Second International Meeting of the
Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC)
From 2-4 February, the second international meeting of the Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC) will be held in Manila, Philippines. GAAMAC, a state-led network, seeks to bring together diverse but complementary agendas and networks on RtoP, genocide prevention, and the protection of civilians. Focusing on the prevention of mass atrocity crimes, GAAMAC strives to assist states in undertaking such efforts, as well as support those governments interested in developing their atrocity prevention capacity. Furthermore, GAAMAC seeks to provide a forum for the exchange of best practices amongst the range of actors involved in the implementation of RtoP and the prevention of mass atrocity crimes.
The theme of the second conference will be “Preventing Atrocities: How to Strengthen National Atrocity Prevention Architectures”. The ICRtoP serves on the Steering Group of GAAMAC, and our Senior Program Officer, Megan Schmidt, will be attending and presenting during the workshop “Sub-regional initiatives to support national architectures.” Additionally, several ICRtoP Steering Committee members, as well as representatives from the wider membership, will attend and give presentations.
To learn more about GAAMAC, click here.
Catch up on developments in...
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and government troops in northern Shan State wounded three children.
President Thein Sein welcomed the country’s transition of power as a ‘triumph for all Myanmar’s people’ in his last address to the military-dominated legislature before a new government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party takes over on 1 February. Thein Sein will remain president until the end of March.
In their 2015 World Report, Human Rights Watch noted that human rights had stagnated within Myanmar over the course of last year. They encouraged the government to prioritize ending discrimination and repealing abusive laws.
The UN Security Council concluded a trip to Burundi and Addis Ababa this weekend; however, President Nkurunziza did not appear open to shifting his stated positions.
Ahead of an upcoming AU summit, a senior AU diplomat noted that the regional body could possibly consider sanctions against Burundi, should the government continue to refuse to accept AU peacekeepers. The peacekeeping force remains a salient issue on the summit agenda. Regardless of the Burundian government’s opposition, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs claimed she was ‘optimistic’ that the mission would be approved at the AU. Furthermore, CNARED, the leading Burundian opposition alliance consisting of members of civil society and political parties, urged the AU as well as the international community to prevent further atrocities by authorizing the deployment of the AU peacekeeping force. Leonard Nyangoma, the chairman of the CNARED, warned about the resurgence of armed groups if the AU and international community do not take their responsibility and that the resulting instability would worsen the refugee situation and force even more people to flee.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced that its team of independent experts, mandated by the Human Rights Council to investigate human rights violations and abuses, had been unable to enter Burundi.
The country’s constitutional court has certified the results from the first round of the presidential election. However, the court invalidated the legislative election results, pointing to certain irregularities such as inadequate training for workers at the polls and illegible ballots. Some have questioned the court’s decision, claiming that as the two elections were held simultaneously, it was illogical that one would be more credible than the other. Furthermore, according to election observers, holding the legislative vote again would be costly.
A second round, runoff presidential election between the top two performers of the first round, Anicet-Georges Dologuele and Faustin Archange-Touadere, was initially set to take place on 31 January, but has been rescheduled for 14 February.
As the current round of UN sanctions on the Central African Republic were set to expire on 29 January, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2262-2016 renewing the sanctions, agreeing on the importance of ending impunity in CAR and holding those guilty of human rights violations accountable.
At the moment, bouts of violence within communities as well as the deteriorating securitysituation has plagued 450,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who have fled to nearby countries. In the capital city of Bangui, an estimated 30,000 people have been taking refuge in overcrowded and unlivable makeshift camps, according to the international humanitarian aid group, Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
The trials for former president of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, and his former youth minister, Charles Ble Goude, began at the International Criminal Court on 28 January. Both men are being tried on four counts of crimes against humanity, which They have been charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, of which Gbagbo, has pleaded not guilty. ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, stated that she could call a potential 138 witnesses to support the allegations of Gbagbo’s involvement in the horrendous crimes, which resulted in the death of 3,000 people.
According to recently-released figures, 2,414 rape cases were reported in civilian and military courts in the DRC in 2015, representing a 25% drop since 2013. Meanwhile, rape cases attributed to soldiers dropped by 34% when compared to 2014.
A timetable prepared by the National Independent Electoral Commission in the DRC (CENI) demonstrates that it would be impossible for the DRC to hold a presidential election in 2015 if it wants to fully revise the country’s voter register, a process that would take 16 months and cost as much as $290 million.
The UN announced that the deteriorating security situation in North Kivu, where aid workers and civilians have been kidnapped and aid convoys have been attacked, has forced several humanitarian organizations to either delay aid delivery or suspend activities altogether.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Marzuki Darusman, stated Friday that it was time to criminally try North Korean leaders for failing to improve “Nazi-style” human rights standards two years ago. The 2014 UN report revealed instances of “systematic torture, starvation, and killings.” Darusman declared that, “in addition to continuing political pressure to exhort the DPRK to improve human rights, it is also now imperative to pursue criminal responsibility of the DPRK leadership.”
Shots were exchanged last Friday between Israeli forces and demonstrating Palestinians throughout the country, inflicting injury upon seven Palestinians, including a child. Similar demonstrations by Israel’s Palestinian population have recently started occurring every Friday. Less than a week later, a Palestinian teen reportedly stabbed and seriously injured an Israeli man at a gas station in the West Bank.
Civilians near Gaza’s southern border have complained about underground drilling noises in the night. It was reported that 8 Hamas militants were killed when a tunnel caved in following heavy rain, although Gaza’s Ministry of Health claims no bodies were brought in. Since Hamas’ resurgence in July 2014, militants have been working to build an underground network.
Local news sources reported that Israel will continue its expansion of settlements in the West Bank following an 18-month halt on such activity. Israel’s Supreme Planning Council of Civil Administration approved 153 new units last week. Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are viewed by much of the international community as illegal and problematic to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized Israeli settlement activity at the Security Council this week, noting that “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half-century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process.” Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel later rebuked Mr. Ban’s remarks as giving “a tailwind to terrorism.”
Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has declared that all counter-terrorism operations in Iraq against ISIL will be carried out by Iraqi troops only, with the exception of U.S. troops. International involvement in these operations, according to the Minister, will be considered an infringement upon Iraq’s sovereignty.
More than 40 bodies were discovered by Iraqi forces in the previously ISIL occupied city of Ramadi, located west of Baghdad. Similar graves have been found in other liberated areas, including 16 mass graves found in the Kurdish populated town of Sinjar in the north.
Human Rights Watch pointed out potential war crimes committed by the Iraqi government throughout 2015 in the fight against ISIL in its World Report 2016. HRW stated that pro-government forces could possibly be tried for war crimes for “unlawfully demolishing buildings in recaptured areas and forcibly disappearing residents.”
On Monday, Libya’s internationally recognized parliament rejected the 32-member cabinet proposed by Libya’s Presidential Council last week. 89 of the 104 in attendance at the Tobruk session dismissed the nominated government, requesting that an alternative plan be provided within 10 days. Lawmakers objected to the size of the cabinet as well as its powers to approve military and security posts. The response solidifies the international community’s suspicion that garnishing support for a new government will prove difficult. However, Prime Minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj will adhere to the new deadline and present a proposal for a new “more restrained” unity government to the recognized parliament for approval within 10 days. Meanwhile, the EU is reportedly considering sanctions against “spoilers” of the peace process.
General Dunford, a top military adviser to President Obama, gave a statement on 22 January claiming that the U.S. military was “looking to take decisive military action” in Libya against ISIL militants there. Many suspect that the U.S. will not conduct such action alone and will instead seek the support of British, French, and Italian forces. Officials have stated that the campaign could begin in Libya in a mere weeks. Italy’s Defense Minister, Roberta Pinotti, claimed that there Western anti-ISIL coalition powers were willing to take on the terrorist militants in Libya even if the country is not able to agree on a unified government in the near future.
Concluding his trip to Mali, Toby Lanzer, the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, noted that there were both setbacks and successes in security and access to basic services. Continued progress, however, would depend on full commitment from both Malian and international actors.
A civilian was killed in a Takfiri Boko Haram raid on a village in Yobe state in northeastern Nigeria. After his death, the man’s home was burned to the ground. Additionally, two police cars were stolen by the Takfiri terrorists in an attack on the police department in the village, though the police eventually forced the attackers to retreat and evacuate the vehicles. The militants have only recently pledged their allegiance to the Takfiri Daesh group, another name for ISIL, located mainly in Syria and Iraq.
Residents in Nigeria claim that Cameroon, while conducting cross-border raids against Boko Haram, had killed 40 civilians. This is the third time Cameroon has been accused of such activities in recent weeks.
Suicide bombers again hit Chibok on market day, killing 13 and injuring 30.
A UN panel announced in an annual report that the Security Council should place an arms embargo on South Sudan, as well as on President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar. According to the monitors, Kiir and Machar are currently in complete control of their forces and therefore should be held directly responsible for the killings of civilians, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers. Both government forces and rebel groups have continued to break the ceasefire that was signed last August.
Indeed, South Sudan missed the August deal’s deadline to form a national unity government by Saturday due to Kiir’s efforts to increase the number of states from 10 to 28. Machar says that he first wants the new transitional government to incorporate the terms of the August deal, which recognizes only ten states. Kiir, for his part, says that the increase does not go against the August deal and is in the rebels’ interest.
In a UNHCR press release on 28 January, it was reported that with the deterioration of security and an increase in armed clashes between a group called the ‘Arrow Boys’ and government forces in South Sudan has led refugees, most of them originally from the DRC, to flee once again, either back to the DRC or to another town in South Sudan. Over 1.6 million South Sudanese people are already internally displaced, but the country also is home to over 260,000 refugees from neighboring countries.
In October 2015, Sri-Lanka not only took part in, but co-sponsored a UN Human Rights Council resolution which called for the establishment of a mechanism to prosecute alleged war crimes. Included in the resolution were stipulations allowing foreign judges, prosecutors, and investigators to take part in this judicial mechanism. Despite this co-sponsorship of the resolution, Sri Lanka’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, claims that he will ‘never agree to international involvement’ as Sri Lanka has enough experts to handle the issues in an ‘internal’ war crimes court. Furthermore, these statements have come amid reports from the Freedom From Torture group claiming that torture is continuing in Sri Lanka, claims that Sirisena denies. The president also added that his government will not act “in haste”. Human Rights Watch released a report calling for those member and observer countries that supported the UN Human Rights Council resolution in October 2015 to “make clear that foreign participation in a war crimes tribunal was already decided by the council and is not subject to renegotiation.”
UNAMID has reported that 10,000 people have had to flee from their homes due to recent clashes between the Sudanese government and the rebel fighters in Jebel Marra.
Little progress has been made following the two days of informal talks between the Sudanese government and rebel forces, guided by the AU. Minni Minawi, leader of one of the rebel groups, announced that both rebel movements are still working to find a common ground on which the Darfur peace talks could be based. Ultimately however, the rebel groups SLM and JEM have insisted that the Sudanese government cease its military operations in Jebel Marra and in western and northern Darfur. They also asked for the protection of displaced persons in Darfur and access to humanitarian aid for the people. The government denied the demands of the rebels and the talks ended without any real resolution.
Additionally, Human Rights Watch has stated in its World Report 2016 that Sudanese military forces and militia have used rape as a weapon of war in Darfur.
President Omar Hassan al’Bashir opened up Sudan’s border with South Sudan for the first time since the 2011 succession. Relations between the two nations continued to be rough following South Sudan's independence as both sides accuse each other of backing armed rebellions against the other’s government. However, President Kiir of South Sudan suddenly announced a normalization of relations this week after Bashir agreed to cut transit fees for oil exports.
During a Security Council meeting on 26 January concerning the state of Sudan, the UN peacekeeping chief, Hervé Ladsous, delivered a report about the current humanitarian crisis in Darfur since 24 December. He illustrated how UNAMID continues to experience restrictions on its movements and is still denied access to parts of the region. The deputy head of Sudan’s mission at the UN, Hassan Hamid Hassan, swiftly disagreed with the facts presented by Ladsous. He defended the Sudanese government by stating that one of the rebel groups, the SLM-AW continually refuses to join the peace process or respect any attempted ceasefires.
The Syrian peace talks are scheduled to commence on Friday 29 January in Geneva according to the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. The first round of talks will last for two to three weeks and will focus on establishing a ceasefire agreement to allow humanitarian aid groups entry. The remaining talks will be conducted throughout the next six months and will work on an agenda designed by the Security Council, prioritizing governance, drafting a new constitution and holding elections. The largest obstacle in directing the talks in a timely manner will be deciding who gets to sit down, as well as deciding which demands will be met prior to negotiation.
The UN has invited the Syrian government as well as the opposition to the peace talks in Geneva, but the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) set conditions for their participation, such as the lifting of all sieges and the discontinuation of airstrikes bombing civilians. Finally, late Thursday evening, the HNC stated that its delegation would “certainly” not attend, but another opposition representative said that opposition participation could still be possible if their demands were met in the coming days.
The U.S. has insisted that Syria’s moderate opposition participate in the Geneva talks. The Syrian government has announced that it is ready to take part as well. However, if the talks do commence on Friday, they will experience a number of challenges. Chief among them are the question of Assad’s future as well as the response to the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Meanwhile, a double bomb attack by ISIL has killed at least 24 in the government-controlled city of Homs and suspected Russian airstrikes are reported to have killed at least 54 civilians in both rebel and jihadist regions.
Additionally, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has stated that government forces have taken back control of Sheikh Miskeen, a southern town vital for strategic purposes. As a result, supply chains between the eastern and western regions of the province of Deraa have now been cut for rebel forces.
Saudi Arabia executed another round of airstrikes in the Shi’ite city of Hodeidah, killing at least nine and injuring another 30, and beginning a large fire. Hodeidah has recently become a main target for the Saudi-led coalition, as it has become the primary route for aid supplies after the airport in the capital city of Sanaa was destroyed.
In a report sent to the Security Council last week, a UN Panel of Experts investigating the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign documented widespread and systematic attacks on civilian targets in violation of international humanitarian law.
Furthermore, the report notes that parties to the conflict are deliberately starving civilians as a tactic of war, recommending that the Security Council should establish a UN Commission of Inquiry to further investigate such abuses. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, James McGoldrick, has also called for unlimited access to Taiz, where an estimated 25,000 residents lack critical medical care and food supplies.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also highlighted the catastrophic impact of the ongoing conflict in Yemen on its population. According to FAO, more than half of the population faces severe food shortage. In response to the growing needs, FAO increased its annual funding for Yemen to $25 million in 2016.
On Monday 25 January, Yemeni activists including politicians and journalists outside of Yemen launched a campaign on Facebook and Twitter in support of the hundreds of prisoners held in Houthi jails. The activists criticized the UN and international organisations by stating that the situation of thousands of Yemeni prisoners is "greatly ignored". Mohammad Al Salehi, a Yemeni journalist also indicated the use of torture on Yemeni prisoners.
On 28 January, a car bomb exploded near the president’s residence in the city of Aden, in the south of Yemen, killing eight people. ISIL has since then claimed responsibility for the attack.
What else is new?
On 3 February, ICRtoP member, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, is holding an event titled “National Mechanisms for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention: Coordinated National Strategies for Confronting Contemporary Genocide". For more information and to RSVP, click here.