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* Human Rights Watch stated that more international monitors are “urgently needed” to help protect civilians and prevent crimes against humanity during the ongoing conflict in the Sudanese state of South Kordofan. The Sudanese government called claims of genocide in South Kordofan “misleading and subjective” after the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations called for an international investigation in the area.

* Despite the abatement in post-election fighting in Côte d’Ivoire, Amnesty International claims that hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons cannot return home because government forces are targeting ethnic groups thought to be loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo with arbitrary arrests, executions, and other crimes.

* In a letter to Myanmar’s president and the leaders of four rebel groups, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi warned of a return to all-out civil war unless all sides pursue a ceasefire and peaceful negotiations.

*According to the global activist group Avaaz, an estimated 3,000 people have gone “missing” in Syria since the government began its crackdown on the democratic uprising there.

Photos (from top): Stuart Price, Peter DiCampo/Pulitzer Center, almostdorothy.wordpress.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

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

The International Criminal Court said it would investigate possible crimes against humanity in the upheavals that followed last year’s presidential election in Ivory Coast. ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said reasonable suspicion exists that serious crimes were committed in the West African state. Associated Press reported that rights groups believe both sides in the conflict may have committed crimes.

Tharcisse Karugarama, Rwanda’s justice minister, said the country’s gacaca grassroots courts, which have judged the bulk of people suspected of taking part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, will officially close in December, Agence France-Presse reported. “Through gacaca we have been able to judge and resolve up to 1.4 million dossiers,” Karugarama said. “A great achievement that would have been impossible otherwise.”

Georgia’s parliament voted on Friday to recognize the 19th-century killings of ethnic Circassians by czarist Russia as genocide. The New York Times reported that the move was “likely to inflame tensions between the two countries,” as Moscow is extraordinarily sensitive to any anti-Russian movements in the North Caucasus. The vote has been hailed as historic, given that no other country has recognized the killing of Circassians as genocide. The statement passed on a vote of 95 to 0, with only one lawmaker speaking against it in debate.

Photo: Reuters

A former bourgmestre (mayor) of Kabarondo Commune in Rwanda, Tito Barahira, has been arrested in France on six indictments, including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide, AllAfrica.com reports. “We definitely commend this arrest, especially as we are going into the difficult days of commemorating our dear ones that were killed in cold blood during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi,” John Bosco Siboyintore, the acting head of the Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit, said.

Auschwitz Institute instructor Sheri Rosenberg published an article in the Gulf Times of Qatar titled “The responsibility to protect: Libya and beyond.” Rosenberg, who is director of Cardozo Law School’s Program in Holocaust and Human Rights Studies and also its Human Rights and Genocide Clinic, writes that “it is unquestionably positive that the world powers have reacted to protect innocent lives, as the reality and threat of massacres in Libya was apparent to all,” but she is careful to emphasize that “the use of military force is a last resort and not the poster child of the evolving international policy doctrine known as the Responsibility to Protect.”

Nicholas Kristof, writing about the Libyan intervention in the New York Times, argued that the world must not forget that “Mr. Obama and other world leaders did something truly extraordinary, wonderful and rare: they ordered a humanitarian intervention that saved thousands of lives and that even Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s closest aides seem to think will lead to his ouster.” Kristof writes that it has been rare for major powers to intervene militarily for predominantly humanitarian reasons, but he hopes the Libya intervention will give more teeth to the Responsibility to Protect doctrine.

A humanitarian crisis is still looming in the Ivory Coast, the BBC reports. Continued fighting has resulted in necessary supplies decreasing for many civilians. Reuters Africa reported that after France’s intervention last week, Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to step down as president despite having lost elections last year, has continued to negotiate his possible departure.

Photo: therealtimer.com

This week’s Guest Preventer on the AIPR blog is Elizabeth Dovell:

Power Lectures on “Obama, Human Rights, and the Lessons of the New Diplomacy”

Samantha Power, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning study “A Problem From Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, lectured at Columbia University last Monday on President Obama’s human rights agenda and the establishment of a “new diplomacy.”

Power, who currently serves as Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs on the National Security Council, has become one of Obama’s key advisers on genocide and human rights issues. Along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, Power was one of three women instrumental in the United States’ decision to take part in the intervention in Libya, an act that some consider the most proactive implementation yet of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

In her Monday address, Power recalled the world of crises Obama inherited that required major international cooperation: global economic recession, instability of the Iraqi regime, and a growing threat of terrorism all stood out as issues that demanded a renewed multilateral approach of “burden-sharing.”

By “clearing the brush” around U.S. response to genocide and mass atrocity, Power said, Obama is seeking to establish a framework that will shape U.S. involvement in global human rights concerns in years to come.

Although Power didn’t say so (perhaps in deference to U.S. conservatives’ distaste for the idea?), the establishment of this new framework, rooted in diplomacy and multilateralism, clearly reflects the Obama administration’s acceptance of R2P as the guiding concept in responding to mass atrocities (see p. 48 of the May 2010 National Security Strategy).

Still, despite UN General Assembly approval in 2005, most states have been hesitant to invoke the norms laid out in the R2P framework. As Power pointed out, it is one thing to agree on a moral imperative, another to agree on swift and decisive action in the face of the four atrocities outlined in R2P: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. (Here, it is important to note that the Responsibility to Protect falls first to states, then to regions, and only then to the international community.)

Striking a note of optimism on the UN itself, Power noted that the Human Rights Council, often viewed as controversial for the disproportionate attention it pays to some human rights abuses at the expense of others, has taken several unprecedented actions recently—suspending Libya from the council, creating a Commission of Inquiry in both Libya and the overshadowed Ivory Coast, and authorizing a special rapporteur to investigate human rights abuses in Iran.

Elizabeth Dovell formerly served as Communications and Social Networks Intern at AIPR and Research Assistant at the World Policy Institute. She will graduate from SUNY New Paltz in May with a bachelor’s degree in international relations.

The intervention in Libya shows a shift in thinking about mass atrocities, Michael Abramowitz writes in the Washington Post. Abramowitz, director of the Committee on Conscience at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, argues that the decision to act in Libya followed reflection in the international community about the failures to prevent genocide in the 1990s in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina. “Over the past 20 years, new policies and mechanisms by civil society and governments that strengthen our collective capacity to prevent and respond to genocide include the creation of an office of genocide prevention.”

Rwanda applauded the life sentence given to former senior government official Jean-Baptiste Gatete for his involvement in mass killings during the 1994 genocide, Agence France-Presse reported. “He got a deserved sentence. Gatete is the symbol of death and destruction in this country. In eastern Rwanda he is known as the Butcher of Murambi,” Rwandan Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugaram said.

Amnesty International has warned of a “human rights catastrophe” in Côte d’Ivoire. “Côte d’Ivoire is facing a major humanitarian crisis. The parties to the conflict must immediately stop targeting the civilian population,” said Salvatore Saguès. “The international community must take immediate steps to protect the civilian population.” Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara reached the commercial capital of Abidjan raising the alarm.

Photo: Amnesty International

Khmer Rouge war criminal Kaing Guek Eav (Duch) appealed his 35-year sentence in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the New York Times reported. During his trial Duch admitted to overseeing the torture and killing of 16,000 people as the Khmer Rouge chief prison warden. He is the  is the only person so far to be tried by the UN-backed tribunal set up to investigate and prosecute officials of the Khmer Rouge.

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s decisive action on Iran and Côte d’Ivoire sends a clear message that ongoing violations in those countries should end, according to Human Rights Watch. The decision to appoint an expert to investigate rights abuses in Iran was the first time the Council created a post dedicated to a particular country since the Council was created in 2005. The Council also took strong action to address the human rights crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. “The steady crescendo of abuses including targeted killings, enforced disappearances, politically motivated rape, and indiscriminate shelling continues to claim many lives,” said Julie de Rivero of Human Rights Watch. “Establishing a Commission of Inquiry for Côte d’Ivoire sends a strong signal to all parties to the conflict that they will be held accountable for their actions.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a message marking the 17th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, observed on April 7. Said Ban: “The recognition of the collective failure of the international community to come to the assistance of the people of Rwanda, and to shield the victims of the wars in the Balkans, led to the endorsement by the 2005 World Summit of the responsibility to protect.” The Secretary-General also stated that “preventing genocide is a collective and individual responsibility.”

Photo: un.org

The International Crisis Group has released an open letter to the UN Security Council on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.  The letter expressed the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the country and urges the Council to “swift action to halt the fighting and prevent ethnic cleansing and other mass atrocity crimes”.

The United States Holocaust Museum has released a paper on speaking out against rape as a weapon of genocide. The paper noted that for the first time ever, following the conflict in Rwanda, an international tribunal handed down a judgement for genocide including the crime of rape. “Perpetrators assault women as a way to assault the past, present, and future of targeted groups.”  Women must continue for inclusion of a gendered perspective into efforts to respond to conflict, particularly genocidal violence the paper stated.

Ernest Gakwaya, alias Camarade, and Emmanuel Nkunzuwimye, two Rwandan men accused of taking part in the 1994 Genocide have been arrested in Belgium reports AllAfrica.com.

The Libya conflict has reopened the R2P debate on Burma, Irrawaddy.com reports.  Burma is ravaged with geopolitical problems and a mounting humanitarian crisis.  France and US warships with humanitarian aid were rejected from landing in Burma in 2008 by the Burmese regime.  At the time, many in the UN argued that a legitimate case of intervention under R2P was justified as the regime’s refusal fell under the loosely worded R2P mandate.  More recently though, in early 2010, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana reported to the UN’s Human Rights Commission and called for a Commission of Inquiry into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

Photo: Guardian

The UN Security Council passed resolution 1973, authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya from pro-Gaddafi forces. The BBC released an article analyzing the text of the resolution. The overriding aim of the resolution is to halt the fighting and implement a cease-fire. The resolution further creates a no-fly zone over Libya.

In recognition of the resolution, Libya’s foreign minister held a press conference in which he stated: “Libya has decided an immediate cease-fire, and the stoppage of all military operations.” But many countries are skeptical, as reported by the Telegraph and the Associated Press. American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States must see “action on the ground,” not just words concerning the cease-fire.

Officials announced that the leaders of Britain, France and Germany, and the chiefs of the United Nations and Arab League, would join other world leaders for an emergency summit on Libya in Paris this Saturday.

Disputes between ethnic groups in the Sudanese border region of Abyei could escalate to full-scale conflict, UN genocide officials warned on Friday. UPI.com reported that clashes between the groups have left more than 100 people dead and displaced at least 20,000 people.

Human Rights Watch stated that the three-month campaign of organized violence by security forces under the control of Laurent Gbagbo in the Ivory Coast may amount to crimes against humanity: “A new Human Rights Watch investigation in Abidjan indicates that the pro-Gbagbo forces are increasingly targeting immigrants from neighboring West African countries in their relentless attacks against real and perceived supporters of Alassane Ouattara, who is internationally recognized as having won the November 2010 presidential election.” The Associated Foreign Press reported that Gbagbo said on Friday he would open talks on the situation with his rival Ouattara.

Photo: Human Rights Watch

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