ICRtoP, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and the Stanley Foundation to hold event:
Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing RtoP
The UN General Assembly will hold the 2016 informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect on 6 September. This platform will gather Member States, regional organizations, and civil society to discuss and reflect on the Secretary-General’s latest and final report on RtoP, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: the next decade of the responsibility to protect”. The report focuses on the achievements of RtoP and the challenges facing collective action and the norm’s implementation. However, it also suggests ways in which these obstacles might be overcome. To read ICRtoP’s summary of the latest Secretary-General report click here.
On 8 September, the ICRtoP, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and the Stanley Foundation will be holding a follow-up event to the UNGA dialogue, entitled “Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing RtoP”. This event will include prominent panelists such as Gus Miclat, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Initiatives for International Dialogue and founding Steering Committee member of the ICRtoP; Dismas Nkunda, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Atrocities Watch - Africa; and Evan Cinq-Mars, the UN Advocate and Policy Advisor for the Center for Civilians in Conflict. Esteemed peacebuilding activist, Bridget Moix, US Senior Representative for Peace Direct, will moderate the event.
The panelists will focus on how the implementation of RtoP is translated into action at the grassroots level and will exhibit the vital ways in which local communities and civil society members work together to protect populations from atrocities. Although discussions will focus on civil society’s role in RtoP implementation and atrocity prevention, participants will also be welcome to reflect on the dialogue and raise questions and recommendations for Member States and the international community to advance the implementation of the norm and the prevention of atrocities to better protect populations.
*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly next week, 5 - 9 September, but we will resume publication with an update on these events and the crisis situations around the world the following week, 12 - 16 September.
Catch up on developments in...
On Wednesday, historic 5-day peace talks began in Myanmar between the central government and hundreds of representatives of the country’s non-Burmese ethnic minorities, who constitute 40% of the country’s population. The Panglong Peace Conference is being attended by 17 out of the 20 principal rebel groups operating in the country. Many of the ethnic groups have been in a constant state of rebellion since the founding of the country. Nobel Peace Laureate Suu Kyi, state counsellor of Myanmar, but seen as the de-facto leader of the country, stated the talks present a way forward as well as a way to make right on the 1947 Panglong Conference, which promised Myanmar’s ethnic minorities either autonomy or independence if they helped overthrow the British with the Burmese. Notably, there are no representatives from Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya minority, despite numbering over 1.1 million. Three other rebel groups have been barred from attending the peace talks for not signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, with the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) pulling out at the last minute as well due to their exclusion.
On Thursday, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which has 20,000 troops and controls a portion of northern Burma on the Chinese border, dropped out of the Panglong Peace Conference on its second day after discovering they would not be allowed to address the Conference.
UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng expressed his concern late last week over the inflammatory statements made by Pascal Nyabenda, the then President of the ruling CNDD-FDD party and President of the National Assembly, about the genocide in Rwanda. Mr. Nyabenda called the genocide a “fabrication of the international community” used to remove the Hutu government in Rwanda at the time. The Special Adviser warned that such an “irresponsible statement could be interpreted as genocide denial” and “has the potential to inflame ethnic tensions, both within Burundi and outside its borders.”
The country’s parliament is scheduled to begin reviewing the findings from the report by the Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission, which claim that the Burundian people are in favor of removing presidential term limits. However, the opposition has called for a referendum on the issue and accused the Commission of working to serve the interests of the president to remain in office.
Central African Republic:
The head of the Ugandan army, General Katumba Wamal, has announced that the Ugandan will shortly stop its operations in the Central African Republic against the Lord’s Resistance Army. There are currently 500 members of Uganda’s Special Forces in CAR.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea:
On Wednesday, the South Korean National Assembly, after eleven years, passed the North Korean Human Rights Act. The new law dictates that a special advisory group will be created to come up with new policies for the South Korean government to engage in to improve human rights in North Korea.
Democratic Republic of Congo:
On Thursday, police clashed with protesters in Kinshasa, DRC's capital, ahead of the National Dialogue, which seeks to avoid political chaos and tensions when President Joseph Kabila's current term expires in November.
On Tuesday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch released a statement claiming that both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been mistreating journalists. HRW stated that both organizations are engaging in arrests, detentions, and physical violence against journalists whose stories they disagree with or who place their governance in a negative light.
Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article highlighting the legalisation of pirate settlements by the state of Israel. The illegal outposts in the West Bank have been established over the span of two decades without authorization from the government, and are now being retroactively legalized or will be retroactively legalized. The following day, Israeli authorities approved the construction of an additional 284 housing units in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.'s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, has warned that the continued presence and construction of these housing units poses the largest threat and detriment to the peace process and undermines the likelihood of a two-state solution.
Israeli investigators have completed an internal investigation into the Israeli bombing of a UN school in Gaza in 2014, which left 10 dead and dozens injured. The investigators concluded that Israeli soldiers who fired the missile followed appropriate protocol and that the soldiers had sought to fire at a military target.
Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers came into conflict late Wednesday in the occupied West Bank at a religious shrine. One Israeli soldier suffered gunshot wounds.
On Sunday, 18 people died at a wedding in the town of Ain al-Tamer, southwest of Baghdad, when five members of ISIL wearing suicide vests, assaulted the wedding venue.
ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned in a new report that the recruitment of child soldiers is taking place in camps for displaced persons in northern Iraq by government-sponsored militias.
On 31 August, Kurdish forces, preparing for the assault on Mosul, warned of the likelihood of chemical attacks by ISIL as they attempt to keep a foothold in Iraq. While chemical attacks in Iraq have been sparse, Kurdish forces have documented at least 16 separate chemical attacks by ISIL since the start of 2016, a dramatic uptick over the previous two years.
The UN released the casualty numbers for Iraq for the month of August 2016 this week. 691 Iraqis died in the month of August due to acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict, while another 1,016 sustained injuries. Of the 691 deaths, 473 were civilians.
On Monday, Libyan forces fighting ISIL in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte stated they had seized a residential neighborhood from ISIL in the center of the city, leaving ISIL in control of only one district of the city.
US President Obama has agreed to extend the US’s military mission in Libya against ISIL for another month.
On Tuesday, a UN-backed plan for Libya to ship the last of its chemical weapons stock out of the country successfully concluded, with the last shipment leaving for Germany on Saturday.
A second, previously boycotting member of the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed unity government, has agreed to rejoin the Tripoli-based GNA this week. GNA supporters are hoping this will help to strengthen the unity government’s position in the country.
Canada has announced that it will send a "reconnaissance mission" to Mali in order to study the UN peacekeeping mission there. Although Canadian officials have insisted that this does not mean they will send Canadian peacekeepers to Mali, Canada recently promised that it would contribute up to 600 more troops to UN peace operations and has not yet announced which countries it is considering, which has left room for speculation.
On Monday, the Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group responsible for most of the attacks on pipelines in the country’s Niger Delta region, announced that it had ceased hostilities against the government and oil companies in order to enter into negotiations. However, on Tuesday, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, another militant group in the region who are also calling for a greater share of Nigeria’s oil profits to be granted to the population of the impoverished region, claimed responsibility for an attack on a pipeline owned by a subsidiary of the state oil company. The militant group, who were previously unknown until an 11 August attack, said "The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate remains underailed on its mission to getting justice for the people."
Refugees in northeastern Nigeria have staged almost daily protests this week against the poor distribution of food rations in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs). The children are most affected, with between 10 to 25 percent of children in one feeding center near death, according to a spokesperson for Medecins Sans Frontieres. Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has said it will open an investigation into the alleged diversion of food.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, Chaloka Beyani, has called on Nigerian authorities and the international community for urgent action to protect the hundreds of thousands of IDPs in northeastern Nigeria who are displaced due to Boko Haram violence. It is estimated that 2.2 million people in the Lake Chad region are trapped in areas controlled by Boko Haram and in need of humanitarian assistance, but are currently unreachable.
Developments in the Fighting
Over the past weekend, 160 members of a local armed group allied with the SPLM-IO surrendered themselves to state authorities in Western Equatoria state, taking advantage of a pledge of general amnesty and pardon from the President.
On 29 August, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) issued a statement denying reports that it had either targeted or massacred civilians in Yei river county for hoarding food and/or being possible sympathizers of the SPLM-IO. The statement comes after several days of intermittent clashes between the two sides in the area.
Political and Humanitarian Developments
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional body for East Africa that helped to negotiate South Sudan’s peace agreement last year, has signalled that it will soon recognize Taban Deng Gai as South Sudan’s First Vice President, despite continuing controversy over his appointment.
On Monday, 14 paramount chiefs of the Nuer tribe issued a joint-statement disavowing and refusing to recognize Taban Deng Gai as South Sudan’s new First Vice President.
The South Sudanese government has issued a statement claiming that 60 soldiers have been tried and court martialed for their conduct in Juba in early July during the violence that swept the city. The stated crimes for which some of them have been found guilty include looting, murder and shooting and loitering.
On 30 August, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta met in Juba with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, where they discussed last year’s peace deal and how to best stabilize the country. Mr. Kenyatta is the first foreign head of state to travel to South Sudan since the outbreak of violence in early July, using the opportunity to stress that the full-implementation of the peace deal is the only way forward.
On Wednesday, a South Sudanese foreign affairs official announced that UNSC officials will be visiting South Sudan at an undisclosed time this week, while US officials spoke of the possibility of sanctions over the continued use of child soldiers in South Sudan.
On 28 August, fighting broke out between herdsmen and rebel fighters in North Darfur, leaving three people dead.
The same day, the National Consensus Forces (NCF), Sudan’s internal opposition umbrella organization, gave its full support for peace talks aimed at ending the war in the Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions of Sudan and allowing humanitarian access entry. However, the NCF still remains divided on signing the AU Roadmap for Peace in Sudan itself, claiming it will only legitimize and lead to a continuation of the current regime.
On Tuesday, the US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth. met with Sudanese Presidential Assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, who heads the government delegation to peace talks. They discussed how to push the currently stalled peace talks forward, with Mr. Booth promising to attempt to bring the rebels to agreement over a peace deal.
A group of UN human rights experts released a statement this week condemning the Sudanese government’s arrests of and filing of charges against six human rights activists. The statement denounced the charges, which carry a sentence of execution, and called for the detainee’s immediate release. The six people belong to an organization called Training and Human Development (TRACKS) and have been detained for the past three months and have yet to face trial.
Developments in the Fighting
On Sunday, Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish-held villages near the Turkish border left anywhere between 25 and 35 people dead, as conflicting reports from Turkish authorities claim they successfully targeted members of the Kurdish YPG, while other sources claim all casualties have been civilian. US authorities have tried to calm and de-escalate tensions between Turkey, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as the Turkish-backed FSA seized 10 more villages to the south of Jarabalus and reports of fighting between the FSA and SDF emerged. For now, a tentative ceasefire has allegedly been established between the two by the US, yet Turkish officials have continued to deny there is any ceasefire in place.
On Monday, ISIL launched an assault on the al-Talela district, near the ancient city of Palmyra, killing several Syrian government soldiers before being forced to retreat under airstrikes.
Syrian rebels, including hardline islamists and FSA groups, captured the critical town of Halfaya this week from the Syrian government in northern Hama province. Since then, the rebels have captured several more towns in the largest rebel offensive in the area since 2014.
On Tuesday, airstrikes in the suburbs of rebel-held Idlib City left seven civilians dead and multitudes wounded. The strikes, blamed by locals on the Syrian and Russian air forces, struck a vegetable market and come on the heels of the deaths of six civilians in airstrikes just the day before.
On Tuesday, ISIL announced the death of their number two man, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, near Aleppo. Adnani had served as ISIL’s spokesperson and had been considered their top strategist, serving as the group’s top recruiter, and chief of propaganda. He is also considered to have been the mastermind behind several ISIL terrorist attacks in Europe. Both Russia and the US are claiming responsibility for his death, which many experts consider to be a huge blow to the organization.
Political and Humanitarian Developments
The 4-year Syrian government siege of the rebel-held city of Daraya ended over the weekend in the suburbs of Damascus. After having reached an accord with the government, hundreds of rebel fighters and their families left for rebel-held Idlib province, while roughly 4,000 civilians left for government-run reception centers closer to Damascus.
On Thursday, residents of the besieged Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh stated that they have reached a ‘Daraya’ style deal to end the government’s siege and will begin evacuations in the next 48 hours. A separate deal has also been reached in the government besieged neighborhood of al- Waer in the central city of Homs. An estimated 75,000 people still live in the neighborhood, which the government has agreed to stop bombing in return for the rebels being transported elsewhere.
On 29 August, The Guardian released the findings of an in-depth investigation that shows that the UN has awarded a multitude of contracts, worth tens of millions of dollars, to dozens of people personally associated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of the UN’s aid program in the country. The report further cements long-standing fears of Damascus having overt influence over what should be an impartial aid delivery program. The UN is now underintense pressure to set up an independent inquiry over the in the information revealed by the report.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press released a comprehensive assessment of the 72 known mass graves in Iraq and Syria, stating they contain a minimum of 5,200 and up to 15,000 bodies, giving the clearest picture to date of the scale of atrocities committed by ISIL.
In the aftermath of the completion of last week’s joint UN- OPCW investigation into chemical weapon attacks in Syria, which determined that the Syrian government was responsibility for two attacks, while also implicating them in several more, there is now growing pressure for a response from the UNSC. However, on Tuesday, the UNSC failed to come to terms on any course of action, despite previous UNSC resolutions giving them the authority and responsibility to do so.
On 1 September, UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura stated that he is preparing a new political initiative to help jumpstart the stalled peace talks on Syria. He went on to announce he will present his plan prior to the UNGA ministerial meeting on 21 September. Current US-Russian talks on a ceasefire are likely to continue through the weekend, while separate negotiations pertaining strictly to Aleppo continue as well.
The High Negotiations Committee, Syria’s main opposition group, has announced that it will make public next week its plans for a political transition in Syria, including the length of the transitional period and the forming of a transitional governing body with full executive powers.
Beginning on Sunday, a Houthi delegation landed in Iraq and began a string of visits, meeting with the Iraqi Foreign Minister as well as leaders and politicians of the ruling political coalition. The delegation also held several meetings with al-Hashd al-Shaabi, a coalition of Iraqi Shia militias, later in the week.
Two girls in Saudi Arabia died and five others were left injured on Sunday as a result of a cross-border rocket attack by Houthi rebels in Yemen.
ISIL has claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed 72 people in Aden earlier this week. The attack, which is the largest in Aden this year, targeted military recruits signing up for a new unit sponsored by Saudi Arabia.
On Tuesday, a presumed US drone-fired missile struck a vehicle in Ataq, the capital of the Shabwa province in southern Yemen, killing a suspected al Qaeda member and wounding two others.
In a news conference in Sana’a on Tuesday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrickestimated that at least 10,000 people have been killed in the 18-month long civil war in Yemen.
On Wednesday, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed 16 people in northern Yemen, including a local Imam and four children.
UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed spoke before the UNSC this week, where he warned that the continuation of conflict in Yemen between the internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels is allowing the spread of al Qaeda and ISIL in Yemen.
What else is new?:
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) published a new report on atrocity prevention this week, entitled “Atrocity Prevention through Dialogue: Challenges in Dealing with Violent Extremist Organizations”. The report focuses on the use of dialogue with violent extremist groups as a means of preventing widespread violence or atrocities, detailing the practice’s controversial nature and potential applications to prevent atrocities, rare as the may be due to the conditions necessary for successful prevention through dialogue with such groups.