You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2011.

Gunmen on motorcycles killed 14 Shia civilians on October 4 in Balochistan, Pakistan. This attack came on the heels of a September 19 massacre of Shia civilians by a Sunni militant group, also in Balochistan, which left 26 people dead. The Asia director of Human Rights Watch said, “The targeted killings of Shia are a barbaric attempt at sectarian and ethnic cleansing. The government’s failure to break up the extremist groups that carry out these attacks calls into question its commitment to protect all of its citizens.” Human Rights Watch claims that there have been 16 recorded attacks on Shia Muslims in Pakistan in 2011.

Shia protests broke out in the Pakistan port city of Karachi on September 23, over the government’s inability or unwillingness to stop attacks on Shia Muslims. Human Rights Watch said that Sunni militant groups act with impunity even in areas where government authority is well established. After the October 4 killings, opposition parties demanded the resignations of government officials they believe have failed to address the issue. Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, ignored their demand.

In response to mounting protests of government inaction, on October 5 Pakistani police said they had launched a crackdown on militants, detaining up to 100 suspects on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.

Photo: ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com

On October 3 the International Criminal Court approved an investigation by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Côte d’Ivoire, Human Rights Watch said. The investigation centers on the events of last year’s disputed November presidential elections. On his impending investigation, Ocampo said, “from today, the Prosecution will collect evidence impartially and independently, and as soon as possible we will present our cases before the Judges, who will ultimately decide who should face trial. Our investigation should be part of national and international efforts to prevent future crimes in Côte d’Ivoire.” Ocampo has been ordered to return in a month to provide any additional information on crimes committed between 2002 and 2010.

The situation in Côte d’Ivoire has been under investigation by the ICC since 2003, when the Ivoirian government sent a letter to the ICC accepting its jurisdiction in accordance with article 12(3) of the Rome Statute. In December 2010 the newly elected president Alassane Ouattara sent a letter to the ICC accepting the Court’s jurisdiction, and sent another in May 2011 requesting an investigation into the crimes committed following the November 2010 elections. Ocampo requested authorization for said investigation on June 23 2011, a request that was approved on October 3 by the Pre-Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court.

The violence surrounding last year’s elections resulted in at least 3000 civilian casualties, 72 disappearances, and over 100 reported cases of rape. Radio Netherlands Worldwide said on October 3 that Ocampo had created a confidential list of suspects that he sent to the ICC judges along with his request for an investigation; Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Côte d’Ivoire, is thought to be on the list. This investigation will examine the actions of both Ouattara and Gbagbo supporters, both of whom are thought to have committed crimes against humanity during the post-election violence. This investigation is also to include crimes committed before the November 2010 elections, particularly after the 2002-2003 armed conflict and its aftermath.

Photo: unmultimedia.org

On May 12 and 13 in Brussels, the Madariaga – College of Europe Foundation and the Folke Bernadotte Academy held a conference on the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. The event consisted of 80 participants sharing experiences, lessons learned, and best practices on how to narrow the gap between early warning and timely action on genocide prevention, as well as ways to increase cooperation within the international community. The May workshop was part of a continuum of events focused on atrocities prevention and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

At the workshop’s conclusion, a final report was issued with the following recommendations to bolster the European Union’s role in preventing genocide and mass atrocities:

  • Coordinate Early Action on Genocide Prevention and R2P
  • Support the “National Focal Points Initiative”
  • Enhance Greater Early Warning Coherence in the EU
  • Support an International Network on Genocide Prevention

Karoly Gruber, Hungary’s Ambassador to the EU’s Political and Security Committee, gave the workshop’s opening remarks, centering on the work of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and how Hungary has prioritized the prevention of violent conflicts. Richard Wright, Director for Conflict Prevention and Security Policy at the European External Action Service (EEAS), then spoke about how the EU is undertaking efforts to operationalize R2P and working closely with the UN system. He also discussed integrating conflict prevention into the EEAS before the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward C. Luck, discussed R2P and its application in Libya, as well as the crises in Kenya, Guinea, southern Sudan, and Kyrgyzstan. He praised and encouraged the work of the EU and its member states in the areas of genocide prevention and R2P, and stressed the importance of political dialogue.

The first panel, “The Latest Developments and Challenges in the Prevention of Genocide,” consisted of remarks by James Smith, CEO of Aegis Trust; Simona Cruciani, UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide; Thordis Ingadottir, Associate Professor at the University of Reykjavik; and Gyorgy Tatar, at the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, and Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Foundation for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. The discussion concluded that international courts act as a deterrent to committing atrocities, because they hold individuals responsible, rather than entities. Even so, international and national courts need to work together to achieve maximum efficiency.

The second panel, “Identifying and Overcoming Obstacles to Preventive Action: From Early Warning to Policy Options to Response,” was headed by Jan Jarab, Regional Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Veronique Arnault, Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the EEAS; Jonathan Prentice, Senior Policy Adviser at the International Crisis Group; and Luis Peral, Research Fellow at the EU Institute for Security Studies. The panel discussed 1) how the 2011 “Arab Spring” underscored the root causes of problems in countries such as Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia—authoritarianism, high unemployment, entrenched elites, corruption, and economic inequalities—and 2) how to strike a balance between respecting the rights of civilians and the proportionality of international military interventions. It was also explained that broader preventive approaches yield weaker responses.

The third panel, “Enhancement of International Cooperation: The Role of the EU,” heard comments from Catherine Woollard, Director of the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office; Michael Sahlin, Sweden’s Special Envoy to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement/Sudan; Olivia Swaak-Goldman, International Cooperation Adviser for the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; and Sapna Chhatpar, Deputy Director of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. The participants discussed the lack of a numerical definition for genocide and how that impacts the actions, or lack thereof, of the international community. This further stresses the need for prevention at the early stages of potential mass atrocities. Like the first panel, this group also talked about the impact of statements put out by the ICC, which are widely circulated to governments and officials. The ICC is developing a methodology to measure the impact of their statements. Other topics touched upon included the role of multinational corporations in preventing/contributing to genocide and mass atrocities, since they are not states and therefore not governed by the Rome Statute, and the need for consistency in making R2P a recognized and accepted norm.

Lastly, there was a “Dialogue Forum,” in which Andrea Bartoli, Director of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, and Mo Bleeker, Head of the Task Force on Prevention of Mass Atrocities at the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, talked about envisioning the end of genocide and how dealing with past instances of mass atrocities is essential in moving forward. Participants were asked for suggestions on what they would like to see the EU do to further prevent genocide and mass atrocities in 2015. Answers included a closer look at how gender relates to these crimes, the EU having a focal point on R2P to increase cooperation and effectiveness with the UN, and the need to further develop the EU’s early warning capacities.

Photo: madariaga.org

* France continues its policy of carrying out mass evictions and expulsions of Roma, despite a warning from the European Commission, as well as a threat of EU sanctions, over a year ago. On September 29 Human Rights Watch made public a briefing paper it sent to the European Commission regarding the inadequacy of an immigration law France passed this year in June. The new law, designed to address the European Commission’s grievances, was deemed adequate by the European Commission in August, but Human Rights Watch says it in fact targets the Roma: “The law allows authorities to expel EU citizens for ‘abuse of rights’ if they have been in France on repeat short-term stays or are in France ‘for the fundamental purpose’ of benefiting from the social assistance system. This flies in the face of EU law, which allows citizens of member countries to stay in any EU country for up to three months without conditions.” Around 9,500 Roma were expelled in 2010, according to French government figures. In the first three months of this year, 4,714 Roma were expelled.

* Three protesters were killed in Guinea on September 27, on their way to a demonstration against parliamentary elections slated for December, which they say will be a sham. Amnesty International points out that the murders occurred on the eve of the second anniversary of 2009’s stadium massacre in Conakry, the nation’s capital. This underscores the continuity of violent tactics in Guinea’s recent history, despite the capitulation of military rule, which followed the contested election in 2010 that put current president Alpha Condé in power. “If this recurrent excessive use of force by police is to be stopped, it is essential to put an end to the climate of impunity that appears to be prevailing in Guinea,” said Paule Rigaud of Amnesty International. On September 27, Human Rights Watch reported that no one has been held to account for the 2009 massacre by Guinean security forces, which resulted in the death of 150 people and the rape of more than 100 women. A UN-led International Commission of Inquiry concluded, in 2009, that the Guinean government’s actions could be described as “crimes against humanity.”

* Former Rwandan public service minister Prosper Mugiraneza and his trade counterpart, Justin Mugenzi, were convicted by the ICTR on September 30 of complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide. Africa Review points out that the sentence comes 12 years after their arrest in 1999, and 8 years after the start of their trial in 2003. The ICTR acquitted two other ministers of the same charges due to lack of evidence. The trials, held in Arusha, Tanzania, address the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that claimed the lives of over 800,000 people in the span of 100 days.

Photo: turkeymacedonia.wordpress.com

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