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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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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

The prosecutors of the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have demanded harsh sentences for six former Bosnian Croat officials and military commanders: Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoje Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic.  The men are accused of crimes against humanity during the 1992-1995 war, Adnkronos International has reported.

The term Mass Atrocity Prevention and Response Operations, or MAPRO, is gathering momentum in the Pentagon, evidenced by its support of a new initiative to use drones and other overhead surveillance gear in order to prevent genocide. Wired states that drones will be used to “place watchful eyes on the perpetrators of mass atrocities,” jammers used to stop the radio transmissions of aspiring genocidaires, and text and social media to alert the American forces about civilians at risk.

Human Rights Watch has stated that the sentencing of a Rwandan opposition politician to four years in jail for inciting ethnic division by the High Court was a sign the country was using the judicial system to stifle criticism. Reuters Africa has reported that President “Paul Kagame has been praised for restoring stability after the genocide, implementing reforms and fostering robust economic growth in recent years, but critics say his leadership is authoritarian and intolerant of dissent.”

Photo: Crunch Gear

The Stanley Foundation has published a policy analysis brief titled “Mass Atrocities and Armed Conflict: Links, Distinctions, and Implications for the Responsibility to Prevent,” by Alex J. Bellamy.  The document analyses atrocity prevention through a common prevention agenda.  For anyone interested in genocide prevention, it is definitely worth a read!

The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach programme has also published Discussion Paper #5, “The Holocaust as a Guidepost for Genocide Detection and Prevention in Africa,” by Edward Kissi. The paper focuses on remembering and drawing lessons from the crimes committed against the Jews during the Holocaust so the world can “prevent similar tragedies in the future.”

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