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By MARISSA GOLDFADEN

Today, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect released the fourth issue of their bimonthly bulletin, R2P Monitor. This issue features Syria, Sudan, and DR Congo, all in “Current Crisis,” and Libya, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Burma/Myanmar, South Sudan, Somalia and Central Africa, with situations of “Serious Concern.” Current crises are those where mass atrocity crimes are occurring and urgent action is needed; serious concern indicates that there is a significant risk of occurrence, or recurrence, of mass atrocity crimes within the foreseeable future if effective action is not taken.

In analyzing the violence in Syria, the Centre touches upon mounting sectarian divisions (which we wrote about here back in February), as well as divisions within the United Nations Security Council. While they call on the Syrian government to “immediately cease attacks on civilians and adhere to [Kofi Annan’s] six-point plan,” collective action must also be taken by the Security Council, General Assembly, and the whole of the international community.

Similar necessary action is laid out for Sudan, where the government “should allow immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to all areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei and Darfur should be thoroughly investigated by a credible and independent body authorized by the UN.” The Security Council is also urged to take steps beyond an investigation in order to better secure a long-term conflict resolution.

In the case of Congo, the brunt of the responsibility for addressing the threat of terrorist factions and militias falls on the government and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Other parties charged with acting in this instance are international donors and countries with whom DRC shares borders.

As one would anticipate given the name and nature of the Centre and its publication, the key recommendations appear to be structured parallel to the pillars of R2P:

1. The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
2. The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility.
3. The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.

Ahmed Harun, governor of the Sudanese state of South Kordofan, has been caught on film giving orders to the Sudanese army that may be interpreted as encouraging troops to commit war crimes against rebels.

In the video, published by Al Jazeera yesterday, Harun, who has already been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity in Darfur, instructs his soldiers to “take no prisoners” in a speech delivered just before his soldiers enter rebel territory.

Says Harun: “You must hand over the place clean. Swept, rubbed, crushed. Don’t bring them back alive. We have no space for them.”

According to United to End Genocide, civilians in South Kordofan are not only in immediate danger of suffering direct, undifferentiated violence simply by virtue of living there, but are also in danger of starvation due to the ongoing conflict’s interference with adequate farming and the delivery of food aid.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called for Harun’s arrest, saying: “A commander has a responsibility to ensure that his troops are not violating the law. He cannot encourage them to commit crimes. ‘Take no prisoners’ means a crime against humanity or a war crime, because if the prisoner was a combatant it is a war crime and if the prisoner was a civilian it’s a crime against humanity.”

Advocate Eric Reeves, who has written extensively about Khartoum’s aerial military attacks on civilians throughout Sudan, recently wrote an article for the Sudan Tribune calling for pressure on Khartoum to accept the multilateral humanitarian access proposal put forth jointly by the African Union, the Arab League, and the United Nations.

On March 29, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the government of Sudan to allow immediate and unrestricted humanitarian access to, among other regions, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The resolution also encourages the two Sudans to cease hostilities, return to negotiations, and allow any peaceful civilians in the area to voluntarily leave and take refuge somewhere safer.

Photo: ch16.org

On February 8, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) held an event in London to launch “Network Paper 72, Local to Global Protection in Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.” Per the ODI:

The Local to Global Protection Project (L2GP) is an initiative to document and promote local perspectives on protection in major humanitarian crises. Based on research in Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan and Zimbabwe, L2GP explores how people living in areas affected by natural disaster and armed conflict understand ‘protection’ – what they value, and how they go about protecting themselves, their families and their communities. The research also examines how people view the roles of others, including the state, non-state actors, community-based organisations and national and international aid agencies.

Speaking at the event were Justin Corbett, author of the South Kordofan/Nuba, Sudan Study; Simon Harragin, author of the Jonglei, South Sudan Study; Ashley South, author of the two Myanmar (Burma) studies; and Nils Carstensen (ACT Alliance), L2GP manager and co-author of Network Paper 72. Also in attendance were Dr. Sara Pantuliano, head of the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI, and Wendy Fenton, coordinator of the Humanitarian Practice Network.

The impetus behind the project was namely the disconnect between protection activities at the local and global levels. The findings were consistent with the rationale, as the majority of local communities considered their own actions to protect themselves as more important than anything done by outsiders. The most common first line of defense was for people to get out of the way, whether that meant fleeing into the jungle, mountains, refugee camps or crossing the border into another country. Another popular survival strategy component was allying oneself with political or religious leaders who have connections and negotiating power. However, the study found that self-protection strategies often had negative consequences for local populations.

The Zimbabwe case study stressed the importance of “capturing local cultural and religious phenomena in assessing protection threats…includ[ing] witchcraft, religious sects and cult beliefs.” Outside actors largely ignore such issues, but they represent real protection threats for local respondents. In the cases of Myanmar, respondents hardly distinguished between immediate protection concerns pertaining to physical safety and security, and longer-term livelihood security issues. National actors tended to rank assistance priorities differently than communities and aid, and how it was targeted, was sometimes in conflict with local values and realities. This “illustrated the challenge of identifying the local voice.” As such, it is important to be mindful of “the inevitable presence of prejudices in the analysis and presentation of local perceptions,” necessitating greater interaction between international humanitarian actors and local actors.

Research for the South Kordofan/Nuba case study was conducted from 2005 (the beginning of a ceasefire ending a 20-year civil war) to 2011 (when violence flared up again). In accordance with the other case studies, “attempting to separate physical safety, rights and livelihoods, as international agencies commonly do, was not relevant to local understandings of protection.” Over the past six months, efforts have been made to lessen these ideological and practical gaps. Initiatives included “setting up local protection teams in Nuba, consisting of young male and female volunteers, whose role is to share local knowledge of wild foods or medicinal plants which may exist in one particular village, with other villages… the teams also disseminate advice on what actions to take during bombing raids to protect physical safety based on lessons generated from the previous period of conflict.”

Ultimately, international actors should heed the “predictive capacity of local actors who know what the protection threats are, and can articulate when they will happen,” since the former lack the capacity to respond to these.

Photo: hic-mena.org

* The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, better known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, is dropping prosecutions against five high-level officials accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide, and torture. Since the Courts’ establishment in 2006, one conviction has been handed down; only four other Khmer Rouge cadres will now face trial. Amidst criticism from Human Rights Watch and purported interference by the Cambodian government, Co-Investigating Judge Siegfried Blunk (pictured above) has resigned, in addition to the investigating judges’ entire UN legal team.

* According to the UN, at least 235,000 people in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile are on the verge of a potential food crisis. As planting season began five months ago in South Kordofan, fighting broke out between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North and the Sudanese Government, displacing more than 200,000 civilians. Food stocks were delivered two months ago but have since been depleted and civilians are now experiencing food shortages. The conflict spread to Blue Nile early last month, causing people to abandon their fields and crops. International aid groups have also been restricted from accessing the area. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for urgent action to prevent a humanitarian and food crisis.

Photo: smh.com.au

Sudan’s deteriorating political situation is raising concerns about a prolonged civil war there. International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a risk alert today, documenting the latest events and the obstacles that still exist for creating a sustained peace. The failed Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005, was supposed to “lay the foundation for a new reality in Sudan, end chronic conflict and make continued unity attractive,” ICG says. However, general elections called for by the CPA were never held, and in the absence of democratic transformation both the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have opted for military solutions, resulting in an outbreak of fighting in South Kordofan in June and in Blue Nile in September.

The secession of South Sudan has had a very negative impact on its northern neighbor. An article yesterday in the Sudan Tribune explains President Omar al-Bashir’s veiled threats against the new Sudanese state: “Following South Sudan’s official independence last July, Sudan lost 75% of the oil reserves that existed under the united country. But the landlocked south needs the pipelines in the north that transport the oil for exportation through Port Sudan. Sudan has been hoping that fees assessed on using its oil infrastructure will help recover part of the revenue lost with the south’s independence. But the two neighbors have yet to agree on what the fair fee should be per barrel.” Insinuating a violent reprisal, Bashir told reporters, “If we don’t reach a solution we have our options to resolve this issue.” Another consequence of South Sudan’s secession has been the consolidation of power by hardliners within the NCP, who are even less disposed to peace.

If a solution is not reached on these issues, ICG predicts a protracted conflict in Sudan that could possibly spread into South Sudan. ICG emphasizes the need for international mediation since the CPA has failed, but warns that actors involved in negotiating the peace agreement, including the United States, are no longer trusted in Sudan, and that the primary mediator should be the African Union, in particular the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki.

Tom Andrews, president of the new U.S. advocacy group United to End Genocide (UEG), published a blog post last week arguing for a nationwide arms embargo on Sudan. He noted the testimony in Congress by a representative of Human Rights Watch, who “expressed strong concern about the impact this [supplying arms to rebels] could have on the flow of vital emergency aid to desperate civilians.” Andrews cited China as one of the biggest obstacles to passing an arms embargo in the UN.

Image: economist.com

* Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have gathered evidence that the Sudanese government has committed war crimes in South Kordofan State, just north of the newly established border of South Sudan. Researchers from both organizations investigated 13 air strikes by the Sudanese government in the Nuba Mountains region, despite a ceasefire announced by Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir on August 23. The bombing campaign began June 5 in Kadugli. Witnesses and victims in South Kordofan described indiscriminate bombing and the use of anti-personnel mines in civilian areas void of any legitimate military targets, leading human rights organizations to call the acts a violation of international humanitarian law. Despite a mounting humanitarian crisis, President Bashir announced on August 23 that no foreign aid agencies would be allowed into South Kordofan. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network has classified the food and livelihood situation of those affected by the conflict at the “Crisis” level, one below “Emergency.”

* Despite requests for a dismissal by the Kenyan government, the International Criminal Court decided today to proceed with the case against six high-ranking Kenyan government officials, on charges of crimes against humanity, murder, forcible transfer and persecution, and rape during post-electoral violence in late 2007. The defendants are Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, deputy prime minister and minister of finance; William Samoei Ruto, minister of higher education, science and technology; Henry Kiprono Kosgey, minister of industrialization; Joshua Arap Sang, head of operations for KASS FM radio; Francis Kirimi Muthaura, head of the public service and secretary to the cabinet; and Mohamed Hussein Ali, who was police commissioner at the time of the violence. The December 2007 violence resulted in 1,100 people killed, 3,500 injured, and up to 600,000 forcibly displaced.

* “The United Nations–backed tribunal in Cambodia (ECCC) dealing with mass killings and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge three decades ago began its fitness hearing today into the health of two of the ageing defendants currently on trial,” the UN News Centre reported August 29. The hearing included two top Khmer Rouge officials implicated in the 1975–79 genocide. The allegations against Ieng Thirith, 79, the former social affairs minister, and Nuon Chea (also known as “Brother Number 2”), chief policy architect of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), include genocide, murder, torture, religious persecution, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Ieng Thirith was found to be “cognitively impaired,” which would compromise her rights to a fair trial. Nuon Chea was declared fit to stand trial.

* The Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), a teacher training college in Rwanda’s capital yesterday held a one-day forum on the prevention of genocide called “Teaching Genocide and Community Cohesion: From Theory to Practice.”  The workshop, run in partnership with Britain’s University of Nottingham, is geared towards teaching students and teachers the basics of genocide prevention, as well as the importance of building and spreading community cohesion, in the hope of preventing a repetition of the genocidal events of 1994.

Photos (from top): unitednews.com.pk, historyplace.com

* Protests next month in the United States and Sweden will draw attention to alleged crimes against humanity in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Protesters seek to persuade the United States, the largest donor to Ethiopia, to force Addis Ababa to open the region to independent organizations so they can monitor, assess, and alleviate what protesters claim is an escalating and dire situation. The U.S. State Department’s 2010 Report on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia details human rights abuses committed by Ethiopian security forces and government-sponsored militias. This year, four refugees from Ogaden have been killed in Kenya, including the assassination of a community leader at the IFO refugee camp, operated by CARE.

* Sudan agreed to let UN relief agencies into South Kordofan. A Western diplomat said the gesture was a “smokescreen,” observing that Khartoum still won’t allow an independent inquiry into accusations its troops have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

* In Libya, with the advancement of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) into Tripoli, the international community has grown weary of the threat of revenge attacks or reprisals on supporters of Moammar Qaddafi. Since the start of the conflict, the anti-Qaddafi movement’s human rights abuses have raised serious concerns. The NTC responded to these concerns today, as an NTC spokesman called for calm. The rebel council has also taken promising steps to ensure a civil transition process by releasing some political prisoners. However, it is still uncertain how the NTC proposes to prevent reprisals on a large scale in the future.

* The Philippines is on the brink of ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This would make the Philippines only the third ASEAN nation to become a party to the ICC. Although the Philippines played an active role in the drafting of the treaty in 1998, and signed the treaty in 2000, it was not brought to the legislature for ratification until now. By ratifying the treaty, the Philippines commits to aid in the prosecution of crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a proponent of ratification, stated that among other reasons for ratifying, the Rome Statute allows for the prosecution of individuals, rather than the ICJ’s approach of prosecuting state actors only.

Images (from top): ndsu.edu, Wikimedia Commons

* In a report titled “You Don’t Know Who to Blame: War Crimes in Somalia,” Human Rights Watch claims that all parties involved in the country’s ongoing conflict—al-Shabaab militants, Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces, African Union troops, and government-aligned militias—have “committed serious violations of the laws of war that are contributing to the country’s humanitarian catastrophe.” These violations—which include indiscriminate artillery attacks, arbitrary arrests and executions, and the extortion and abuse of refugees—have made aiding those affected by the war and the famine more difficult. Human Rights Watch called on all parties to protect civilians and requested that international donors to the TNG establish “clear human rights benchmarks” to help ensure the government begins to abide by international humanitarian law.

* The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report today documenting human rights violations during the conflict in the Sudanese state of South Kordofan. While both the rebels and the government are implicated, the report attributes a majority of the violations to government forces, which have purportedly targeted civilians during military operations, executed and arrested suspected rebel members, and indiscriminately bombed villages. Unconfirmed sightings of mass graves outside the city of Kadugli were also documented. The United Nations has called on Khartoum to allow international monitors to perform unhindered investigations into these allegations.

* During a press conference on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters that the government is prepared to work with the international community to establish “an international commission” to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity committed by the Burmese government during its clashes with ethnic rebels. This announcement comes shortly after thirteen female U.S. Senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which they called for action against the Burmese regime for its use of rape as a weapon of war. “We are prepared to work to establish an international Commission of Inquiry through close consultation with our friends and allies,” Nuland stated.

* Following a meeting of the African Prosecutors Association, chief prosecutors from a number of African countries have vowed to step up their efforts to find, arrest, and extradite fugitives wanted for crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. One way they hope to do this is through a greater level of intelligence sharing on the whereabouts of suspected criminals. There are reportedly 110 “indictments and appeals for arrests” still out for individuals suspected of being involved in Rwanda’s genocide.

Photos (from top): bar-kulan.com, Peter DiCampo/Pulitzer Center, news.az

* Representative Chris Smith, head of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, convened an emergency meeting to discuss the escalation of violence in the Sudanese state of South Kordofan. Smith called for the immediate dispatch of peacekeepers to the area, which he believes “could be very effective in mitigating the loss of life.” This position is likely to be championed by U.S. officials at the United Nations Security Council meeting today.

* According to reports, since the Syrian government’s crackdown on protesters began, thousands of government soldiers have defected and hundreds have been arrested after refusing to obey orders to indiscriminately open fire on protesters.

* Four former Guatemalan soldiers were sentenced to over 6,000 years in prison after being tried for crimes against humanity. They were found guilty of participating in the Dos Erres massacre, in which hundreds of civilians were slaughtered in a Guatemalan village by the military.

 * In a telephone conversation with Syria’s president on Saturday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon once again condemned the government’s brutal crackdown on protestors and requested that the country’s borders be opened to international humanitarian organizations.

Photos (from top): rawstory.com, egyptianintifada.com, global post.com

In an interview yesterday, Edward Luck, special adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General for the responsibility to protect, offered wide-ranging comments on the concept of R2P, past, present, and future.

In explaining R2P’s origins, Luck cited massacres like the Rwandan genocide and Cambodia’s “killing fields,” which made clear the need for a framework of principles to help protect civilians while taking into account the international system’s deep-rooted notion of state sovereignty. R2P, as conceived in 2001, seemed to present a perfect middle ground, and according to Luck its evolution has so far been successful.

Apart from NATO’s heavily criticized intervention in Libya, and the mixed outcome of Côte d’Ivoire, Luck says R2P has helped in Kyrgyzstan and Guinea, although these cases received less media coverage. In Libya’s case, he argued, most of the negative response has focused on the use of force, which isn’t R2P’s main goal and therefore shouldn’t be the litmus test of its success.

“For us the job isn’t response, the job is prevention,” Luck said. “Many people think that responsibility to protect is all about the use of military force after the bodies start piling up. For us, that isn’t morally acceptable.”

On the topic of Syria, Luck discussed why it is that R2P was applied to help the Libyans while the Syrian people seem to have been abandoned, explaining it mainly in terms of the influence of regional organizations.

In Libya’s case, Luck said, “the Arab League, the African Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council, all acted before the Security Council did. . . . In this case it was really the way the [UN] Charter had meant it to be: the parties and then the regional bodies first try to resolve the differences.” This contrasts with Syria, where support for intervention from regional organizations has been absent.

Luck also cited the language used by Qaddafi, who referred to protesters as “cockroaches” and said he would “cleanse Libya house by house.” Assad, on the other hand, has been more careful. “We listen to what leaders say as well as watch what they do,” Luck said.

Speculating on R2P’s future, Luck says he hopes and believes that, rather than meeting its demise, R2P will become so absorbed into the way states think of their responsibilities, and so much a part of civil society, that his office at the UN “simply could go out of business.”

The interview fails to mention one glaring issue: namely, the Sudanese state of South Kordofan. By all accounts the regime in Khartoum, since June 5, has engaged in illegal policies that target civilians of specific ethnic groups for torture and arrest and murder. Criticism has been hurled at the UN and its member states for their lack of action and avoidance of the issues—as Luck himself does in the interview.

Genocide scholar Samuel Totten, who has written extensively on Sudan, wrote an opinion column last week arguing that South Sudan fits all the requirements for R2P intervention. Yet, he wrote: “the international [community] largely plays dumb, claiming ‘I see no evil’ and ‘I hear no evil.’ The latter, of course, conveniently translates into, ‘Thus, I do not need to deal with evil.’ Such a position is totally antithetical to the concept of The Responsibility to Protect. Indeed, it is akin to seeking an easy (and unconscionable) way out of acting responsibly.”

In contrast to Luck’s optimistic view of the future of R2P, Totten declared that it was “on the verge of becoming a dead letter.”

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