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The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect published a policy brief May 19 titled “Tackling the Threat of Mass Atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Applying the Responsibility to Protect.” This report examines the ongoing violence in the DRC and what steps international organizations, donor governments, and the Congolese government can take to fulfill their obligations under the Responsibility to Protect.

Conflict between armed rebel groups and the DRC armed forces (FARDC), dating back to 1996, has resulted in war crimes and crimes against humanity on both sides, including mass murder, rape, looting, pillaging, extortion, forced labor, forced conscription, and the displacement of over 1 million people. Despite a 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO), an ICC investigation, and UN Security Council sanctions, the security situation remains unstable.

Within the Congo itself, the brief identifies several key issues for the government to address with regard to the FARDC, including corruption, absence of a clear command-and-control structure, lack of training in civilian protection and human rights, linkages of certain units to individual politicians, persistence of impunity for perpetrators of abuses, and conflict over natural resources and mines. The brief also calls on the DRC to take steps to fulfill its Responsibility to Protect, and urges foreign governments and multilateral organizations to support Congo’s government in doing so.

The brief says MONUSCO should deploy preventively rather than reactively, and improve communications with the local population to better protect civilians. The most urgent need, according to the Global Centre for R2P, is for security sector reform to rein in the FARDC, including prosecution of known human rights abusers in the military. Stronger and more unified institutionalization of the FARDC, standardized and coordinated training that includes civilian protection and human rights components, and civilian oversight are critical for effective security sector reform, the brief says.

Lastly, the report argues that disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs should shift focus from short-term disarmament to longer-term efforts to reintegrate demobilized combatants into civilian society.

Photo: Operation Broken Silence

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Sri Lanka: New documentary reignites debate

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields (watch it here; viewer discretion advised), a British documentary that details the last days of the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war, has reignited discussions about the prosecution of war crimes possibly committed at the end of the conflict. Sri Lanka’s government has long maintained that it perpetrated no crimes in its 2009 offensive into territory held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Despite a post-conflict UN investigation that found credible evidence of war crimes on both sides, neither the UN nor Sri Lanka itself has shown any interest in acting on the investigation’s findings, and Security Council members Russia and China supported the Sri Lankan government’s claim that it took justified and necessary measures to end a stubborn resistance.

The documentary, which aired yesterday on the UK’s Channel 4, depicts evidence of crimes including indiscriminate bombardments, extrajudicial executions, and rape and murder.

NGOs and governments alike have released statements calling for further investigation. But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated that he can only call for an investigation if the Sri Lankan government consents.

Photo: TamilCanadian.com

Sudan: U.S. calls for ceasefire and investigation of alleged war crimes

On Friday, the White House condemned the resumption of violence between Sudanese forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in South Kordofan state of Sudan. Calling for an immediate ceasefire and a political resolution to disputes between the two sides, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said attacks based on “ethnicity and political affiliation” could be considered war crimes or crimes against humanity. Carney asked for the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement to be respected and called on the UN to investigate the alleged crimes so perpetrators could be held accountable. According to the UN, airstrikes by Sudanese forces have been concentrated in disputed territories along the proposed north-south border, endangering civilians and preventing effective humanitarian aid. As many as 40,000 people have fled South Kordofan, an oil-producing state, and a report by the Sudan Democracy First Group accused Sudanese forces of pursuing genocide in South Kordofan.

Libya: Moreno-Ocampo says Qaddafi ordered rape of hundreds

International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said last week that the Qaddafi regime had raped hundreds of women “to spread fear of his regime and curb dissent.” The Christian Science Monitor said it was unclear exactly how many women had been raped, citing an NGO official who said the stigma of rape prevents many women from speaking out. Moreno-Ocampo said new evidence made it certain that Qaddafi himself ordered the rapes. The original ICC arrest warrants for Qaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, and Libyan security official Abdullah el-Sanussi, which cited crimes against humanity, did not include rape as a charge, but it may be added if the warrants are approved by the ICC judges. According to Moreno-Ocampo, the use of rape is a new tool of oppression for the Qaddafi regime. The Libyan government called the accusation “the same old nonsense.”

Côte d’Ivoire: UN investigation accuses both sides of crimes against humanity

A report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council (extract here) says that war crimes and crimes against humanity were perpetrated by both sides following a hotly contested election last year. Forces loyal both to former president Laurent Gbagbo and to his successor, Alassane Outtara, committed murder, rape, and torture “through generalised and systematic attacks against the population targeted on the basis of their assumed political sympathies,” the report said. Approximately 3,000 people are estimated to have been killed during the clashes. The UNHRC investigators voiced concern that forces loyal to Outtara are still committing violence, and asked the Ivorian government to carry out its own thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Image: Africa Confidential

Syria: Draft Resolution in Security Council

On Wednesday, France, Britain, Portugal, and Germany submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council condemning the actions by the Syrian government against civilian protesters. Explicitly referring to the Syrian authorities’ responsibility to protect its civilian population and suggesting that the violent measures may constitute crimes against humanity, the draft resolution called for an end to the violence, the enactment of political reforms and an investigation of the situation in full cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The resolution also urged other states stop and prevent sales of arms and related supplies to Syria. Discussion on the draft resolution is to begin on Thursday with a vote taking place in several days. While the draft resolution has the support of as many as 11 of the 15 members of the Security Council including the United States, Russia and China have expressed strong reservations against it, leaving open the possibility of a veto.

The draft resolution follows last Thursday’s warning from Special Advisers of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck, and Human Rights Watch’s report regarding the situation in Syria. Deng and Luck expressed alarm at the attack on the civilians, called for “an independent, thorough, and objective investigation,” and urged the Syrian government to cooperate with the inquiry and “to refrain from further attacks against the civilian population.” The Human Rights Watch report, in addition to detailing what it considered to be “crimes against humanity,” went further, recommending that the UN Security Council not only condemn the human rights violations, but also refer the violations to the International Criminal Court and adopting sanctions against Syrian officials if necessary.

Kyrgyzstan: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Reports

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International each issued new reports on the Kyrgyz government’s investigation into last year’s ethnic violence. As a result of the violence between the Kyrgyz and the minority Uzbeks, nearly 500, mostly Uzbeks, were killed, and 400,000 fled their homes. The Amnesty International report, which alleges that some of the atrocities against the Uzbeks may have constituted crimes against humanity, argued that the government did not fully investigate the violence perpetrated by the ethnic Kyrgyz and possibly even the security forces against the ethnic Uzbeks. Human Rights Watch detailed allegations of torture, as well as ethnic bias against Uzbeks during the trials following the investigation. Furthermore, the organizations expressed concerns that the government’s inadequate investigations may lead to future unrest between the two ethnic groups.

Bangladesh: War Crimes Tribunal

Bangladesh has been instituting a war crimes tribunal relating to its 1971 independence war against Pakistan. One to three million, mostly civilians, are estimated to have been killed, and approximately 300,000 women were raped. The tribunal, which is investigating the participation of Bengalis in the atrocities, is significant as it raises questions on whether accused war criminals should be tried in an international court or in a domestic tribunal, and whether countries without advanced legal systems have the capacity to properly deliver justice. The tribunal, charged with prosecuting genocide and crimes against humanity, is also important because it will be considering sexual violence as evidence in its decision-making. The court’s independence and fairness has been a point of contention, with Human Rights Watch, the International Bar Association, and the International Centre for Transitional Justice all expressing concern over several aspects of the proposed legal proceedings. It remains to be seen whether the tribunal can proceed free from political pressure and according to international judicial standards.

Photo: Guardian

Tensions are running high between Armenia and Azerbaijan, who have yet to resolve the conflict dating back to the Nagorno-Karabakh war of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Despite a 1994 ceasefire and rounds of internationally mediated negotiations, the two countries have not arrived at a permanent settlement and are currently engaged in a military buildup. Ceasefire violations by both sides and frustration resulting from lack of a clear resolution have led many Azeri refugees displaced by the conflict to consider war as a viable policy option and to engage in what appears to be military training.

Amnesty International issued a report on Friday urging Rwandan authorities to finish reviewing their “genocide ideology” law to ensure it does not contravene Rwanda’s obligations under international human rights law. Amnesty says the law, enacted in October 2008 to prevent a repeat of the 1994 genocide, is too broad and abstract, which leads it to be used to stifle political dissent and limit freedoms of speech and expression, including legitimate criticisms of current Rwandan policies by opposition politicians, journalists, and human rights activists. Rwandan officials responded to the allegations, saying Amnesty had “chosen to misrepresent reality in an inaccurate and highly partisan report.”

Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander, appeared on Friday before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for the first time since his May 26 arrest. Responding to the 11 counts against him, including genocide, extermination and murder, and terrorism, he called the charges “obnoxious” and “monstrous” and declined to enter a plea. Mladic, who spent much of the hearing discussing his ill health, will appear before court again on July 4.

Image: Kiva Stories from the Field

Former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, Ratko Mladic, was captured in Serbia on May 26 after evading arrest for almost 16 years. He is awaiting transfer to The Hague, where he will stand trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He faces charges of genocide in connection with the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995. His capture is a positive step towards ending impunity for genocide, Al Jazeera reported.

Bernard Munyagishari, a former Hutu militia leader suspected of masterminding the Rwandan genocide, was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo after evading capture for nearly 17 years. He is wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape. “The prosecutor [Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow] hailed the DRC authorities for their co-operation in executing the warrant of arrest, despite the hurdles encountered in tracking down the fugitive,” the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said. The ICTR indictment states that Munyagashari helped prepare and plan the 1994 genocide.

Satellite images provided by the Enough Project have confirmed that the Sudanese government has been attacking Abyei. “Images show the destruction of a southern-aligned base at Todach by tanks or other armored vehicles, fires burning at the town of Dungop, and the presence of northern attack aircrafts and bombers capable of reaching Abyei town within an hour. Images also show that a former Misseriya encampment at Goli has largely been vacated, confirming reports of Misseriya movements further south.” The Satellite Sentinel Project produced a ‘human security crisis alert’ detailing their findings.

Photo: BBC.co.uk

Libya set the stage for a full-blown test of the Responsibility to Protect principle, adopted by the UN in 2005. The Economist published an in-depth article discussing the positives and negatives of the application of R2P in Libya, and the power politics that accompanies it.

Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara has reiterated that his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, must be tried for crimes committed during the deadly standoff that followed last year’s disputed election. Ouattara told France 24: “Justice must be rendered. Impunity must be ended in Ivory Coast. Especially for war crimes; crimes against humanity. These are very serious matters.”

After a preliminary examination, the ICC Prosecutor concluded that there was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court had been committed in Côte d’Ivoire since 28 November 2010. The case has been assigned to pre-trial chamber II.

Photo: justiceinconflict.com

Today we present another guest preventer from Prof. Alex Hinton’s genocide prevention class at Rutgers–Newark:

Jade Adebo, Class of 2012, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Anthropology

When I heard about a class being offered on genocide prevention, I was skeptical. In my experience, classes on the subject of genocide usually focused almost entirely on the violence, devastation, and reconciliation efforts. If ever there was any talk of preventative measures, it was presented in a cynical way, as if every other option had been exhausted. The ever-present discussions and debates over definitions and autonomy of nations left me cynical and burned out. Why was it so necessary to argue about phrasing or over protected groups? Taking the Genocide Prevention class with Dr. Hinton, which was developed in association with AIPR, helped me to fully comprehend the differing dynamics and issues that need to be addressed if proper and effective intervention, and eventually prevention of genocide, can occur.

With all my prior knowledge in genocide studies through the broader scope of human rights, I always supported a change in the study of intervention, based on analyzing and understanding different dynamics within the culture and history of a given country or region. I disagreed with the Genocide Convention’s attempt to create a blanket definition that would dictate how preventative measures would be achieved. From the broader study of human rights, which is still newly accepted as a widespread right, the convention, in its rigid structure and language, assumes that human rights is an international basic human right. This was a discourse brought into many a discussion, and was addressed very well by Fred Schwartz, who referred not to the universality of human rights, but the universality of self-interest. This approach can be easily applied to mandates such as the Responsibility to Protect, or the early warning model.

As the course concluded, I was left with a better sense of direction as to what I personally could do in the area of genocide prevention, which had been the primary interest for my attempted major. The various speakers we had left me inspired and optimistic, particularly Sheri Rosenberg, Gregory Stanton, and Tibi Galis, all of whom were either political scientists or lawyers. Through them, I was able to see how much the legal aspect of genocide prevention ties in with the grassroots work and activism, giving me creative insights as to how my future pursuit of a legal career could still influence intervention, and ultimately prevention.

Last week saw the release of an invaluable guide for state policymakers involved in prevention of genocide.

Compilation of Risk Factors and Legal Norms for the Prevention of Genocide” was produced by the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, at the request of UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng, with the goal of “encourag[ing] States to fulfill their genocide prevention obligations.”

The Blaustein report takes as its starting point the framework of analysis developed by Francis Deng and his staff at the UN.

As the report notes: “Under the Genocide Convention and international human rights law, states are required to take measures to prohibit acts that could result in genocide. For the effective achievement of such measures, it is important to understand and be aware of the signs and circumstances that could be indicative of possible genocide. This document identifies the major risk factors that could lead to the perpetration of genocide, together with the special circumstances that could facilitate this. Further, it sets forth the legal norms and standards that correspond to each risk factor and that can be invoked to strengthen the basis for taking preventive action.” [emphasis added]

The hope is that having a comprehensive guide will make for more consistent analysis of events by states, the UN, NGOs, and other interested parties (“stakeholders”), which in turn will help identify what steps should be taken in each situation to stop the loss of human life.

Download the report here.

Photo: deannabeth

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has found two Croatian generals guilty (Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač) and acquitted one (Ivan Čermak) of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war for acts committed by Croatian forces during Operation Storm between July and September 1995. The three officers were sentenced to 24 and 18 years’ imprisonment respectively. The court found the crimes were committed as part of a joint criminal enterprise whose objective was permanent removal of the Serb population by force or threat of force, which amounted to and involved deportation, forcible transfer, and persecution through the imposition of restrictive and discriminatory measures, unlawful attacks against civilians and civilian objects, deportation, and forcible transfer.

Rwandan Ambassador to the United States James Kimonyo, speaking to students and faculty of California Baptist University as part of the 17th commemoration of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, called for genocide denial to be fought internationally, AllAfrica.com reported. “Denial is the last stage of genocide and it could be the beginning of another cycle of genocide, if left unchecked or stopped,” Kimonyo told the audience.

Last Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a compromise bill (H.R.1473) to fund the government until the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Save Darfur reported that, unfortunately, the Complex Crises Fund, which has enabled the United States to more effectively respond to situations where mass atrocities are occurring or likely to occur, was reduced by 20 percent compared to last year’s level. The Civilian Stabilization Initiative, which runs programs to mitigate conflict, was also reduced, by more than 70 percent. Funding allocated to the Civilian Stabilization Initiative serves to prevent violent conflict in areas critical to U.S. interests, inlcuding Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Photo: un.org

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