns on the behalf of threatened and persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, nationalities, and indigenous peoples.
ICRtoP member UNA-UK released a new guide to RtoP, introducing the norm, describing the UK’s actions to prevent atrocities, and letting you know what you can do to promote RtoP.
ICRtoP member the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect released astatement commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
Child Soldiers Initiative released a new Working Paper “Understanding the Recruitment of Child Soldiers as an Early Warning Indicator.”