ICRtoP Event: Is International Law Effective in Preventing Genocide?
Lessons Learned from Darfur
May 26th, 2015, 6:30-8pm New York City Bar Association
With the end of World War II, the international community took up the pledge of “Never Again,” vowing to ensure action in the face of genocide. Despite progress made to identify the risk of and respond to the commission of atrocity crimes, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, the international community has all too often shown an inability and, in some circumstances, failure to act to protect populations from these most horrific crimes. The continuing crisis in Darfur and the international community’s inability to ensure the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, despite an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for genocide, is but one example. Impunity for genocide sets a dangerous precedent for leaders who may continue to rely on the commission of such crimes to maintain their hold on power. Ending impunity for perpetrators of genocide is thus essential in preventing future genocides.
The apparent failure to heed the lessons from past and present genocides also calls for a serious reflection on strategies for a more comprehensive approach to genocide prevention.
This panel, hosted by the ICRtoP, the Cyrus Vance Center for International Justice, and the International Justice Project, will convene experts from the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and local and international human rights NGOs, among others, to instruct on how various diplomatic, legal, economic, and humanitarian tools have been used to respond to past conflict situations, discuss their effectiveness in addressing and preventing mass atrocities, and most critically, explore ways in which civil society, including private lawyers, can employ such mechanisms to help strengthen national legislation and institutions to prevent atrocity crimes.
Nearly 2,000 sea migrants from Myanmar were rescued or swum to safety in Malaysia and Indonesia last weekend. However, a wooden fishing boat carrying hundreds of migrants from Myanmar is adrift at sea without food or water, after Malaysia refused to take them in. According to The Guardian, Rohingya Muslims are braving such risks of death at sea to escape their “open-air prison” in Myanmar, but Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia are all refusing new migrants.
More than 50,000 refugees have poured into Rwanda from Burundi. An army general attempted a coup while President Nkurunziza was abroad in Tanzania, though whether he was successful is unclear. The general, Godefrois Niyombare, said he was working with civil society, religious leaders, and politicians to form a transitional government. Concerns are mounting that Burundi’s electoral violence could have a major impact on the elections scheduled next year in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect released a statement on Burundi reminding the Army, Police and government of their shared responsibility to protect.
Ten armed groups agreed to a peace deal requiring them to disarm at the Bangui Peace Forum. The agreement also stipulated that no amnesty would be granted for atrocity crimes, and called for the urgent creation of a special criminal court for such crimes in CAR. Amnesty International called for follow-through on the accountability promises made in the accord. Armed groups released more than 300 children, including several under 12 years old, thanks to an agreement facilitated by UNICEF.
At least 7 bodies, presumed to be hacked to death by machetes and axes, were found near Beni, where a series of massacres have left 300 dead in seven months. It is unclear if ADF rebels committed the most recent killings. The DRC is requesting the extradition of the leader of the ADF, Jamil Mukulu, from Tanzania. Mukulu was arrested by Tanzania in April. MONUSCO announced that Bantu militiamen had massacred dozens of Pygmies over the past week, in a conflict driven by social inequities.
Iraq began training Sunni tribal fighters to help in the battle against ISIS, an initiative backed by the U.S. ISIS militants staged a prison break near Baghdad, freeing prisoners and gaining access to the jail’s weapons stores.
At a briefing to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda urged the international community to be more proactive in helping restore peace in Libya, while also announcing that she is prepared to investigate crimes allegedly committed by ISIS in Libya. ICRtoP Member Human Rights Watch also called the Security Council to speak out strongly against impunity in Libya. According to Amnesty International, refugees and migrants across Libya are at risk of torture, rape, and abductions. Four children were killed in a rocket attack in Benghazi, for which ISIS claimed responsibility.
A Tuareg rebel alliance, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), signed a preliminary peace agreement with the government, but clarified that the initial accord represented only their “commitment to peace.” They underscored that many pending issues would have to be resolved before singing a final accord.
The military placed Maiduguri under curfew after a surprise attack by Boko Haram on Tuesday. President Idriss Deby of Chad claimed that Nigerian and Chadian troops are not cooperating in the fight against Boko Haram. Nigerian soldiers have been found guilty of mutiny and sentenced to death for refusing to fight against Boko Haram. The soldiers protest that they lacked weapons.
South Sudan’s parliament passed a new bill “regulating NGOs”, which would require aid agencies in South Sudan to ensure that no more than 20% of their staff are foreigners. The South Sudan NGO Forum protested that the bill would hinder the delivery of services and “cost lives.” Over 300,000 civilians have been left without assistance in Unity State after the UN and aid agencies were forced to evacuate after a surge of fighting. UNMISS expressed concern over reports from Unity of the torching of villages, killing, abductions, rape, and forced displacements. Meanwhile, the South Sudanese government rejected a proposal by UNMISS to relocate over 100,000 internally displaced persons from civilian protection sites to their places of choice, including villages and towns held by rebels.
IPI released a new issue brief on State Formation, Humanitarianism, and Institutional Capabilities in South Sudan.
Sudan claims that it has made progress against rebels in Darfur. Over 100 people were killed in tribal clashes in East Darfur this week, while UNAMID called for restraint over rising tensions between the Rezeigat and Ma’alia tribes. Sudan’s first vice-president demanded the finalization of consultations on a referendum to decide Darfur’s administrative status, an element of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. A Sudanese militia commander declared Tawila, in North Darfur, a military area, saying that people may be targeted.
The Commission for International Justice and Accountability claims they have compiled enough evidence from smuggled documents to indict Assad and 24 members of his regime for war crimes. The Syrian National Coalition announced that it would not be attending the Geneva consultations hosted by the UN envoy, Steffan de Mistura, dampening hopes of a breakthrough. The UN announced that 36,000 newborn Syrians are now stateless in Lebanon. Inspectors in Syria found new traces of chemical weapons. Handicap International warned that 5 million Syrians will be at risk of explosive weapons for years to come.
Ahead of Wednesday's Security Council debate on Small Arms and Light Weapons, the ICRtoP and PAX coordinated with 40 ICRtoP members and partners to write a letter urging member states to voice their "strong support for addressing the horrific civilian impact of SALW, the most commonly used weapons in armed conflicts and post-conflict situations, and for addressing their Responsibility to Protect in this regard." Read the full letter here.
The ICRtoP, Stanley Foundation, and Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect have released a report on the civil society workshop called "Ten Years Since the World Summit: Developing Civil Society’s Strategy for the Responsibility to Protect in the Asia-Pacific Region" held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 28 February 2015. The workshop reflected on the best practices and challenges of the past decade; evaluated the ability of domestic, regional, and international actors to implement RtoP; and identified measures that could further operationalize the norm. Representatives of civil society from Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines, as well as those from international nongovernmental organizations, participated in the meeting.
ICRtoP's Senior Program Officer, Megan Schmidt, was interviewed in the Canadian International Council's feature of RtoP experts.