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Habre Conviction Provides Hope for Victims
and Historic Precedent for Ending Impunity
 
 

On 30 May, in a landmark case, the Extraordinary African Chambers (CAE) in Dakar, Senegal found Chad’s former dictator, Hissène Habré, guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, rape, and sexual slavery during his rule, sentencing him to life in prison for these crimes. This marks the first time that a judicial system of a foreign country has tried a former ruler of a different country for human rights crimes and it has had a monumental impact for both the victims of Mr. Habré’s crimes and for international justice. Highlighting the impact of the verdict, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that “in a world scarred by a constant stream of atrocities, the ramifications of this verdict are global.”
 
Mr. Habré ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990 when he was ousted by current president, Idriss Déby Itno, and fled to Senegal. Estimates suggest that during his time in power, the country’s security services under his command 
killed 40,000 people and arrested over 200,000. For the past 25 years since his overthrowing, victims groups and civil society organizations have fought ardently, first in Senegal and then in Belgium, for the prosecution of Mr. Habré for these crimes, but Senegal repeatedly refused to either prosecute or extradite him. Victims and human rights groups continued their campaign until finally in late 2012, the African Union (AU) put pressure on the country and supported measures to create the CAE. Six months later, Mr. Habré was arrested in Dakar and in July 2015, he made his first appearance before the court. A second series of hearings to determine damages for the civil parties and other victims are set to begin in June or July of this year.
 
Bringing Mr. Habré to justice for his crimes has undoubtedly 
emphasized the importance of universal jurisdiction in ending impunity for international crimes, but it has also represented a notable breakthrough in the international prosecution of sexual crimes. Mr. Habré was convicted of the rape and sexual slavery of women forced to serve his troops and of having personally raped a woman, marking another historic international first for the proceedings; it is the first time a former dictator has been convicted personally for rape.
 
Overall, Mr. Habré’s case has provided an international precedent to inspire hope for victims and to present a daunting promise to past and future perpetrators that, as Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, 
said, “Safe havens are no longer safe for those suspected of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity or other crimes under international law.”


Catch up on developments in...

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Cote d'Ivoire
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya

Libya
Mali
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On May 30, the government of Myanmar announced State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will chair a new high-level committee on the Arakan State, home to the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority group. Violence in 2013 and 2014 left nearly 140,000 Rohingya displaced, with only a small amount resettling since then. The new committee will be called the Central Committee for Arakan State Peace, Stability and Development. The committee has not been given a clear structure and purpose yet, but early indicators state it will have two thematic areas: resettling internally displaced persons (IDPs) and “social development”; and coordinating the activities of UN agencies and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs). The Burmese government plans to spend $5.9 million to help develop the impoverished state.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported a growing population of Burmese refugees in Thailand are seeking assistance to return home. Of the 120,000 refugees on the Thai-Burmese border, a large number are expected to return during the dry season next year. The UNHCR will facilitate large-scale returns as long as refugees’ repatriation is voluntary.


Burundi:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed last week’s meetings of the political dialogue for Burundi in Arusha. He has also commended former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, the East African Community (EAC) facilitator of the talks, for his decision to also meet with those stakeholders not in attendance in Arusha. In his statement, he emphasized a solution could only be found through an inclusive dialogue process which upholds the Burundian Constitution and the principles of the UN-backed Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi.

The UN food relief agency estimates around 4.6 million Burundians are facing food insecurity, with over 500,00 people requiring urgent emergency food assistance. A report from the World Food Programme (WFP) stated that 265,000 Burundians have fled the country since 31 May into neighboring countries, with as many as 1,000 leaving per week. Refugee camps in surrounding states are currently only 28% funded and still require $127 million more in order to just meet basic needs, according to the UNHCR.

The EU has pledged an additional 10 million Euros in humanitarian aid to Burundian refugees in neighboring countries such as Tanzania, which houses the highest population of Burundian refugees with 139,000. The supplementary aid is purposed for supporting basic necessities for refugees in resource-strained camps in Tanzania. The EU has terminated its direct support to the Burundian government due to its human rights violations.

                                      


Central African Republic:

Rwandan peacekeepers conducted a medical outreach camp in Bria City in eastern Central African Republic on Sunday in partnership with the CAR Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation in honor of International UN Peacekeepers Day, celebrated annually on May 29. The Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) medical personnel are part of the UN mission in CAR. Free medical services were offered to the population, including vaccinations against measles, medical consultation services, and support to the regional and university hospital in the city with specialists.

joint effort between the UN Office of the Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Burundi, and Gabon is investigating allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. With allegations dating back to 2014, teams are conducting interviews of more than 60 of the 106 complaints of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers. The majority of complaints have been made against French soldiers from Operation Sangaris.

The Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Central Africa, released 1 June, stated the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR “documented incidents involving 915 victims, including 53 women, 48 boys and 30 girls.” It noted that 269 of the documented human rights violations were perpetrated by members from the anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka fighting groups, among others.



Cote d'Ivoire:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released its latest brief on the trial in Côte d’Ivoire of the former first lady Simone Gbagbo for crimes against humanity during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis in the country when Mrs. Gbagbo’s husband, then-president Laurent Gbagbo, refused to cede power, resulting in violence and the deaths of at least 3,000 civilians. HRW has warned that the trial must be “credible, fair, and followed by other trials that target high-level rights abusers from both sides” of the crisis. Other human rights groups have refused to participate in the trial on behalf of the victims, citing an incomplete investigation looking into Mrs. Gbagbo’s role in the abuses committed and the breaches of the country’s criminal procedures during trial preparation.

The UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, at the end of her three day visit in Côte d’Ivoire, has welcomed the progress the country’s authorities have made, especially the national armed forces, in taking steps to combat and respond to sexual crimes and conflict-related sexual violence.

 


Gaza/West Bank:

On 1 June, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated he is ready to commence in dialogue with the newly-appointed Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman should Israel accept the two-state solution. Members of the Palestinian executive committee stated the peace initiative should be “attached with practical steps of action,” including pulling out of settlements. With hopes of moving towards a peaceful two-state solution, the multilateral peace meeting with Israel will begin June 3. While Palestine will not be present, Arab States have noted they will represent the Palestinian authority during the meeting.

The European Union (EU) has warned against Israel’s continued demolition of Palestinian homes, whose construction the EU has funded. At least 900 people have been displaced due to the recent demolitions in the Bedouin community of Jabal al-Baba. Home demolitions, along with increasing Israeli settlements, make Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution questionable, according to the EU.

The World Bank recently reported that 90% of water reservoirs in the West Bank are contaminated, making the water there undrinkable. In addition to the 60% youth unemployment rate, about 40% of Gaza’s residents live in poverty, making a humanitarian crisis in the area imminent.

On 2 June, the Israeli military infiltrated the Gaza border into Palestinian-owned farmland near al-Bureij Refugee Camp. Four Israeli army tanks and three bulldozers razed the land, firing indiscriminately in all directions. No injuries were reported.

 


Iraq:

The Kurdistan Regional Security Council (KRSC) announced on Wednesday that a recent Peshmerga offensive, backed by international coalition airstrikes, has liberated nine villages north and east of Mosul in an operation that took place over the past two days.

On 30 May, Iraqi forces began the so-called ‘final assault’ to recapture Fallujah from ISIL. The announcement of the offensive comes in the wake of Iraqi forces completing their ensnaringof Fallujah on Sunday, surrounding the city on all sides and seizing control of all entrances. ISIL is believed to have 1,200 fighters in Fallujah and retaliated with three bomb attacks in Baghdad and the surrounding area.

The top Shi’ite Cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has requested caution from the Iraqi government and its allied Shia militias in the fight to retake Fallujah. The Grand Ayatollah expressed concern over the plight of the 50,000 civilians estimated to be trapped in the city, noting the potential for a large civilian death toll to play into ISIL’s narrative and create further sectarian conflict.

On 1 June, UNICEF issued a warning about the estimated 20,000 children still trapped in Fallujah, stressing that children may be forced to fight for ISIL, now that Fallujah has been surrounded by Iraqi armed forces. The statement also called for Iraqi armed forces to ensure the creation of a safe-corridor for both children and all trapped civilians to escape through.

Heeding these calls from domestic and international quarters, Iraq has temporarily postponed its assault on Fallujah over concern of the fate of civilians. However, while Iraqi forces remain outside the city, shelling, airstrikes, and gunfire could still be heard on Wednesday in the city.

The UN has put the number of Iraqis who have fled from ISIL-controlled Mosul to Syria at 4,000 since May. Furthermore, the UN is anticipating this number to increase to over 50,000 as the Iraqi government plans an offensive against the city and as reports have surfaced from Fallujah that ISIL has increased executions of boys and men in the wake of the recent government offensive.

The U.N. World Food Progamme (WFP) director of Iraq, Jane Pearce, announced the WFP is working on contingency plans for expectations that up to 700,000 people could become internally displaced by a planned Iraqi government offensive to retake Mosul. The WFP is already aiding 1.5 million people in Iraq and the most recent contingency plan is being drawn up to meet a further 900,000.

A monthly report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) stated 867 people were killed and 1,456 injured in Iraq in the month of May. The report does not include casualties in the northern Anbar province, the site of the increasing battle between the Iraqi army and ISIS around Fallujah.

 


Kenya:

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has called the government’s recent claims that the opposition has committed “acts of treason” and is supported by foreign governments to foster instability in the country “reckless and irresponsible.” The KNCHR went on to add that the government should have conducted investigations into the allegations before making such claims.

Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Nkaisserry has announced that Kenya will close the Dadaab refugee camp, home to 300,000 Somalis, in November. He also said that Kenya will work in close cooperation with the UN and Somali authorities to repatriate the Somalis living in the camp, which he insisted would be conducted in a humane way.

 


Libya:

Arab ministers met on 29 May, urging the international community not to intervene in Libya and instead to assist the Libyan army in fighting terrorist threats, such as ISIL and Ansar al-Shari’a. They emphasized the need to support the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in its efforts to combat the spread of terrorism and in lifting the arms embargo in place since 2011. The UN Special Envoy to Libya called on Libya to unite in the fight against all armed militant groups.

Italy has announced that it stands by its “transitional” decision not to send troops into Libya, but is prepared to train and provide weapons to Libyan forces to protect their interests in Libyan oil fields in danger from terrorist group attacks. Russia also stated it would be ready to supply the Libyan government with weapons as soon as the UN arms embargo is lifted.

An armed force with the responsibility of protecting Libya’s oil ports captured the coastal-town of Ben Jawad from ISIL on Monday as it moved west to secure more of the coastline. The forces’ efforts have pushed ISIL’s control to only around 60 miles of Libya’s coastline. As they continued their offensive, the Petroleum Facilities Guard forces also captured a second town, Nawfiliyah, located east of the ISIL stronghold of Sirte. Five people were killed and 18 wounded in the attacks.

On Wednesday, forces backed by the UN unity government in Libya seized control of Sirte’s power plant 20 miles west of the ISIL stronghold, as forces continue to advance towards ISIL’s recruitment and training camp in the city.

The latest report from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on ISIL, which has not been publicly released yet, stated that the group is raising money from capturing oilfields in Libya and then distributes the funds to groups around the world. While ISIL is losing offensives in Iraq and Syria, the group’s threat in Libya remains high. The UN report also noted that ISIL has been utilizing Libya as a base to spread and diversify its presence in the African region.



Mali:

An ambush on a the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) killed five Togolese peacekeepers and injured another on Sunday outside a town in the Mopti region. The head of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, released a statement condemning the “heinous act of terrorism”.

On Tuesday, two other separate attacks targeting UN or UN-contracted personnel in the Gao area killed four people, including one Chinese peacekeeper, two Malian security guards, and one French expert working for a local service provider with the UN’s mine-defusing agency. Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The UN Secretary-General has expressed his concern and outrage over the latest attacks as well as his condolences to the victims and their families. He also called on Malian authorities to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable. Mr. Ban stressed the UN’s strong support for the peace agreement and stabilization of Mali and announced that he intends to make a proposal to the UN Security Council to strengthen MINUSMA’s capabilities and make sure that peacekeepers in Mali are adequately equipped to handle the dangerous environment there. He has recommended that a deployment of 2,500 more peacekeepers should be sent to Mali. The UN Security Council, in a separate statement, also condemned the attacks and expressed their support for the implementation of the peace process and MINUSMA.



Nigeria:

On Monday, separate clashes in Nigeria’s southern oil-rich Niger Delta region between the country’s security forces and both oil militants and Biafran secessionists killed at least 20 civilians and 2 police officers. Community leaders from the town of Oporoza, an area reachable only by water or air, have accused soldiers of firing on a speedboat evacuating civilians from a military siege on the city and of wounding and beating civilians in their search for Niger Delta Avengers, a new group that has claimed attacks on key oil pipelines in the country. The Avengers’ recent attackshave cut the country’s oil production in half and they have issued a 31 May deadline for the oil companies to leave the region before “something big” will happen.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari canceled a trip planned to the restive Niger Delta region at the last minute on Thursday and gave no reason for the cancellation. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made the visit in his stead. The Avengers have accused the president of overlooking local problems.



South Sudan:

On 27 May, South Sudan’s Transitional Government on National Unity (TGoNU) passed a resolution establishing areas where the armed-forces of the opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) in Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr el Ghazal will be cantoned. The cantonment will be carried out by the Joint Monitoring Ceasefire Committee  (JMCC), with the move being considered a breakthrough in the peace process.

Later that same day, South Sudan’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management admitted that South Sudan does not have a plan in place for resettlement and repatriation of the country’s internally displaced and its refugees. The Minister stated further consultation is needed with the UN to assess the needs of the displaced, while the UN urged international donors not to leave South Sudan in the dark.

On 31 May, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) renewed the sanctions regime in place against a number of individuals who have been implicated in attempting to sabotage the peace process. Furthermore, the UNSC resolution congratulated the South Sudanese parties on the forming of the Transitional Unity Government several weeks ago, but also recognized the continued lack of political will to move further on several sticking points, including continued non-cooperation with the in-country UN mission and the continuing danger facing humanitarian workers.

The South Sudanese opposition forces, under the leadership of the Vice President Riek Machar, have accused Uganda of redeploying troops inside the country. If true, this deployment would be in breach of the August 2015 peace agreement, in which the withdrawal of all Ugandan troops from South Sudanese soil was stipulated, apart from those Ugandan troops in Western Equatoria State under the African Union (AU) mandate to keep searching  for members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The South Sudanese Army has denied claims that it had engaged in a policy of detention wherein detainees, including civilians, were placed in shipping containers. Claims of this method of detention were made in a recent report released last week by Amnesty International.

 


Sudan/Darfur:

On 30 May, talks began in Doha on how several groups, including the JEM and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) rebel groups, can join the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). Signed in 2011 and 2013, the DDPD serves as a blueprint for eventual peace in the Darfur region between the government and various rebel groups operating there.

Amnesty International has reported that eight human rights activists have been held in detention by the Sudanese security services for the past week. Those being held include six staffers, a volunteer with TRACKS, an organization providing training in human rights, and a representative from Al-Zarqa, an organisation engaged in human development.

Human Rights Watch has released a report highlighting that Sudanese authorities deported at least 442 Eritreans, including six registered refugees, this past May. Prior to this deportation, the UNHCR was consistently denied access to these peoples.

The Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Abdel Wahid El Nur (SLM-AW), claims to have killed dozens of government troops and their allied militia in recent clashes in the western Jebel Marra region of Darfur.



Syria:

On 26 May, the U.N. special envoy for Syria announced that no new peace talks will take place for at least two to three weeks. The lack of significant humanitarian access and the breaking down of the ceasefire were noted as sticking points, with progress needed on both fronts before talks resume. Four days later, the chief-peace negotiator for the Syrian Opposition in Geneva resigned, stating that his decision to quit was over the failure of the international community to stop the government-led atrocities.

Preparations to begin airdrops into the besieged areas of Syria began on 1 June as the first aid in nearly four years reached the besieged Damascus suburb of Darayya on Wednesday. A local 48-hour truce came into effect, allowing vaccines, baby milk and medical goods to be brought into the beleaguered city. The plan calls for the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) to begin airdrops to 13 designated areas in the event that the Syrian government still refuses to allow over-land deliveries. While the air drops are “not imminent,” as Ramzi Essedine Ramzi, UN deputy special envoy for Syria warned, the overall process that will lead to drops has begun.

Airstrikes killed 23 people in the rebel-controlled city of Idlib, on Monday. The strikes are said to have hit areas in several residential neighborhoods as well as near a hospital, closing it down. The following day, further airstrikes took place against Ahrar al Sham’s main camp in Idlib province, leaving many dead. By 1 June, the airstrikes had killed at least 58 people and wounded almost 300. Russia has denied any and all implications in the airstrikes.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced, on 30 May, the extension of the scope of its offensive against ISIL, with the assault now including ISIL positions to the west of Raqqa, in particular an airbase used by ISIL. The airbase links Raqqa with other pockets of ISIL territory around Aleppo. Coinciding with this announcement, the SDF began a new, major offensive on a portion of northern Syria known as the Manbij pocket. The aim of the offensive is to push ISIL out of a strip of territory which it controls along the Turkish border and has been noted by US officials as the terrorist group’s “last remaining funnel into Europe.”

Fighting in Northern Aleppo between ISIL and various rebel factions has left roughly 8,000 people trapped, and is risking to spill over into nearby IDP camps, the UN stated on Tuesday.The town of Marea saw scores killed over the previous weekend as ISIL tried to wrest control of the town from rebel forces, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights noting this ISIL offensive to be the single largest gain of territory in two years of fighting in Aleppo. The rebels, for their part, have been clashing with fighters of the SDF as well as issuing directives ordering their fighters not to allow any more people fleeing the ISIL advance into the territory they control. The UN stated that the SDF forces in the area have been engaging in the same policy in retaliation for rebel shelling of a Kurdish controlled neighborhood in Aleppo.

Two UN experts have urged the international community to take action to provide immediate protection for the thousands of civilians in the Aleppo region who have been affected by this recent upsurge in fighting. The experts warned that a massive new displacement of people could take place and that trapped civilians may be at risk of becoming targets. UN Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani stated that around 165,000 IDPs are still stranded at the Turkish border, where their settlements continue to be bombarded by airstrikes and shelling, killing and injuring dozens of civilians this year.

On 2 June, a bomb blast killed several people near a mosque in the coastal city of Latakia, killing and wounding several people, with official numbers not yet released.



Yemen:

On 27 May, the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting in Yemen pushed back against accusations that it was disregarding humanitarian law in its campaign in the country. The coalition command released a statement that it "respects the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights in all its military operations" in its campaign, despite a report by Human Rights Watch recently implicating the coalition in mass humanitarian abuses.

On 30 May, observers of the Yemeni peace-process in Kuwait noted great forward progress, with the UN envoy receiving a list of 6,930 detainees, prisoners and missing persons to be reviewed for their validity and a hopeful mass prisoner release. This led to Yemen’s warring parties swapping prisoners on Wednesday, moving forward on their agreement to free half of the prisoners within 20 days.  The exchange encompassed 16 troops from the Popular Resistance Fighters, a pro-government militant group, and 19 Houthi militants. This deal has been seen as the first major breakthrough in the peace talks.

Clashes between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces from Tuesday to Thursdayresulted in the deaths of at least 85 fighters across both sides and a loss of ground for the pro-government forces in the Marib and Shabwa provinces, due to a lack of air support from the Saudi-led coalition. On Thursday, the coalition carried out airstrikes on a group of Houthis in Sanaa, which killed five people.

Despite having lost a majority of its territory in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to hold on in several pockets and gain financing from the exporting of Yemeni oil. A month after being forced out of their de facto capital of Makalla, a major Yemeni seaport, AQAP has taken to creating checkpoints and demanding ‘taxes’ on oil deliveries to the seaport from the neighboring province.

 


What else is new?

The German Parliament adopted a symbolic resolution on Thursday declaring the 1915 killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks a genocide, a move that was immediately rejected by the government of Turkey. The adoption of the resolution has put further strain between the two nations as they work with the European Union to manage the refugee crisis, with Turkey recalling its ambassador to Germany for “consultations.”

On 29 May, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, ICRtoP member, The Global Centre for R2P, released a statement highlighting the role of peacekeepers in upholding RtoP. The statement recognized the HIPPO report recommendations and the Kigali Principles as “practical ways to address current challenges”, as well as noted the need to use the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes as a tool to enhance atrocity prevention capacities.

 

 

 

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