The Role of Atrocity Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect in Development Cooperation
From 22-23 March 2016 in Kampala, Uganda, USAID and DANIDA, with the support of the ICRtoP, are jointly organizing a workshop on how to implement atrocity prevention in development cooperation. The main focus of the workshop will be on how to translate atrocity prevention and the Responsibility to Protect as policy concepts into concrete, operational inputs for development work in Eastern African countries.
The workshop will bring together embassy staff, government officials and representatives from civil society, with a particular focus on practitioners and experts in both development cooperation and atrocity prevention. The workshop is designed to be highly interactive, drawing heavily on the participants’ experience in specific country cases through a mixture of panel discussions, presentations and group work.
Myanmar’s Parliament chose Htin Kyaw of the newly powerful National League for Democracy party to be Myanmar’s new president, formally ending nearly a half-decade of military rule. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Htin Kyaw, expressing the UN’s willingness to enhance cooperation with Myanmar’s government in promoting “peace, development, human rights and the rule of law for the benefit of all the peoples of Myanmar.”
Fighting continued between the army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, forcing nearly 500 individuals to flee Shan state.
The Burundian Attorney General denied the existence of any additional mass graves other than the one discovered less than two weeks ago, despite assertions from Iteka Human Rights League and Amnesty International to the contrary. However, the government did acknowledge that it had burried 58 suspected rebels who died after attacks on military bases without informing their families.
After consultations with the Burundian government, the EU decided to stop financial aid to the country, arguing that the government hasn’t put enough effort into finding a political solution to the crisis. The Burundian government expressed its disappointment in the decision but also stated that the government wouldn’t stop functioning due to this setback.
The US is increasing humanitarian aid to Burundian refugees by more than $31 million, bringing the total aid given since the start of the crisis to $86 million.
Police in Burundi have arrested Hugo Haramategeko, leader of the New Alliance for the Development of Burundi party and one of the last opposition leaders still in the country.
During a visit by an AU delegation to the country, representatives of Burundi’s opposition stated that it was disappointed that the AU hadn’t done enough to defend the Burundian democracy under Article 23 of the AU Charter.
Burundian police have arrested a Rwandan soldier about 250 km from the capital of Bujumbura. Burundi officials alleged that an arrested Rwandan soldier came to the country with a mission to “destabilize” Burundi. Another unidentified gunmen also killed three party officials from different villages.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for more accountability for peacekeeping troops accused of having sexually exploited locals, half of the reported cases having come from troops stationed in the CAR. Suggestions mentioned by Ban included forcing the peacekeepers to give up their salaries or court-marshalling soldiers. These claims come after the US introduced a draft Resolution in the UNSC to tackle the issue of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers, a resolution adopted with 14 votes in favour and no votes against. Egypt abstained from voting after a proposed amendment aimed at weakening the resolution didn’t pass.
Morocco has threatened to withdraw its peacekeepers from CAR and other countries due to differences of opinion surrounding the situation in the Western Sahara.
Marzuki Darusman, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea, expressed his regret that the situation in North Korea has yet to improve and called for the Human Rights Council to create an independent panel of experts to address the situation.
ICRtoP member, Human Rights Watch (HRW), released a report calling for the unconditional release of two youth activists, Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, who were arrested last year in the DRC during a pro-democracy workshop for youth. HRW claims the men’s arrests were politically motivated in an attempt to silence dissenters as part of the government’s recent crackdown to help President Kabila in a potential bid to extend his presidency beyond the constitutional limit of two-terms, set to end on 19 December of this year.
On Tuesday, Congo police arrested 18 peaceful protesters in Goma. Ida Sawyer, senior Africa researcher for HRW, highlighted that the protest was “entirely peaceful.”
Despite the fact that the UN lauded the DRC government for acquiring non-lethal crowd control weapons, skeptics remain concerned that these weapons were only acquired in order to warn the public not to oppose President Joseph Kabila if he were to seek another term against the constitutional limit.
The European Parliament’s 10 March resolution expressed concern for the deteriorating human rights and security situation in the DRC. A Congolese government official denied claims that DRC citizens’ rights were being violated.
A South-African mobile court will travel to the DRC to try 32 South African soldiers participating in the UN peacekeeping force in the country, contributing to the fight against impunity.
Mai-Mai militiamen and fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an ethnically Hutu militant group based in the eastern DRC, carried out an attack in the DRC’s Virunga National Park, killing two park rangers and five militiamen. The DRC armed forces launched a counter-attack in the Park, the country’s oldest wildlife reserve, in which they killed the five militiamen. According to the military, the militia groups had attacked with the intent of carrying out “illegal fishing in Lake Edward.”
Violence escalated this weekend between Israeli forces and Islamist militants, with both sides launching attacks against the other. A retaliatory airstrike executed by Israel hit a Palestinian home, killing two children. Hamas, for its part, hacked Israeli television networks and interrupted a program with a propaganda video featuring dead bodies, threatening Israelis not to leave their homes. The hostility began when four rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel. While no injuries occurred in the initial strike, it was one of the largest attacks since the end of the war in summer 2014.
Israel has confiscated large portions of land in the West Bank allegedly in order to construct Jewish settlements and tourism infrastructure. The US, Germany and France have all criticized Israel’s actions. Such a confiscation is viewed by many as illegal and an obstruction to peace negotiations.
A tunnel collapsed in Gaza on Thursday trapping six people. A local official said that the tunnel was used for trade purposes. Twelve people have been killed in Gaza this year in similar instances.
On 13 March, a car bomb explosion near Ankara, Turkey killed at least 24 and injured 125. In response, Turkey executed a series of airstrikes against the PKK in northern Iraq.
The Libyan Presidential Council has demanded that the international community stop dealing with other factions in the country and said that the UN-supported unity government is ready to start work after having obtained the necessary signatures from the House of Representatives. The UNSC has reiterated its support for the national unity government and the Presidency Council in its appeal to the international community. Furthermore, the UNSC extended the mandate of the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to last until 15 June in order for to help the unity government establish itself. In the same resolution, the UNSC requested a report from the Secretary-General within 60 days after consultations with Libyan authorities with recommendations for how UNSMIL can support the next phase of the political transition. In a press statement preceding the resolution, they also called for the unity government to respond to the threat posed by the ISIL presence in the country.
Libya’s unrecognized authorities currently in control of Tripoli warned the UN-supported unity government that it was unwelcome in the country’s capital. The so-called Tripoli government has claimed that the unity government “has been imposed from abroad without the consensus of Libyans”. The Tripoli government has said that any new Libyan government must be as a result of “an inter-Libyan accord” with its members selected “inside Libya with a transparent agenda and programme and a consensual strategy.” Since December, the UN has been pushing the country’s rival politicians to accept the unity government.. The EU has started preparing sanctions for individuals hindering the political process in Libya and obstructing the unity government from taking office.
Meanwhile, since 15 March Italian authorities recovered over 2,400 migrants and three corpses from the boats of people smugglers from Libya.
A Chadian peacekeeper killed two of his colleagues and injured a third in a shooting in northern Mali, according to the UN. This is the second attack this year by a Chadian peacekeeper within MINUSMA, but the motives for the attack are still unknown.
After being scattered by French troops in 2013, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has recently regrouped and has now extended its reach in Mali and moved into Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. The group’s terror tactics have also evolved and now consist of bigger attacks on hotels and places frequented by African elites and Westerners.
Two female suicide bombers killed 24 people and injured 18 others in an attack on a mosque in a town near the city of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. Maiduguri has long been a target of Boko Haram, which is suspected of carrying out the attack, according to a spokesman for the Nigerian Army.
Human rights activists and people around the world have condemned the Nigerian Senate’s rejection on 15 March of the proposed Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, which sought to eliminate “all forms of discrimination” against women in the country. Proponents of the Bill said that it would have promoted women’s equality in education, marriage, and inheritance. Its opponents claim that it is incompatible with the religious beliefs and culture of Nigerian people, with both Muslim and Christian lawmakers speaking out against the Bill. In response, some activists are circulating a petition in the hopes they can sway the Nigerian Senators to reconsider.
A recent report by the United Nations on the human rights situation in South Sudan details countless horrendous violations. While all sides have committed atrocities, the report claims that “the government appears to be responsible for the gross and systematic human rights violations.” The report has outlined a series of recommendations, including that the Human Rights Council establish a specific mechanism to ensure accountability and that a Transitional Government of National Unity be established to stop present violations and move towards peace.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also emphasized the escalation and magnitude of sexual violence in South Sudan in a news release. The UN has recorded more than 1,300 accounts of rape in just five months within the northern state of Unity. The High Commissioner also pointed out that the quantity of rapes and gang-rapes reported must only be a glimpse into the real total, as girls and women are increasingly being considered a “commodity” by government SPLA forces and militia. He continued that these gross violations of human rights have highly been off the radar of the international community.
This week Sudan threatened to close its border with South Sudan and deport over 300,000 South Sudanese students. The Sudanese government claims that the students have been supporting rebels at war with President Bashir’s government.
President Vladimir Putin announced on Monday that he has ordered Russian forces to withdraw from Syria, as he believes Russia has completed its mandate in the country. Putin further called on Russian diplomats to strengthen their negotiation efforts towards reaching a political settlement. Nearly half of Russia’s air force had left Syria by Thursday, with a Russian general telling reporters that the withdrawal would be completed by the end of the week.
The Syrian peace talks resumed on 14 March and both the government and the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the representative group of the opposition, submitted documents to the United Nations the following day, outlining their ideas for a political solution in the country. UN envoy Staffan De Mistura said that he would analyze the differing positions in order to find common ground between the two. While the HNC was present at the meeting on Tuesday, they continued to demand the release of detainees illegally held by the Syrian government, stating that the issue “was not up to negotiation”. De Mistura conceded that no progress had been made concerning the request from the opposition.
The peace talks hit another obstacle over a Kurdish proposal. Several Kurdish representatives in Syria have announced that they plan to declare a federal region, formalizing the zone that they have established throughout the war. The idea has been dismissed by the Syrian government at the peace talks and by the government of Turkey, with both governments stressing the importance of maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity.
UNICEF published a report on Monday announcing that 8.4 million children, or around 80 percent of the Syrian population under 18, are in need of urgent humanitarian aid within and outside of Syrian borders. Furthermore, the report stated that more than 2.1 million children were out of school last year and that child recruitment by militant groups has increased exponentially.
A prisoner swap between Saudi Arabia and rebel groups in Yemen has led to hope for a political solution to the crisis, as it indicates that the two sides are willing to communicate and negotiate with each other. Hopes for peace were further strengthened by a declaration from a high-level Houthi leader calling for Iran not to interfere in Yemen. Indeed, Saleh al-Sammad, the head of the Houthis' political wing, has stipulated that the Houthis are prepared to enter into peace negotiations with the Saudi-led coalition.
Even with a lull in the fighting, the death toll still continues to rise. Clashes between Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed local resistance fighters in the city of Taiz killed 45 people, while fighting in the city of Aden killed 14, including 12 Al-Qaeda members. On 15 March, warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 119 civilians and wounded 35 in a busy market in the country’s Hajjah province. Many of those killed were children who worked in the market, according to witnesses.
ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that Houthi officials in Yemen regularly confiscate the passports of human rights activists, thereby heavily undermining their right to freely travel. Moreover, Houthi forces have arbitrarily closed down human rights and other non-governmental organizations and forcefully detained their members.
HRW has also claimed that the United States should be held responsible for war crimes in Yemen and called on the U.S. to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. The Dutch Parliament imposed an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, the first EU country to do so, after reports emerged detailing Saudi-led bombings on civilians. The European Parliament has also called for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, prompting the UK Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls to review the country’s arms sales to the Gulf States in light of the possible use of UK weapons in the conflict in Yemen.
The U.N. humanitarian chief in Yemen announced that none of the warring parties are committed to protecting civilians or helping with humanitarian assistance. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his strong disapproval of Saudi attacks on Yemeni civilians and urged all parties to the conflict to comply with international humanitarian and human rights laws, which prohibit attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects.
The ICRtoP has written a short summary of the Clustered Interactive dialogue with the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.