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RtoP and the Next Secretary-General

The UN Secretary-General, from the earliest days of RtoP’s inception, has played an outsized role in advancing the norm at the UN and elsewhere. After former Secretary-General Kofi Annan set in motion a momentous process of redefining sovereignty to include a state’s responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes, his successor Ban Ki-moon worked hard to fulfill his promise of “sparing no effort to operationalize the responsibility to protect.” Such efforts included articulating the three-pillar framework of RtoP, clarifying misconceptions on the norm, and creating the position of the UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect.


It is therefore crucial that the next Secretary-General be as committed to advancing atrocities prevention as Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon, as noted by these 6 civil society organizations. In this vein, the nine current candidates took part in the first-ever hearings for the post and received 800+ questions from member states and civil society. Some countries, notably Spain and Mexico, asked questions on how candidates would reactivate discussions on RtoP and how the norm “interacted” with sovereignty. Though not all questions were answered, a few gave hints on where they stood on the norm. When asked about his commitment to RtoP, Vuk Jeremić (Serbia) responded that he would help prevent atrocities by creating and chairing a specialized inter-agency task force on early warning.


Learn more about why it is important that the next Secretary-General support RtoP by reading our blog post: Leadership for Our Common Humanity.”

And to learn more about the hearings and the push for a transparent, inclusive selection process for the next Secretary-General, check out the website of 1for7billion.

Catch up on developments in...

Central African Republic


South Sudan


Myanmar’s new government continued to release more political prisoners this week, setting free an additional 83 on Sunday.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called on Myanmar’s new government to further all efforts to strengthen freedom of religion and end discrimination against the Rohingya people.


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemned the Burundian government’s systematic use of 
torture on its detainees. He stated that his team had found “at least 345 new cases of torture and ill-treatment” since the beginning of this year. Approximately 595 people have been subject to torture since April 2015. Zeid further claimed that the government has thus far failed to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of torture.
In a leaked report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 
outlined a number of options for sending police forces to Burundi in order to monitor the situation and push for a political solution to the crisis. A UNSC Resolution would be needed for the police force to be able to deploy, as well as Burundi’s consent. The country has indicated its readiness to accept around 20 unarmed officers.


Central African Republic:

Assailants killed a MINUSCA soldier in the town of Rafaï after he was dispatched in response to claims that a town was under attack by the Lord’s Resistance Army.


Democratic People's Republic of Korea:

The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights released figures detailing the evolution of the human rights situation in North Korea, concluding that, despite some minor improvements, action by the international community hadn’t brought about any major changes in the country.
A UN report warned of the great risk posed by malnutrition to the North Korean people. The report stated that more than 75% of the population was "food insecure and highly vulnerable to shocks." 18 million total are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

A car bomb in Bukavu killed three people. Meanwhile, clashes between Mai Mai Simba militiamen and the DRC army killed dozens in Mambasa.  
Amnesty International reported that the DRC government “has deliberately and unlawfully attacked people” by intentionally bombing residential areas, which resulted in “deaths, casualties and the destruction of properties.” Eyewitnesses told Amnesty that a helicopter dropped at least 30 bombs on residential areas on 5 April.
On 20 April, DRC police deployed tear gas against anti- government protesters, who came together to accuse security forces of vandalizing posters of their leaders.  



After Parliament rejected new Cabinet appointees from Prime Minister al-Abadi, who wished to install a largely technocratic government, some legislators staged a sit-in last week to demandthat the prime minister and speaker of Parliament, Salim al-Jabouri, step down. These same MPs then elected a rival speaker, Adnan al-Janabi, as an interim replacement. However, Jabouri maintains that the vote to dismiss him and his deputies was invalid, as the session had lacked a quorum. Jabouri then himself suspended parliament “until further notice.”
The U.S. will be sending 200 additional troops into Iraq and will be posting them closer to battle frontlines in order to advise Iraqi forces on how to combat ISIL.  
Iraq has identified six bodies from two mass graves found this week in Ramadi. Arrested ISIL militants had led authorities to the graves on Tuesday, nearly four months after Iraq expelled the terrorist group from the city.



While on the campaign trail for the 2017 election in Kenya, current President Uhuru Kenyatta formally asked Kenyan parliamentary members to pass legislation to approve Kenya’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Six Kenyans, including Kenyatta, had been recently charged by the ICC for their alleged roles in the 2007-2008 post-election violence. After charges were dropped against the President in 2014 and the Deputy President earlier this month, most people believed the country’s ICC “episode” to have concluded. However, ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah issued a warning saying that Kenya could still face penalties if it does not turn over three other suspects accused of obstruction of justice in the case against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang. Nevertheless, President Kenyatta has promised that “no other Kenyan [would] go to the ICC.”



The EU declared that it is making preparations for the deployment of a civilian security mission in Libya, should such a mission be requested by the new UN-backed government. The mission would not involve soldiers and would aim at stabilizing and restoring security to the country.
The U.S., for its part, imposed sanctions on Khalifa al-Ghweil, a stark opponent of the new UN-backed unity government and leader of one of the rival governments in Tripoli. The sanctions will freeze any assets al-Ghweil has in the U.S.
Reports indicate that ISIL forces in Libya have withdrawn from their strongholds on the outskirts of Derna. A rival jihad group, the Mujahideen Shura Council, reportedly helped expel ISIL militants, who are allegedly now making their way to Sirte, ISIL’s “main operational hub” in Libya.



MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali, has renewed its commitment to the successful implementation of the peace agreement in the country and has called for calm after a violent demonstration in the northern region of Kidal left two protesters dead and four others injured. The demonstrators, some armed with molotov cocktails, broke into a MINUSMA-secured airstrip, which is imperative for supplying humanitarian aid and supporting local communities. The demonstrators then ransacked and set fire to the surrounding facilities. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also issued a statement in which he strongly condemned the violent demonstrations and expressed regret over the loss of life and the “unacceptable” damage to the airstrip.

Zainab Hawa Bangura, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, stressed the importance of including the issue of sexual violence as a central consideration in the successful implementation of the peace process in Mali during her first visit to the country.
The African Union could finalize plans for a new AU counter-terrorism force in Mali to support the MINUSMA peacekeeping force by July. The Malian government and UN officials have continuously sought more assistance in the fight against the violent Islamic jihadist insurgency in the country. Despite French, Malian, and UN efforts, the insurgents have become more active in the region. Regional states’ attempts at establishing a joint force against the militants have been held back by difficulties in coordinating the initiative with other security measures and other geopolitical challenges.
Ansar Dine has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of three International Red Cross (ICRC) workers.



Following a UN report last week claiming that “up to 7,000 women and girls might be living in abduction and sex slavery” in northeastern Nigeria, the United States has said that the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls from Chibok have not been abandoned. US officials said that American and African forces in Cameroon have located groups of the abducted schoolgirls on several occasions, but rescue missions were not carried out for fears that the following battle with Boko Haram could put the abductees at risk or risk retaliation against hostages held elsewhere. A US military spokesperson warned that it is not simply the Chibok girls’ welfare that is at risk, but also the safety and well-being of the many others who have been taken hostage and are currently subjected to sexual abuse, forced marriages, and even, at times, death.
On 20 April, two female suicide bombers detonated their explosives in a camp for people displaced by Boko Haram, killing at least eight people. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

South Sudan:

Opposition leader Riek Machar postponed his arrival date to South Sudan twice this week, leading to criticism from the international community and increased doubt about the peace process. Machar was scheduled to return to Juba at the beginning of this week, on 18 April, to be sworn in as vice president to President Salva Kiir. The formation of the transitional government, as called for in an August peace deal,  has already been delayed several times.



Over 1400 internally displaced persons (IDPs), mostly women and children, arrived to Southern IDP camps in Darfur in the past week alone. The Vice President of the IDPs Association in Darfur stated that many civilians had had to travel for two weeks to reach Southern Darfur and are in need of immediate aid.
Shelling by militiamen broke out in the North Darfur village of Kambo Tambo last Saturday, reducing homes and shelters to ashes. The fighters used eight bombs that set half of the houses in the village on fire and established a “toll-gate” near a well on the road, demanding money from anyone passing by.
The UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) expressed concern over recent clashes in the state of East Darfur. Suspected tribal gunmen killed three guards and burnt down the house of an East Darfur governor to protest the death of the leader of their militia. UNAMID urged all parties to exercise the highest level of self control and stressed its readiness to protect civilians.
Sudan's Foreign Ministry Undersecretary briefed ambassadors of European countries resident in Khartoum about the roadmap and the Darfur Administrative Referendum. The roadmap for peace and development in Darfur is supported by the UN Secretary-General, the African Union, the Arab League and the European Union.



The National Electoral Commission announced that Syria’s current ruling Baath Party won the majority of seats in the parliamentary elections held last week. President Bashar al-Assad and allies ran under the “National Unity” coalition and won 200 out of 250 seats. The Baath party has ruled over Syria for the past half century.
Over 100,000 Syrians were trapped in the Azaz district of Aleppo, in the middle of ISIL-occupied land, Kurdish-controlled territory and the Turkish border, with armed conflict only kilometers away. The Turkish border is moreover closed to all except the gravely ill as well as select aid workers. The emergence of renewed conflict over the last week has caused 35,000 Syrians to flee IDP camps taken over by ISIL.
The Syrian peace talks abruptly stalled when the opposition, represented by the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), declared a pause in the negotiations. Following airstrikes thatkilled over 48 people in a crowded vegetable market in Idlib, the HNC said in a letter to rebels that the ceasefire was officially over due to continued government military advances. Senior HNC negotiator Mohammad Alloush said that there was “no way” the opposition could resume formal talks while military forces seemed determined to escalate fighting and the humanitarian situation continued to worsen. .
Government forces, backed by Russian warplanes, launched a counteroffensive against rebels in Latakia on Tuesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that the Syrian army and its allies were able to retake most rebel-occupied areas, though intense clashes on the ground continued between pro-government forces, rebels, and Islamist factions throughout Tuesday.
A senior Western diplomat warned that, if abandoned now, the peace talks may not be able to resume for at least a year. In the interim, there would surely be many more killed and displaced.



Peace talks between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government of President Hadi began in Kuwait on Thursday. The talks, which were supposed to begin on Monday, were delayed due to the Houthis’ insistence that a ceasefire be fully implemented before negotiations began.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK (FCO) issued a report indicating a worsening of human rights situation in Yemen.
According to the Task Force for Population Movement’s (TFPM) recent report, the number of internally displaced people in Yemen has reached 2,755,916 since the eruption of crisis in March 2015.



What else is new?

ICRtoP member the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human RIghts Studies is hosting an event entitled "Avoiding Catastrophe: Linking Armed Conflict, Harm to Ecosystems, and Public Health." Click here for more details.

The ICRtoP has continued its series of infographics to honor Genocide Awareness Month with two this week on the Burundi genocide and Atrocity Prevention Networks. Click here for the full collection so far.



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