With Reports of New Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria, Security Council Again Faced with Urgent Need To Act to Protect Populations
In direct violation of Security Council Resolutions and the Chemical Weapons Convention, the government of Syria has yet again allegedly used toxic chemicals against civilians. The accusations stem from a new report from ICRtoP Member Human Rights Watch, which states that the Assad government employed such chemicals in at least three barrel bombs ( a weapon which itself indiscriminately affects civilians) attacks in April and May 2015 in Idlib. The latest string of chemical attacks comes on the heels of accusations that the Assad regime had dropped chlorine bombs, also in Idlib, in March and April 2015.
In response, as describedby Security Council Report, the U.S. has been composing a resolution that would set up a process to attribute responsibility for the use of the banned weapons. Though it remains unclear what such an attribution mechanism would look like, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, has indicated that his country supports efforts to determine blame for the chemical attacks. However, he cautioned, Moscow has not yet decided whether a Security Council resolution “is the best way to provide answers.”
Regardless of whatever form the so-called attribution mechanism would take, it is clear by now that the Syrian regime remains unwilling to shoulder its Responsibility to Protect Syrians by continuing to perpetrate atrocity crimes against its populations. Nor have many actors in the international community acted on their own responsibilities in this regard. Because weapons are the means through which atrocity crimes are perpetrated, threatened, facilitated, or prepared, by curtailing and punishing their use—though insufficient in itself to bring an end to the Syrian crisis—the Security Council can take much-needed steps to discharge both its RtoP and its responsibility to maintain international peace and security.
For more on Syria:
Read the statement by ICRtoP and 47 civil society organizations on the 4th anniversary of the start of the Syrian crisis.
- Read the ICRtoP’sCrisis Page andQ & A on the Responsibility to Protect and Syria
The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) issued a press release on the failure of the Member States to address the root causes of the migrant crises in the regional meeting that took place on May 29th in Bangkok. Only a few days after the summit, Myanmar was holding a ship offshore for three days with over 700 migrants on board, which are speculated to have contained both Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims. President Obama urged Myanmar to end the discrimination against the Rohingya if they want to succeed as a democratic nation. Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister of Myanmar Wunna Maung Lwin denied any persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, claiming that persons fleeing the country are solely looking for better jobs. In addition, China has been feeling the effects of Myanmar’s fight against insurgents in the North East.
Protesters returned to the streets in Bujumbura, disappointed with the outcomes of the East African Community summit. However, a decision by the electoral commission to postpone the parliamentary election was welcomed by civil society and opposition parties. Burundi's main coalition opposition party will call on the United Nations to set up a special budget to help the country disarm youth groups, including the Imbonerakure. The US blamed Nkurunziza for the current crisis and asked him to step down. Following closed door consultations that included a briefing by the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, the UN Security Council issued a press statement that called for the resumption of a political dialogue between the Burundian parties, for an agreement to be reached on a new electoral calendar, and for the prioritization of the protection of civil and human rights, among other points.
Read the latest entry in the ICRtoP's #R2P10 Blog Series, by Lucy Hovil at International Refugee Rights Initiative: "The Burundi Crisis and the Risk of Regionalization."
Central African Republic:
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has announced the launch of an independent review panel of the sexual abuse allegations made of French Peacekeepers in CAR. The panel will also review the systematic issues of how the UN handles situations like this.
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
A suspected Mai Mai attack on the airport in Goma killed seven people, at least four of whom were government soldiers. On Monday, the ICC will announce whether opening statements in the trial of former Congolese military commander Bosco Ntaganda will be held in Congo next month.
After a radical Islamist Salafist group, Omar Brigades, claimed responsibility for the rockets fired at Ashkelon and Netivot; Israel retaliated with a series of air strikes on Gaza. This is the first cross-border violence since last year.
Members of the international campaign fighting ISIL met in Paris on June 2nd to discuss renewed efforts to combat the group, but struggled to find a common strategy due to competing priorities. During the month of May at least 1,031 Iraqis were killed and an additional 1,684 were injured in violence and armed conflict, according to estimates tallied each month by the United Nations. ISIS seized control North of Ramadi last month and have closed off the dam to cut off water supplies to pro-government towns.
The UN, ahead of renewed peace talks, determined that there can be no military solution to the crisis. Libyan political factions called for a national unity government on Thursday. ISIS killed two Eritrean immigrants after stopping a truck with 75 Africans of other nationalities. Al Qaeda’s North African arm took responsibility for two attacks on UN peacekeepers in Mali this week.
The renewed fighting over the past month in northern Mali has forced an estimated 57,000 people to flee their homes. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for two attacks against MINUSMA, the UN's peacekeeping mission in Mali. FIDH and the Malian Association of Human Rights called the Malian government or the ICC to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the alleged murder of six civilians in northern Mali.
Amnesty International has found that more than 7,000 people have died in Nigerian military custody during its fight against Boko Haram over the past four years, though the military has rejected the allegations. This week, President Muhammadu Buhari took his first foreign trip to Niger to discuss the regions strategy to tackle Boko Haram. Human Rights watch called on the newly sworn-in president to immediately keep his promises to address the corruption, human rights abuses and large-scale violence within the country. Boko Haram has stepped up attacks in the week following President Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration. At least 50 people were killed in a bomb blast in Maiduguri, Nigeria.
The Security Council condemned the violence in South Sudan and expressed concern over the expulsion of Toby Lanzer, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator. Khartoum is suspected to be sending weapons to back rebel forces in South Sudan. On Tuesday UNHCR reported that heavy fighting over the last two months has displaced more than 100,000 people.
Violence in Darfur is considered to be higher than it has been in a decade, with more than 150,000 people forced to flee their homes this year alone. Sudan’s president Umar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court, will be sworn in for another 5 years. Sheikh Matar Younis, a scholar and leader in Central Darfur, has called on the Sudanese people to stage a sit in at the inauguration and for the UN Security Council as well as the international community to “release the Sudanese people from the grip of this terrorist regime.”
This past weekend the Islamic State blew up the Tadmur Prison, where thousands of people were tortured for opposing the Asaad family’s rule. The demolition was a part of the Islamic State's strategy to present itself as the champion of Sunni Muslims over the Shiite- backed governments of Syria and Iraq. The U.S. accused the Assad regime of providing air support to the Islamic State in their advance against opposition strongholds in Aleppo. The terrorist group captured a key supply route for Assad's opponents from Aleppo to Turkey. Human Rights Watch reported that Jordan has left hundreds of Syrian refugees stranded in the desert.
The UN reported that over 6,400 people have died since the fighting began in Ukraine and human rights abuses continue to be committed by both sides. Heavy fire was reported in eastern Ukraine in what is described as some of the worst fighting since the ceasefire was declared. President Petro Poroshenko has warned the military to prepare to defend against a “full-scale invasion” from Russia.
Yemen’s exiled president, Abed Rabbo Mansour, has agreed to peace talks with Shiite Houthi rebels, which will take place June 10th. Due to heavy fighting, food aid was blocked from the port of Aden on Monday.
What else is new?
President Kagame at the “International Conference on Civilian Protection” in Kigali, called on leaders to ensure that civilian protection does not get lost in ideological debates and that root causes of conflicts are addressed.
In an op-ed, Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping discusses how, “over the course of nearly seven decades, UN peacekeeping has proven itself to be a legitimate, reliable and effective means of protecting civilians and facilitating the transition from conflict to peace.”