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11 December 2007
Responsibility to Protect Engaging Civil Society
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In this issue: [European and African Parliamentarians reference R2P in letter to EU-Africa Summit; Commonwealth Leaders Reaffirm Commitment to R2P; Featured Report from ; R2P in the News; and Countries in Crisis]


I. European and African Parliamentarians reference R2P in letter to EU-Africa Summit

1. EU-AU OPEN LETTER ON DARFUR TO EU AFRICA SUMMIT
2. EUROPEAN AND PAN AFRICAN PARLIAMENTS WELCOME HISTORIC JOINT EU-
AFRICA STRATEGY

II. Commonwealth Leaders Reaffirm Commitment to R2P

1. FINAL COMMUNIQUE OF COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENTS CONFERENCE

III. Featured Report

1. DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE FOUNDATION -- THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT AS AN ELEMENT OF PEACE

IV. R2P in the News

1. RAMESH THAKUR--WE CAN LIVE UP TO THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
2. BROAD GROUP OF NGOS URGE CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT FOR PEACEKEEPING
3. DARFUR DEBATED
4. UN INTERVENTION IN SRI LANKA - A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY?

V. Countries in Crisis

1. CONGO-KINSHASA: CIVILIANS FACE HORRIFIC SEXUAL VIOLENCE
2. UN: ATROCITIES FUEL WORSENING CRISIS IN HORN OF AFRICA
3. BURMA: CRACKDOWN BLOODIER THAN GOVERNMENT ADMITS


I. European and African Parliamentarians reference R2P in letter to EU-Africa Summit

1. EU-AU OPEN LETTER ON DARFUR TO EU AFRICA SUMMIT
AU Monitor
07 December 2007

Over forty members of African and European Parliaments have today (Friday) expressed urprise and disappointment that the crisis in Darfur is not on the agenda for the EU-Africa Summit that begins in Lisbon this weekend.

As European and African leaders including President Bashir of Sudan - arrive in Lisbon, the legislators released a copy of a letter they sent to the Heads of State attending.

The strongly worded letter said that they were, urprised and disappointed to note that at a two-day summit of the leaders of our two continents, there will be no time allotted to discuss the continuing crisis in Darfur that has claimed over 200,000 lives.

() The calls for the Summit to discuss Darfur come following the news last month from UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno that the Government of Sudan is blocking the deployment of the hybrid peacekeeping force. It also follows a similar demand for a focus on Darfur from European and Africa writers last Tuesday.

The letters from legislators and campaigners argue that the EU and Africa have a shared responsibility to solve the Darfur conflict, which has already claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced millions.

() orld leaders have to ask themselves what they are in politics for if they ignore the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people. If world leaders are willing to meet and shake hands with those accused of sponsoring mass violence they have a duty to look them in the eye and bring them to task, said Onyango Kakoba, Member of the Ugandan Parliament.

Full text of the MPs letter:

To: Heads of State and Government of the European Union and Africa

Your Excellencies,

On 7th and 8th December you will meet in Lisbon for the first EU-Africa Summit since 2000. Closer cooperation between our two continents is a highly desirable goal, which we as elected representatives strive to support.

However, we firmly believe that any discussion on such cooperation cannot move forward without also addressing the largest and one of the most pressing humanitarian disasters in the region: the ongoing conflict in Darfur and its destabilizing effect on Sudan and its neighbours.

We are therefore surprised and disappointed to note that at a two-day summit of the leaders of our two continents, there will be no time allotted to discuss the continuing crisis in Darfur that has claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced more than two and a half million people, many of whom continue to rely on an enormous humanitarian aid effort. The welfare of our citizens must be the first order of business whenever our leaders meet, and the devastating impact this ongoing conflict has on the lives of so many people should clearly place it near the top of the agenda for the EU-Africa Summit.

The international community has a collective responsibility to protect civilians from armed conflict. In turn, when parliamentarians from across Africa met in May of this year to consider the role of national parliaments in responding to the Darfur crisis, they determined that "Parliaments have a direct responsibility to engage the executive [..] in the field of foreign policy, to protect the lives of the most vulnerabler
We therefore urge you to ensure that in Lisbon there is a specific agenda item on the urgent need to bring a sustainable end to the violence currently threatening the lives of civilians in Darfur. We also urge you to confirm that protecting civilians from conflict, including in Darfur, will be a clear priority of African-EU cooperation.

Full text available at:
http://www.pambazuka.org/aumonitor/comments/551/


2. EUROPEAN AND PAN AFRICAN PARLIAMENTS WELCOME HISTORIC JOINT EU-AFRICA STRATEGY
European Parliament
07 December 2007

Today the Pan African Parliament and European Parliament adopted a joint statement on the future of EU-Africa relations to be presented by European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering and Pan-African Parliament President Gertrude Mongella to the summit of EU and African Heads of State and Governments on 8 and 9 December.

The parliaments are strongly convinced that a genuine partnership between Europe and Africa, based on shared values and principles, mutual respect and accountability, and seeking the wellbeing of people, is urgently needed. Through this partnership the two continents should address together global challenges such as poverty and security, climate change, migration, human rights and democracy.

Maria Martens MEP and rapporteur on Africa, underlined in Lisbon the importance of the parliamentary dimension of the EU-Africa Strategy in order to make it a genuine people-centred partnership.

() During the Summit, European and African leaders are expected to address some of the most urgent crises that confront the African continent today. "Look at what is happening in Zimbabwe and in Darfur. Europe and Africa must act rapidly, in a true spirit of partnership, to take their responsibility to protect people.r
Africa remains the poorest continent in the world. here is enough food, water, technical know-how, and enough money, to give all people a decent life. It is a matter of political will.r
Full text available at:
http://allafrica.com/stories/200712070961.html


II. Commonwealth Leaders Reaffirm Commitment to R2P

1. FINAL COMMUNIQUE OF COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENTS CONFERENCE
25 November 2007

Excerpts from the final communique issued by Commonwealth leaders in Kampala, Uganda:

()Fundamental Political Values

4. Heads of Government reiterated their commitment to the Commonwealth's fundamental political values of: tolerance; respect; international peace and security; democracy; good governance; human rights; gender equality; rule of law; the independence of the judiciary; a balance of power between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary as recognised in the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles; freedom of expression; a political culture that promotes transparency and accountability; and sustainable development.

5. They also reaffirmed that the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is a fundamental Commonwealth value, and reiterated their commitment to work together to ensure that the responsibility to protect is carried out by the international community, in accordance with the UN Charter.

6. Heads of Government reiterated their full support for the good offices role of the Secretary-General in conflict prevention and resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction and development. They also expressed their continuing commitment to the Commonwealth Secretariat's work to strengthen democratic institutions, processes and culture including through election observation, provision of technical assistance and training and other activities, upon the request of the countries concerned. Heads of Government acknowledged the value of the Commonwealths strategic partnerships with other international and regional organisations and encouraged the Commonwealth Secretariat to further develop these links so as to enhance cooperation in areas of common interest. ()

Full text available at:
https://www.chogm2007.ug/index.php?option=com_remository&Itemid=128&func=fileinfo&id=15


III. Featured Report

1. THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT AS AN ELEMENT OF PEACE
Stiftung Entwicklung und Frieden (SEF)/ Development and Peace Foundation (Germany)
December 2007

Under the heading he Responsibility to Protect as an Element of Peace. Recommendations for its Operationalisation, Professor Sabine von Schorlemer, Professor of International Law, European Union Law and International Relations at the Technical University of Dresden, starts with tracing the history of origins and the key elements of the emerging norm of a responsibility to protect (R2P). The main part of the paper is dedicated to strategies for the implementation of R2P. Thereby, priority is given to prevention and early warning. But there is also an urgent need for an agreement on olicy guidelines determining when and under which circumstances the Security Council should authorise military action in response to crimes against humanity, says the author.

Among the co-signatories of this paper, you can find the two main authors of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty's (ICISS) report "The Responsibility to Protect", Mr Gareth Evans and Professor Ramesh Thakur.


Full report available at:
http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/civil_society_statements/?theme=alt5


IV. R2P in the News

1. WE CAN LIVE UP TO THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
Ramesh Thakur
Ottawa Citizen
08 December 2007

Dec. 9 and 10 mark the anniversaries of the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Both were an acknowledgment of the dark side of European history and embodied the determination to ban vices that had been let loose with terrible consequences by westerners.

As human beings, we bear rights that are inalienable. Because these arise from the fact that we are human, they are necessarily universal, held equally by all humans. The parallel growth and expansion of human rights and international humanitarian law converged in the protection of civilians and punishment of perpetrators against the backdrop of government-instigated atrocity crimes like genocide, ethnic cleansing and large-scale killings.

Changes in the nature of armed conflict have put civilians on the front line of conflict-related casualties as well, from about 25 per cent during the First World War to around 65 per cent in the Second World War and up to 90 per cent of casualties today. Meantime, globalization has shrunk distances, brought images of human suffering into our daily lives in graphic detail and expanded our capacity to respond meaningfully, thereby increasing the calls to do so. Burma in 2007 was vastly different from Burma in 1988 on this count.

() At a time when Darfur continues to tug at consciences without borders, in a year in which the military thugs in Burma cracked down on peaceful Buddhist monks, and amidst the continuing shame of Guantanamo that mocks the worldwide legacy of the previous champion-in-chief of human rights, it is worth highlighting two notable advances that give cause for cheer: the establishment of the International Criminal Court in 1998 and the UN's adoption of the responsibility to protect in 2005. Canada played a starring role in the first and the lead role in the second.

Both encroach substantially on national sovereignty with respect to nonintervention and the sovereign impunity of heads of state. Without an international criminal court with universal jurisdiction, the Genocide Convention remained an incomplete instrument. Without R2P, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a hollow mockery for many.

() Both with protection and prosecution, the default responsibility remains with states. Only if and when they are unable or unwilling does the community of states have the duty to step in with international protection and prosecution.

But who is "the international community"? The UN Security Council is the only international law enforcement body but faces serious leakage of representational legitimacy with each passing year.

() The alternative of non-UN authorized interventions is also flawed. The rest of the world is not going to accept that Washington, unilaterally or in concert with coalitions of the willing, has the right to define the thresholds of acceptable and intolerable behaviour by everyone else.

() The solution to both dilemmas is to return to the rule of law which tames the use of force both internally and internationally. And that means codifying the responsibility to protect, acting on it through agreed procedures and institutions, buying into the ICC, and then having the moral force, legal authority, material capacity and courage of conviction to topple the tyrants of the world, from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Burma to Darfur, and put them on trial at The Hague.

Full text available at:
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=9a6679e9-a5cf-4c13-bca7-89ea38812cfd

2. DARFUR DEBATED
Roberta Cohen
Sudan Tribune
03 December 2007

Bruising debates within the human rights and humanitarian communities have centered on the numbers who have died in Darfur, the use of the term genocide, the efficacy of military vs. political solutions and the extent to which human rights advocacy can undermine humanitarian programmes on the ground.

() This wide range of estimates has generated intense disputes about how the statistics have been developed, time frames used and whether all causes of death (killings as well as starvation and disease) have been included. Deliberately underestimating the numbers can contribute to international inaction but, on the other hand, exaggerating death tolls in order to raise the alarm can undermine credibility and put into doubt all statistics. It can also make constructive dialogue more difficult and lead the Sudanese regime to put further obstacles in the way of aid deliveries since it makes no distinction between advocacy groups and relief suppliers.

() For many NGOs and experts, particularly in the US, there is little doubt that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed have committed genocide by means of deliberate killings, deportations, rapes and destruction of livelihood. Physicians for Human Rights has found irect evidence of genocidal intent and trong circumstantial evidence upon which genocidal intent may be inferred. The US government concluded in 2004 that genocide had been committed while the Parliament of the European Union has called what happened antamount to genocide.r
() The use of the term genocide has also been called a political liability, with relief groups criticising human rights advocates for undermining humanitarian operations on the ground. The term has been said to make the rebels, as well as the Sudanese government and the Arab militias, more intransigent. In fact, sometimes to facilitate negotiations with the government of Sudan, UN officials have downplayed the ethnic component of the conflict, emphasising instead its environmental roots desertification, ecological degradation and water scarcity.

The debate over genocide has detracted from the most salient issue the need to protect people when atrocities are committed, whatever their legal categorisation. It has enabled Sudan and its supporters to make it appear that the crimes committed are not so serious since genocide has not been officially determined. Francis Deng, Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, persuasively argues that when a situation involves massive suffering and death like Darfur, attention should not be focused on labels and legalities but rather on what should be done to stop or prevent this.

The disarray over the use of the term genocide suggests the need to explore whether it is feasible to set up an expert body under the Genocide Convention to help with determinations on whether or not genocide is occurring. The mandate of the Special Representative does not allow him to make such determinations and, unlike other international human rights treaties, the 1948 Genocide Convention contains no implementation machinery. The ICC can find individuals guilty of genocide after the fact but a body of recognised experts, aided by satellite technology, could be tasked with making speedy determinations of what is occurring, monitoring the states actions and providing guidance on the obligations of other states under the convention. To be sure, adding a protocol to the convention or reopening the text would come with considerable risks. But the experiences of Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur, with the debate and uncertainty over the use of the term and the steps states should take in response, point to the need for establishing an authoritative mechanism.

Military vs. political solutions

Many commentators, politicians and humanitarians have called for military action. They point out that over the past four years Sudan has broken every pledge to halt the violence and understands only one language the credible threat or use of force. Without armed intervention, they argue, lives will continue to be lost in Darfur, while Khartoum, awash with oil revenue and arms, will continue on its criminal path. Former Clinton Administration officials mindful of their failure to prevent the 1994 Rwanda genocide are at times at the forefront of those urging the US to take military action.

() Whatever the merits of the case, it has become clear that neither the UN nor a coalition of willing states is likely to undertake coercive military action in Darfur to oblige the government of Sudan to disarm the Janjaweed and halt its own military operations. Darfur is not a national security priority for any Western state. The US military is overstretched in Iraq, NATO is engaged in Afghanistan, and Sudan can rely upon China, Russia and the Arab League to shield it from robust international action.

A more realistic option

() The time frame for deploying UNAMID needs to be speeded up, equipment and training provided, and flexibility introduced with regard to Sudan and the AUs insistence on predominantly African troops and police. Since the resolution includes no sanctions in the event Sudan should obstruct deployment, a coalition of governments, including African and Arab states and regional bodies, is needed to systematically prod Sudan with both sanctions and incentives to allow in the force and, most importantly, to reach a political agreement with the rebels, as called for in the resolution. China will need to be encouraged to use its leverage with Sudan, while rebel groups will need to be pressed to negotiate and compromise as well. After all, the much-touted responsibility to protect (R2P) means not only military action but also a series of diplomatic, humanitarian, political and economic steps to take prior to coercive action. One small step forward would be to strengthen the offices of the soon-to-be-appointed Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect and the Special Representative for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. Both need staff, resources and political support, from outside and inside the UN, in order to map out and raise awareness of the steps needed for prevention and to operationalise R2P both for Darfur and other serious situations.

Full text available at:
http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article25030

3. BROAD GROUP OF NGOS URGE CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT FOR PEACEKEEPING
Citizens for Global Solutions
December 2007

More than 50 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) urged Members of Congress today to co-sponsor H. Res. 213, the resolution calling for the establishment of a United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS). As envisioned, UNEPS would be capable of intervening in the early stages of civil conflicts, genocides or other humanitarian crises.

() H. Res. 213 was introduced by Reps. Albert Wynn (D-MD) and James Walsh (R-NY) and currently has 24 co-sponsors. In a recent letter to their colleagues in the House, Wynn and Walsh noted, f the United Nations Peace Service (UNEPS) that we propose were in existence today, the people of Darfur would be already enjoying the protection of a well-trained peacekeeping unit capable of accomplishing its mission.

() As proposed by a global coalition of academics, defense specialists and peace organizations, UNEPS would individually recruit, train and employ 12,000 - 18,000 individuals with a wide range of skills, including civilian police, military, judicial experts and relief professionals. It would be a permanent U.N. integrated mission with expertise in peacekeeping, conflict resolution, environmental crisis response and emergency medical relief. Upon Security Council authorization, UNEPS would be available to respond to a crisis within 48 hours.

Coordinated by Citizens for Global Solutions, a non-partisan foreign policy advocacy organization, the NGO letter states: n recent years, the international community has been increasingly called upon to respond rapidly and effectively to emerging crises, yet lacks the tools to consistently answer this call. We believe the time has come for a permanent emergency response service, designed to complement the capacity of the United Nations to provide stability, peace, and relief in deadly emergencies.r
By intervening in the early stages of urgent situations, UNEPS could help prevent their escalation into national or regional disasters. It is a tool that the international community desperately needs in order to fulfill its responsibility to protect. Last spring, Chads government requested a U.N. deployment of peacekeepers to slow the spillover of violence from Darfur. However, while the U.N. struggled to prepare the mission, Chads government backed away from the request.r
The full letter to Congress is available at:
http://www.globalsolutions.org/files/general/UNEPS_Org_Sign_On_120307_Final.pdf

4. UN INTERVENTION IN SRI LANKA - A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY?
Dr. Victior Rajakulendran
Tamil Sydney
November 2007

Recent UN interventions

The recent history of UN interventions informs us that the UN will only intervene when the various ruling blocks within the body consider it in their interests to do so. Many past UN interventions were not as a response to popular pressure in any real respect.

() However, in many cases timely UN intervention has saved major human catastrophes and reluctance to intervene in other cases has resulted in human tragedy, whatever the motives behind the decision. UN interventions using military might to subdue authoritarian regimes always had vested interests behind the intervention and resulted in, most cases, more human tragedy. On the other hand, genuine UN military interventions for the purpose of separating forces in conflict in a country while a peaceful settlement is being worked out has generally benefited all sides.

() Is UN intervention a possibility in Sri Lanka?

During the 25 year long conflict in Sri Lanka more than 80,000 lives have been lost, most of them Tamils, one million Tamils have been internally displaced and another one million Tamils have left the country to settle down in India and many Western nations. Until 2000, when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) declared a unilateral cease-fire and called for internationally mediated peace negotiations, the UN and its powerful member nations like the US, UK, France, Germany, etc. turned a blind eye to the human tragedy that was developing in Sri Lanka. Although there was enough evidence that enocide against Tamils has been carried out in Sri Lanka during the period 1982 2000 and, therefore, UN intervention was merited, no one talked about human rights violations at that time.

() Mahinda Rajapaksa regimes disregard for the US-backed ceasefire agreement and the Scandinavian Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) that comes under this agreement, its military approach to the conflict and the gross human rights violations carried out by the Sri Lankan security forces in complicity with Tamil paramilitaries under the direction of Presidents brother and Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, have created an ideal situation for a UN-led intervention in Sri Lanka.

As a prelude to intervention, the UN human rights monitoring machinery, other human rights monitoring organisations and conflict resolution think-tanks have been activated to do the ground-work against the Rajapaksa Governments approach and its human rights violations, as they have done before in US-initiated UN interventions in Kosova, Darfur, etc.

New York-based uman Rights Watch (HRW), an independent human rights monitoring group that has hitherto written reports on LTTE fund-raising and recruitment of child soldiers suddenly started releasing detailed reports, one after the other, on the human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan security forces and the paramilitaries operating side-by-side with the security forces. HRW started recommending that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) take up this issue in its sessions. UNHRC also took up this matter in its sessions in Geneva and at its last (6th) session the European Union was prepared to propose a resolution condemning the Sri Lankan government.

() The UN has also sent special envoys working in the field of human rights to Sri Lanka, to give the message that serious Human Rights violations were being committed in Sri Lanka . Allen Rock, Special Advisor to the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, was the first one to visit and expressed his concern about the kidnapping of children from refugee camps by the paramilitaries while the security forces turn a blind eye to this. But the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Kehelia Rambukwella ridiculed him and questioned his integrity.

John Holmes, the U.N. Undersecretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, was the next one to visit. When John Holmes gave a harsh report on the treatment of the war displaced Tamils in the East, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, the government's chief whip in Parliament and a Cabinet minister, branded Holmes a "terrorist" and said that, if not for the bribe John Holmes had accepted from the LTTE, he would not have done such a wrong thing.

() In his 28th October 2007 report to the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the Un Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated that espite the serious nature of these crimes and their repercussions, insufficient attempts have been made to hold perpetrators accountable. In Sri Lanka , there is still little progress in the work of the Government-established commission investigating human rights abuses, including the murders of 17 staff of Action Contre la Faim who were killed in a single, abhorrent act in August 2006. Only the terms enocide and rimes Against Humanity have to be used by the UN to justify an intervention in Sri Lanka, if they want to, the same way they have done elsewhere.

Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), a think tank on conflict resolution headed by the former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, has also taken an active role recently in the Sri Lankan conflict. In the Kathirgamar memorial lecture that Gareth Evans delivered in Colombo, he talked about the Responsibility to Protect (R-2-P) policy and emphasised that the Sri Lankan government has a responsibility to protect all its citizens. He also reiterated that, although the Sri Lankan situation has not yet reached that of Darfur, it will get there if the Sri Lankan government fails to look after its responsibility to prevent such an eventuality. He also hinted that if Sri Lankan government fails in its responsibility to prevent abuses, intervention by the international community is inevitable.

() Some may argue that a US-designed UN intervention is impossible in Sri Lanka because of India. But, the US would not even attempt a UN intervention mission in Sri Lanka without embracing India in the whole process. Although the US wanted a NATO-led UN intervention in Darfur, later it compromised on an African Union-dominated UN peace-keeping force there. Similarly, the US may try to work alongside India in making compromises to use an Indian-dominated UN peace-keeping force in Sri Lanka.

() Perhaps this is the reason the Co-chairs have now decided to shelve the UN intervention approach and take a fresh approach to the peace process and are trying to put more pressure for the first time on the Sri Lankan government side, announcing that their development aid in the new year will not be given directly to the Sri Lankan government but only through non governmental organisations operating in the field. As the co-chairs have exhausted all the pressure points to exert pressure on the LTTE, the US has now designated the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) under its Department of Treasury Executive Order 13224 which is aimed at financially isolating terrorist groups and their support networks. E.O. 13224 freezes any assets held by designees under US jurisdiction and prohibits US persons from transacting with designees. By this action the US is attempting to freeze the US-held assets of the TRO, a charitable organization, which in the opinion of the US, acts as a front to facilitate fundraising and procurement for the LTTE.

As President Rajapaksa is immersed at the moment in maintaining a parliamentary majority of his government in parliament, he has not reacted to the Co-chairs latest actions. Therefore, whether Sri Lanka can avoid a UN intervention depends on how the Rajapaksa regime is going to handle the new approach to the peace process the Co-chairs are trying to introduce.

Full text available at:
http://www.tamilsydney.com/content/view/1031/37/



V. Countries in Crisis

1. UN: ATROCITIES FUEL WORSENING CRISIS IN HORN OF AFRICA
UN Security Council Should Press Ethiopia and Somalia to Put an End to Abuses
Human Rights Watch
03 December 2007

The United Nations Security Council should urgently press the Ethiopian and Somali governments to end the grave human rights abuses that are fueling the worsening humanitarian crisis in Somalia and eastern Ethiopia s Ogaden region, Human Rights Watch said today.

On December 3, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, John Holmes, concludes a one-week visit to the Horn of Africa. Last month, UN officials described the situation in Somalia as the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.

he humanitarian suffering we see in Somalia and Ethiopia s Somali region is the direct result of serious international crimes, said Steve Crawshaw, UN advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. oncerned governments and the UN Security Council need to press Ethiopia and Somalia to end these abuses and ensure accountability for their armed forces.

The conflict in Somalia has steadily intensified since last December, when Ethiopian forces supporting the Somali Transitional Federal Government ousted the Islamic Courts Union from Mogadishu. Ethiopian forces quickly came under attack from a growing coalition of insurgent groups, and fighting in March and April 2007 forced as many as 400,000 residents of the city to flee their homes.

Both sides were responsible for war crimes during the fighting, including deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

Clashes intensified again in November, driving tens of thousands of people from Mogadishu yet again. The November clashes have been marked by increasing brutality toward civilians, including summary executions and enforced disappearances of individuals by Ethiopian forces.

Aid workers and the media have also been targeted by the warring parties. Eight journalists have been killed this year. The transitional Somali government has repeatedly shut down media outlets. Three of Mogadishu s independent radio stations and a human rights organization remain closed.

() The conflict in Somalia is also affecting the region. Since early this year, part of eastern Ethiopia s Somali Regional State known as the Ogaden, which borders Somalia, has experienced a sharp escalation in a longstanding conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a rebel movement that claims it is fighting for self-determination for the region.

() Human Rights Watch has found that Ethiopian troops have used scorched-earth tactics to depopulate the rural areas and terrorize rural communities in the Somali Region. Their crimes include the burning of villages, public summary executions, sexual violence against women and girls, and confiscation of livestock the main asset of the predominantly pastoralist population.

The Ethiopian government imposed a trade and commercial blockade on much of the affected region and expelled the International Committee of the Red Cross from Ethiopia s Somali Region in July.

Although Ethiopia and the UN recently signed an agreement to increase humanitarian assistance to civilians in the countrys Somali Region, there are credible reports of ongoing abuses.
Human Rights Watch welcomed UN Under-Secretary-General John Holmess visit to the region and his call for further investigation of abuses in the Ogaden.

mproving civilian access to humanitarian assistance in the Ogaden is a positive step, said Crawshaw. ut unless the Ethiopian government lifts the trade blockade, ends these appalling crimes, and ensures accountability, it will be too little, too late.

Full text available at:
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/30/somali17457.htm

2. CONGO-KINSHASA: CIVILIANS FACE HORRIFIC SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Inter Press Service
30 November 2007
Nergui Manalsuren

Humanitarian workers and U.N. experts say that extreme sexual violence is being used systematically as a weapon of war and terror in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as the international community sits by and watches.

"I was in total shock when I went there," the U.N.'s long-time special rapporteur on violence against women, Yakin Erturk, told IPS.

"We knew what was going on in DRC, but the situation is far graver. It is a brutal situation out there. I've been told a story where a whole family was abducted, taken to the forest. Men are at gunpoint forced to rape their own daughters, or other female relatives. And if they refuse, they are killed. People are forced to eat human flesh," said Erturk.

"What happens is that there are too many actors involved, too many interests involved. It is not a situation that you can refer only to the government of the Congo , there is incredible need for strong international action."

Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and John Holmes, the U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator, once again briefed the Security Council on the dire situation of civilians living in conflict zones, in particular the ongoing sexual violence in the DRC.

() He said that rapes and sexual abuse are being committed with unprecedented cruelty, and the perpetrators have devised the most humiliating and degrading acts they can inflict on their victims. A large number of rapes occur in public places and in the presence of witnesses. Four types of rape have been identified: individual rape, gang rape, rape in which victims are forced to rape each other, and rape involving objects being inserted into the victims' genitals. In many cases, the rape victims are tortured and others are murdered.

Holmes and Ban proposed the establishment of a Security Council working group on the protection of civilians that would report to and assist the Council in moving decisively towards action, including the creation of special courts to try the perpetrators of sexual violence.

"Combating sexual violence, and the impunity on which it thrives, requires a rethink of how we use the tools of the international community and, in particular, the Security Council," Holmes said.

() However, after eight hours of impassioned testimony and speeches, the Security Council failed to act on the proposals, instead reiterating a previous statement on "the need to end impunity for such acts as part of a comprehensive approach to seeking peace, justice, truth and national reconciliation."

The DRC recently emerged from a five-year conflict between government forces and various rebel groups that has claimed an estimated three million lives. Despite a peace deal and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, the threat of civil war remains.
The United Nations has 17,000 peacekeepers deployed in the DRC, but it is not enough to safeguard the populace in a country whose size is comparable to all of Western Europe.

() The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders/Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF) says it has treated 7,400 rape victims at the Bon March hospital in Bunia, capital of DRC's volatile Ituri district -- more than one-third admitted over the last 18 months. Most of the victims are women and girls, but 2-4 percent are men and boys.

Despite an overall easing of the violence in Ituri over the last three years, MSF says that its health care workers continue to see 15 to 120 people a month who have suffered from sexual violence.

"There are known criminals," Erturk said. "Unless these high-profile criminals who are implicated for rape, mass rape and other human rights violations, unless they are punished, impunity invites crime to be repeated. So that itself destabilises society. Some of these high-profile criminals hold a command position within an army itself."

() Many women fail to seek help because they are afraid of the reaction within their family or community. In some villages, up to 80 percent of women have been raped, according to Erturk.

And there are simply not enough doctors and hospitals to provide necessary treatment. At Panzi, six doctors are currently receiving training to increase capacity, and an additional 100-bed ward is being built.

But Illemassene and Erturk stressed that the problem must addressed at its roots -- which is the widespread impunity surrounding sexual violence in the DRC.

() "We need to develop very strong international mechanisms where a strong message is given that these kinds of things are not tolerable. Wars will always happen, but I think that there are rules to the war as well -- that's what the Geneva Convention is all about," she said.

Full text available at:
http://allafrica.com/stories/200711301090.html

3. BURMA: CRACKDOWN BLOODIER THAN GOVERNMENT ADMITS
Arrests Continue Amidst International Inaction
Human Rights Watch
07 December 2007

Many more people were killed and detained in the violent government crackdown on monks and other peaceful protestors in September 2007 than the Burmese government has admitted, Human Rights Watch said today in a new report. Since the crackdown, the military regime has brought to bear the full force of its authoritarian apparatus to intimidate all opposition, hunting down protest leaders in night raids and defrocking monks.

The 140-page report, rackdown: Repression of the 2007 Popular Protests in Burma, is based on more than 100 interviews with eyewitnesses in Burma and Thailand. It is the most complete account of the August and September events to date.

Human Rights Watch research determined that that the security forces shot into crowds using live ammunition and rubber bullets, beat marchers and monks before dragging them onto trucks, and arbitrarily detained thousands of people in official and unofficial places of detention. In addition to monks, many students and other civilians were killed, although without full and independent access to the country it is impossible to determine exact casualty figures.

he crackdown in Burma is far from over, said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. arsh repression continues, and the government is still lying about the extent of the deaths and detentions.

() The report documented the killing of 20 people in Rangoon, but Human Rights Watch believes that the death toll there was much higher, and that hundreds remain in detention. Human Rights Watch was unable to gather information on killings and detentions from other cities and towns where demonstrations took place.

() The ruling State and Peace Development Council (SPDC) claims that overall 2,927 people, including 596 monks, were nterrogated,nd almost all have been released. It says that nine people have been sentenced to prison terms, while 59 lay people and 21 monks remain in detention.

Human Rights Watch said that hundreds of protestors, including monks and members of the 88 Generation students, who led protests until being arrested in late August, remain unaccounted for. Human Rights Watch noted that before the protests there were more than 1,200 political prisoners languishing in Burmas prisons and labor camps.

() Human Rights Watch called for greater international action, including by the United Nations Security Council, to press the Burmese government to undertake major reforms. On December 11, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights, Paulo Srgio Pinheiro, will present his findings on the crackdown to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Human Rights Watch criticized the lack of action by countries with good relations and influence on Burma, such as China, India, Russia, Thailand, and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations members. China has made it clear that it will not allow the UN Security Council to take up Burma in any meaningful way. Despite the killing of a Japanese journalist by Burmese security forces, Japan has reacted timidly.

ts time for the world to impose a UN arms embargo and financial sanctions, to hurt Burmas leaders until they make real changes, said Adams. ountries like China, India and Thailand have the responsibility to take action to help hold the generals accountable and to end this long nightmare of military repression.

Full text available at:
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/12/07/burma17494.htm

Full report available at:
http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/civil_society_statements/c128?theme=alt5







 

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