Ugandan Police Stop Gay Pride Parade

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

KAMPALA, Uganda– Police stopped gay pride marches just outside the capital of Kampala on Saturday September 24th.  This was after a statement on the 22nd from Simon Lokodo, minister of Uganda’s ethics and integrity cabinet, who told organizers they would be prosecuted if they marched.

The Gay Pride parade in Entebbe, Uganda

Activists marching in August 2015. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Gay rights activist Frank Mugisha said more than 100 LGBTQ participants tried to participate in the activism activities.  Before activists could march, they were herded onto buses by police and bused back to Kampala.  Homosexuality is currently illegal in Uganda and Lokodo is known for his harsh anti-LGBTQ stance.  In the past, the march has been allowed to proceed without government intervention.

The crackdown on the gay pride march comes after a lawmaker tried to push through a harsher law on homosexuality.  The law would have allowed a sentence of death as punishment for homosexual acts.  This law was eventually determined to be unconstitutional by the courts in Uganda.

Despite the triumph in the courts the climate in Uganda has been similar to the blockade of the gay pride march.  A few months ago Lokodo authorized a violent raid at a pride celebration.  LGBTQ citizens are also continually outed, threatened, and killed for their sexual orientation.

For more information, please see: 

BBC – Ugandan police block gay pride parade – 24 September 2016

Citizen TV – Ugandan police stop gay pride parade – 24 September 2016

Fox News – Uganda: Police stop gay pride parade deemed illegal – 24 September 2016

Out – Uganda Official Orders Pride March Organizers to Cancel Parade – 22 September 2016

Kuwaiti Attorney Files Suit Challenging DNA Collection Law

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait — Kuwaiti attorney, Adel Abdulhadi, filed a challenge against the constitutionality of the country’s DNA collection law.

Kuwaiti attorney challenges constitutionality of DNA collection law (Photo courtesy of Thomson Reuters)

In his filing, Mr. Abdulhadi argued that the DNA collection law violates “fundamental human rights and personal freedoms protected and sacred by the Kuwait constitution.” He stated that “compelling every citizen, resident and visitor to submit a DNA sample to the government is similar to forcing house searches without a warrant.” He asserted that the law means “every single person is now considered a suspect until proven innocent.” Mr. Abdulhadi further stated that the government has already started collecting DNA samples from individuals they suspect falsely claimed Kuwaiti nationality.

The DNA collection law, which was passed in July 2015, is expected to go into effect in November 2016. It is the first law of its kind around the world, and would require all Kuwait citizens, expatriates and temporary visitors to provide DNA samples for the government’s database. Furthermore, all Kuwait citizens applying for passport renewals will be required to submit DNA samples. Kuwait officials stated that the law is a security and counterterrorism measure in response to the suicide bombing at a mosque in Kuwait which killed 27 and injured hundreds of others. Officials further indicated that the law will help facilitate solving crime and terrorism cases. Mr. Abdulhadi criticized these explanations by stating “terrorism is in the mindset of the person, and you can’t minimize this by restricting the privacy of people.”

The DNA samples of over 1.3 million citizens, and 2.9 million expatriates and temporary visitors from other countries would be collected through saliva swabs or a few drops of blood. The samples would then be entered into a database and stored in a laboratory at the General Department of Criminal Evidence. Anyone who refuses to provide a sample could be fined $33,000 or sentenced to one year in prison. Furthermore, any individual who is caught faking samples could be sentenced to up to seven years in jail.

Several international organizations urged the Kuwait government to change or amend the law before it goes into effect. The European Society of Human Genetics declared that the law is a “serious assault on the right to privacy of individuals.” The Society further noted that the law will most likely result in Kuwait’s isolation from scientific research. The United Nations’ Human Rights Committee as well as the Human Rights Watch stated that the law “imposes unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the right to privacy.” In addition, scientists and security experts criticized the law as a “huge attack on genetic privacy,” and voiced their concerns over the law while urging Kuwait to amend it.

For more information, please see:

Zawya (Thomsan Reuters)—Lawyer files challenge against constitutionality of the DNA law—22 September 2016

International Business Times—Kuwait lawyer challenges constitutionality of world’s first controversial mandatory DNA collection law—23 September 2016

Middle East Monitor—Kuwaiti lawyers challenge forced DNA sampling law—23 September 2016

New Scientist—Kuwait lawyers fight world’s first mandatory DNA sampling law—22 September 2016

ICTJ: World Report September 2016 – Transitional Justice News and Analysis

ICTJ ICTJ World Report
September 2016

In Focus

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ICTJ Welcomes the Signing of Colombia’s Historic Peace AgreementICTJ Welcomes the Signing of Colombia’s Historic Peace AgreementThe International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) welcomes the historic peace agreement signed yesterday between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – an essential step toward building lasting peace in the country.

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World Report

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AFRICAIn the Democratic Republic of Congo at least 17 people were killed in violence in Kinshasa, as the political opposition escalated its calls for President Joseph Kabila to step down. In Kenya human rights organizations called on the country to investigate extrajudicial killings and disappearances. The country’s director of prosecutions snubbed journalists who protested against violent attacks and harassment in the line of duty, including the recent death of reporter Joseph Masha after suspected food poisoning. In Uganda, pre-trial hearings began in the case of former LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo commenced. Kwoyelo’s lawyers questioned the legality of the presiding judge on the grounds that she is not a judge in the International Crimes Division of High Court, but the Judge overruled the objection. The court further ruled that the participation of victims at the trial will be in accordance with the Rome Statute and ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence. UN human rights experts say that women have suffered more violence than anyone else in South Sudan. The UN has also launched a 19-day mission regarding the human rights situation in South Sudan. In Zimbabwe opposition political partiesvowed to defy President Robert Mugabe’s threats against demonstrations.

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AMERICASIn Colombia, the government and FARC rebels agreed to a historic peace deal, bringing an end to 52 years of conflict. The agreement will be signed in late September and voted on in a national plebiscite on October 2. The International Criminal Court welcomed Colombia’s peace deal, but called for “genuine” prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The FARC also began demobilizing child soldiers this month. In Argentina the ex-head of the air force was sentencedto 25 years in prison for the abduction and disappearance of a married couple of young activists during the country’s military dictatorship. In Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales’ family is under investigationover corruption charges, an issue the country has struggled with in the past and sunk Morales’ predecessor. In Peru, a court sentenced 16 former soldiers for the 1985 massacre of 69 people in Ayacucho during the armed conflict with the Shining Path. In Mexico, the chief of criminal investigations for the country’s attorney general resigned amid an internal affairs inquiry into his office’s handling of the case of 43 college students who vanished nearly two years ago. International human rights officials are demanding an investigation into the brutal sexual assaults of 11 Mexican women during protests a decade ago — an inquiry that would take aim at President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was the governor in charge at the time of the attacks.

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ASIANepali attorney general said that there would be no amnesty granted for crimes committed duringNepal’s decade-long conflict, which are considered serious by international law. Nepal Army Colonel Kumar Lama was acquitted by a British court in what victims and rights groups maintain is a temporary setback in the push for justice. Myanmar is scrapping its ‘Midnight Inspections’ law, which forced people to report overnight guests and was often used by authorities to barge into houses and target activists. In the Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte was accused of ordering members of a death squad to kill criminal and opponents in a senate committee hearing. Since Duterte became president, 1,900 have died in extrajudicial killings. Sri Lanka has vowed to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms, deeming them helpful for institutional reform. Tamil human rights activists, however,delivered a letter highlighting their worries about Sri Lanka’s transitional justice process to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

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EUROPEAn Ohio man was arrested after authorities say he was part of a Serbian volunteer army company that participated in crimes in Bosnia. The Constitutional Court in the country’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska ruled that a referendum on the Day of Republika Srpska could proceed. The referendum is designed to challenge last year’s ruling that the holiday is unconstitutional on the grounds that it contributed to the outbreak of war in 1992. In Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipraspledged to do “whatever is necessary” – including taking legal action – to get Germany to pay damages for the wartime atrocities of Nazi troops. Germany has dictated tough austerity terms in return for Greece’s three European bailouts, and maintains that it settled reparations with Greece in 1960. InPoland, the conservative government says anyone who uses language that implies Polish responsibility for Nazi German atrocities will face jail or a fine.

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MENAIn Tunisia, the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission reported that almost $1 billion has been drained from the state budget, calling the problem an “epidemic”. Top U.S. and Russian diplomats, along with more than a dozen of their Arab and European counterparts, met in New York on September 20 but left Syria no closer to peace. The same day of the meeting, an aid convoy was attacked, killing 20 civilians. U.N. investigators said they found it increasingly difficult to interview newly arrived Syrian refugees in Europe and urged countries to allow access to them to help document suspected war crimes. Lebanon’s national dialogue sessions, which were intended to resolve a number of deadlocks including the presidency, were suspended over a lack of progress. On the 34th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, a march was organized in Beirut in remembrance of the victims of the massacre of thousands of civilians by militias allied with Israel in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. In Yemen, calls for an independent investigation into alleged breaches of humanitarian law escalated when the Dutch government requested an inquiry at a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva. In Egypt, parliament ended a legislative year without passing the transitional justice law, or the unified media law and the local municipality election law, despite constitutional obligation.The country also froze the assets of five prominent human rights defenders as part of an ongoing crackdown against the government’s critics.

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Publications

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Media and Transitional Justice: A Dream of Symbiosis in a Troubled Relationship

In transitional contexts, reporting does not simply present the facts, but instead shapes the parameters for interpreting divisive political issues. Coverage in such polarized contexts can mitigate or obscure the substance of transitional justice efforts to establish what happened, who the victims were, and who was responsible for the violations.

The Case for Action on Transitional Justice and Displacement

As the refugee crisis deepens, does action on transitional justice issues have to wait for peace? A new paper explores what sort of consultation and documentation work can be done now, while conflict is ongoing, to shape outcomes moving forward.

More Publications

Upcoming Events

October 06, 2016

The Obscured Role of Women in Nonviolent Movements Location:Washington, D.C. View Details

November 03, 2016

Global Leaders: Conversations with Alon Ben-Meir, International Organization for Migration Location: New York, NY View Details

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Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism: Running for Cover: Syrian Conflict Will Be the Subject of Media, Law, & Politics Dialog

Running for Cover: Syrian Conflict Will Be the Subject of Media, Law, & Politics Dialog

running-for-cover-syrian-conflictAccountability in the Syrian conflict will be the focus of a daylong event hosted by the Newhouse Center for Global Engagement in Syracuse University’s  S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications next month. “Running for Cover: Politics, Justice and Media in the Syrian Conflict” will take place Oct. 6, 2016, beginning at 9 a.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, Newhouse 3. The event will be streamed live at http://newhouseglobal.syr.edu. Follow on Twitter at #SUSyria.

The event will analyze the international community’s response to the Syrian conflict and its effects, as well as the challenges to reporting the war, developing political solutions, and seeking justice for victims. The interactive event is designed as a “fishbowl” conversation among academics, policymakers, human rights advocates, journalists, and the audience. Participants will explore how the international community captures news and images from the conflict, investigates alleged war crimes and human rights violations, and protects refugees. They also will discuss lessons learned from this conflict that might inform the response to future conflicts.

“Our aim is to critique the failures of the international response to the Syrian conflict and introduce ways in which we can collectively achieve positive change,” says Ken Harper, director of the Newhouse Center for Global Engagement and chief organizer of the event. “We are crafting the event to be less of a ‘sage on the stage’ and more of a ‘guide on the side’ experience. We hope it’s a useful event that speaks to the seriousness of the situation and honors those suffering with an honest conversation.”

A series of five panel discussions will cover a range of topics. An empty chair will allow audience members to join and rotate through each panel. Syrian activists on the ground and around the world will be invited to participate anonymously via social media.

Schedule

Opening Remarks

Newhouse Dean Lorraine Branham and Ken Harper

The Geopolitical Situation in Syria

Panelists will address the historical context of the conflict and offer a critique of the political, military, and humanitarian responses of the international community, including an assessment of where we stand now.  

Facilitator: Sherine Tadros, Representative and Head of New York (UN) Office, Amnesty International.

Panelists: Lamis Abdelaaty, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Maxwell School; Bassam al-Ahmad, Executive Director, Syrians for Truth and Justice; Consultant, International Federation for Human Rights; and former Spokesperson, Violations Documentation Center in Syria; William Banks, Founding Director, Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, Syracuse University; and Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Chair of Political Science, Maxwell School.

Accountability for Atrocity

This panel will explore the various justice options available to the people of Syria and the surrounding region who are victims of the atrocities committed during the Syrian conflict, and the likelihood of those options being utilized by the international community.

Facilitator: David Crane, Founding Director, Syrian Accountability Project, SU College of Law.

Panelists: Bill Wiley, Head of Operations, Commission for International Justice and Accountability and Radwan Ziadeh, senior analyst, Arab Center Washington DC, and founder and director, Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies.

The Media’s Role

A once well-funded international press corps has been depleted to the point where accurate reporting on one of the most complex conflicts of the 21st century is almost impossible. This panel will look at how the conflict has been reported and how reportage can be improved.

Facilitator: Hub Brown, Associate Dean for Research, Creativity, International Initiatives, and Diversity, Newhouse School.

Panelists: Roy Gutman, former Foreign Editor, McClatchy and Newsday; Ned Parker, Enterprise Reporter, Reuters; Reza, Photojournalist, National Geographic, and Founder, Reza Visual Academy; and Ben Taub, Contributing Writer, newyorker.com.

Social Media in Reporting War

Social media has forever changed the way we report on and bear witness to conflict and atrocities. This panel will explore the intersection of social justice and oppression. Is social media aiding transparency and accountability in Syria or is it a tool of oppression?

Facilitator: Jennifer Grygiel, Assistant Professor of Communications, Newhouse School.

Panelists: Ammar Abdulhamid, President, Tharwa Foundation; Andrew Beiter, Education Director, I Am Syria; and Fadi Hussein, Co-Founder, Instant Reporting Team.

Next Steps

Now what? This panel will discuss current and new initiatives from NGOs, media, governments, and the academic community that address the complex challenges of the Syrian conflict and outline action items for moving forward. 

Facilitator: Ken Harper

Panelists: Beiter; Gutman; Wiley; and Elijah Shama, Founder, Reporters Without Borders SU Chapter.

Closing Remarks

David Crane

PLUS … An exhibit featuring photos of those directly affected by the Syrian conflict will be on display inside and at the entrance to the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium. Images are provided by Pictures of the Year International and Ed Kashi of VII Photo Agency and Talking Eyes, as well as from the special gallery “Exile Voices,” which comprises images taken by children at Kawergosk Refugee Camp in northern Iraq as part of the Reza Visual Academy.

For more information, visit http://newhouseglobal.syr.edu/event/syria.


The conference is co-sponsored by the International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies programs in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism Carol Becker Middle East Security Speaker Series. Additional support comes from Impunity Watch and the Syrian Accountability Project (SU College of Law) and the Alexia Foundation.  

INSCT Middle East Icon-mwedit050616-01

Syrian Network for Human Rights: Multiple Evidences Indicating that Russian and Syrian Forces Deliberately Targeted the U.N. Aid Convoy in Aleppo

I. Incident Details, Evidences, and Accounts
On Monday 19 September 2016, government helicopters and fixed-wing warplanes we believe that were evidently Russian took part in a concentrated attack that comprised multiple airstrikes on a center for the Red Crescent in eastern Urm Al Kubra town where the bombardment lasted for three hours.
The government helicopters dropped no less than four barrel bombs while the fixed-wing Russian warplanes carried out nine airstrikes at least in which they used missiles and heavy machine guns.
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ICTJ: Transitional Justice and Media: A Crucial But Neglected Relationship

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Media and Transitional Justice: A Dream of Symbiosis in a Troubled Relationship
by Refik Hodzic and David Tolbert
Media can either catalyze or paralyze debate on transitional justice.
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“We’ve gotten used to the conflict; and that habit has created a vicious situation in which many prefer the certainty of war – with its clear rules and predictable risks, with the dead being a burden for others, with its hate routines and well-defined enemies – than the uncertainty of peace. The decision ahead of us, the citizens, will demand unprecedented responsibilities from us. The main one, maybe, will paradoxically be the easiest: to inform ourselves well. For that we will have to search – within the tangled mess of the right’s demagogy and the populisms of the left – the scarce resources of truth, judgment and magnanimity. For now, I hope that we measure up to the moment.”

Download briefing paper
These words from Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez were published recently in a text which considers the historical opportunity presented to the people of Colombia in the upcoming plebiscite on the peace agreement between the government and FARC rebels. They capture brilliantly the struggle in societies dealing with legacies of conflict or violent state repression to mobilize informed citizenry to stand up for truth and victims’ rights, to make informed judgments on how to deal with the past, and disentangle the facts from the sticky web of political rhetoric, denial, and polarizing propaganda. This struggle for informed citizenry crucially depends on the direction taken by one key agent of social change – the media.

Transitional justice measures signal a shift of values dominant in a society – from an environment in which no person is safe if they belong to a targeted group, to a sustainable peace and a system of values in which the rule of law is respected and citizens trust the state to be a guarantor of their rights. There is no magic bullet to make this shift happen overnight – it usually takes years, if not decades, to unfold and must often take root in deeply polarized societies, where trauma and mistrust shape public opinion.

In such circumstances media reporting does not simply present the facts, but instead shapes the parameters for interpreting divisive political issues. Coverage in such polarized contexts can mitigate or obscure the substance of transitional justice efforts to establish what happened, who the victims were, and who was responsible for the violations. It can either catalyze or paralyze the debate on how to repair victims and ensure that systematic violence does not recur.

This relationship between media and transitional justice efforts is delineated by two diametrically opposed manifestations: symbiosis and conflict. There are countless examples of media projects that have been crucial in promoting victims’ rights, championing accountability, and even catalyzing transitional justice processes by uncovering hidden truths about crimes and their perpetrators. In South Africa, the media played an instrumental rolein the early successes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. On the other hand, the examples of Peru, countries of the former Yugoslavia, and numerous other transitional contexts show that media has often played a decisively negative role in mediating information about war crimes trials or truth commissions, often cementing public misperceptions and fueling political polarization in already-fractured societies. Such negative impacts often stem from the politicization of coverage, the ‘us-versus-them’ narrative, and some journalists’ inadequate knowledge of procedures and legal concepts.

However, transitional justice practitioners must shoulder their share of responsibility for this troubled relationship. Transitional justice institutions often see media not as an ally but as an ill-informed nuisance, if not an adversary. The philosophy of ‘our work speaks for itself’ permeates many a courtroom and office staffed by those whose decisions could irreversibly shape societies’ ability to reckon with a violent past. In some cases, the furthest they go in ensuring a social impact of transitional justice work is to task special offices with public relations under the guise of ‘outreach’, while the idea of working with media to ensure this broader impact is reduced to organizing ‘trainings’ and ‘education seminars’ for reporters.

Arriving at a collective memory of the past is one of the greatest challenges facing a post-conflict society because it implies reaching a degree of consensus in a polarized context. While truth commissions attempt to present an objective account of a society‘s repressive or violent past, they inevitably contend with multiple perspectives and interpretations of this history. In essence, truth commissions and other transitional justice mechanisms must mediate this conflict to bring society to a shared version of this past, which often entails a society-wide admission that egregious human rights violations occurred and that victims must be acknowledged. However, to generate such an admission, transitional justice efforts rely on the media to encourage consensus-making about the past—a daunting task.

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Suriname Faces Economic Crisis

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

PARAMARIBO, SURINAME—The small country of Suriname, located in the Northeastern coast of South America, is suffering an economic crisis similar to that in Venezuela. The economy is in free fall due to the collapse of global commodity prices. Surnime’s local currency slid against the U.S. Dollar by half.

The citizens of Suriname are experiencing the consequences of a failing economy. (Picture Courtesy of Latino Fox News)

Suriname is facing the third highest rate of inflation in the world, following Venezuela and South Sudan. According to the Bureau of Statistics in Suriname, “inflation is running at an annualized 64%, up from an average 4% in 2013-2015.” This has led to a national crisis in which businesses are closing, food prices have increased, and hospitals are unable to run because they do not have basic supplies such as bandages. The country relies heavily on its exports of gold and oil, for which the global prices have fallen. In addition to falling prices, the Alcoa Aluminum Refinery, a staple in the economy, closed its doors last year. The president of the country, Desi Bouterse spent heavily before the 2015 elections and exhausted the currency reserves. President Bouterse has refused to listen to the suggestions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the IMF authorized a 478-million-dollar loan to the country in May. The president believes, “the IMF requirements are very harsh and that his government may move to withdraw from the loan agreements and seek support from another source.”

The citizens of Suriname are being hit the hardest. Hospitals can no longer sustain themselves and provide medical care. Manodj Hindori, chairman of the National Hospital Council, stated that “all the country’s hospitals are on the verge of bankruptcy because of higher prices for supplies combined with reduced government subsidies.” According to the New York Times, doctors are pleading for help from Surinamese living abroad to donate supplies like sterile tubes.

The Suriname government insists that the economic crisis will pass when gold and oil prices improve. And the president is hopeful that production by the US based Newmont Mining Corporation set to operate later this year will boost the economy.

For more information, please see:

ABC News—Suriname Slides Into Economic Abyss, in Shadow of Venezuela—21 September 2016.

Latino News—Venezuela’s Crisis Impacting Nearby Suriname, Where Economy is Collapsing—21 September 2016.

The New York Times—Suriname Slides Into Economic Abyss, in Shadow of Venezuela—21 September 2016.

Yahoo News—Suriname Slides Into Economic Abyss, in Shadow of Venezuela—21 September 2016.

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Joint Press Release – 9th Annual Ministerial Discussion on the Responsibility to Protect: The Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians and R2P

On 21 September, the Republic of Rwanda, Italy and the Kingdom of the Netherlands co-hosted the 9th Annual Ministerial Roundtable Discussion on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), “The Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians and the Responsibility to Protect,” in association with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

A cross-regional group of ministers representing seven governments contributed to the discussion. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Rwanda, H.E. Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo, the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Italy, H.E. Mr. Vincenzo Amendola, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Mr. Bert Koenders, and the Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Dr. Simon Adams, opened the meeting before an interactive discussion among participants.

The event served as a platform for participants to reaffirm their support for the Kigali Principles, to announce and encourage new endorsements, and to discuss how the application of the Kigali Principles in current mass atrocity situations can help improve the response to populations at risk.

H.E. Mr. Bert Koenders, emphasized the importance of the Kigali Principles, noting, “The increase in civilian casualties, displacement, and human suffering we see in today’s conflicts cannot become the new normal. We need to take action to improve UN peacekeeping. The Kigali Principles bring together political commitment to protect civilians from atrocities including the use of force, accountable and well-prepared military and civilian leadership, well-trained and disciplined troops, and a zero tolerance approach to sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.

H.E. Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo, noting the difficult decisions that were made regarding sending troops into situations experiencing ongoing mass atrocity crimes, including Darfur, South Sudan and Central African Republic, asserted that “we decided to act so we could make a difference” and commended the Kigali Principles as providing “practical and prudent ways to protect civilians today.”

H.E. Mr. Vincenzo Amendola discussed the significance of R2P in addressing the causes of the refugee crisis in Italy’s region, noting, “Italy has supported since its initial formulation the principle that Governments in the first place must answer to a Responsibility to Protect their own civilian population, that the international community must commit to internationally mandated efforts to supplant Governments when they are unable or unwilling to step in. This is what Italy is doing on a daily basis in the Mediterranean. Since the beginning of 2016, we have rescued over 60.000 desperate women, children and men from near-certain death as they were fleeing from war and truly unfathomable sufferance and desperation.”

Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, remarked: “Peacekeepers are often at the frontlines of protecting civilians and stabilizing conflicts in the world today, sometimes paying the greatest sacrifice as they do so. However, despite the presence of sizeable peacekeeping operations, the UN continues to struggle to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan.”

The main objective of the discussion was for UN Member States to identify concrete ways of implementing the Kigali Principles, both individually and jointly, and to exchange best practices and identify challenges in improving Protection of Civilians by UN peacekeeping missions. Participants were also encouraged to examine the role of the Kigali Principles in effectively upholding the responsibility of the international community to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes.

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, and the President of International Crisis Group also participated in the discussion.

Background on the Kigali Principles:
The Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians are a set of eighteen pledges for the effective implementation of the protection of civilians in UN peacekeeping. The principles emanated from the High-level International Conference on the Protection of Civilians held in Rwanda on 28 and 29 May 2015. The Kigali Principles address the most relevant aspects of peacekeeping, including assessment and planning, force generation, training and equipping personnel, performance and accountability. While they are framed around the protection of civilians, the principles address broader deficiencies that undermine the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations conducted in volatile situations, including peacekeeper abuse.

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Atrocity Alert: Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi

Atrocity Alert, No. 23

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting and updating situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.

Syria

The temporary cessation of hostilities was declared to be over by the Syrian government on 19 September, one week after it started, following an escalation in clashes between government forces and armed rebels across the country. The fighting culminated on Monday in a horrific air strike on a UN humanitarian convoy in transit to opposition-held areas of Aleppo. At least 12 humanitarian workers were killed, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent director Omar Barakat, and 18 aid trucks were destroyed.

Deliberate targeting of humanitarian workers is a war crime. The UN and other relief agencies have suspended all humanitarian convoys across combat lines in Syria. The United States government, which negotiated the ceasefire with Russia, has declared that it considers Russia responsible for the convoy bombing, based upon the terms of the cessation of hostilities agreement. Russia has stated that there is no evidence that the convoy was destroyed in an airstrike and has suggested that the trucks may have caught fire.

As world leaders meet this week for the opening of the 71st UN General Assembly, the conflict in Syria has featured prominently in speeches and side events, and will be highlighted in a UN Security Council meeting today, 21 September.

It is imperative that words of condemnation and horror finally translate into action. The Security Council must pressure all parties to the conflict to re-establish and respect the ceasefire, safely facilitate the delivery of unrestricted humanitarian aid, and recommit to negotiations for a political solution. The Security Council must investigate and hold the perpetrators of Monday’s airstrike and all other mass atrocity crimes in Syria accountable under international law.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

On 19 September political demonstrations throughout the DRC resulted in violent clashes between protestors and security forces. According to reports from Kinshasa, more than 17 people were killed, hundreds were detained by police, and five opposition headquarters were burnt down as violence continued overnight. The UN Secretary-General and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have condemned the violence. As discontent regarding the presidential election process grows, there is a risk of increasing state violence targeting perceived opposition supporters. Given DRC’s long history of civil war, mass atrocities and political instability, it is essential that all political leaders urge their supporters to refrain from further violence. The government should ensure that security forces exercise maximum restraint in response to protests. The UN Mission in the DRC must be prepared to protect populations at risk of further violence.

Burundi

On 20 September 2016 the UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) issued its final report to the Human Rights Council. The report detailed gross human rights abuses, attributing responsibility for the vast majority of violations to the government. Although it acknowledged that relative levels of violence in Burundi have decreased since December 2015, UNIIB asserted that this has come largely as a result of increased oppression. UNIIB concluded that some incidents may amount to crimes against humanity and that, “given the country’s history, the danger of the crime of genocide looms large.” It is essential for the government of Burundi to immediately end its assault on organized dissent, strengthen the rule of law and end impunity for crimes and abuses committed since April 2015. In light of the UNIIB report, the UN Security Council and African Union should urgently reassess options for human rights monitoring and an enhanced UN policing mission in Burundi.

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Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Inclusivity framework vital to achieving transitional justice in Syria

SJAC Update | September 20, 2016
HNC delegation arrives to Geneva at the start of the peace talks in February. | Photo Credit: United Nations / Jean-Marc Ferré

Inclusivity framework vital to achieving transitional justice in Syria

Two weeks ago in London, the opposition bloc to the Syrian government, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), unveiled a plan to bring about political transition within Syria and an end to the country’s five-year civil war. The plan, which includes three chief phases (six months of negotiations and a ceasefire; the establishment of a transitional government along with the abdication of President Bashar al-Assad; and the drafting of a new constitution with UN supervised elections after 18 months of transitional government rule) is the most detailed and unified proposed political solution to the crisis that the opposition has offered to date.

Although based off the 2012 Geneva Communique‘s commitment to “equal opportunities” and non-discrimination, the transition plan contains language that conflicts with establishing this type of inclusive society. Namely, the HNC’s first General Principle fails to appropriately confront Syria’s past dysfunctions and create the foundation for institutional reform. Instead, the first principle states:

“Syria is an integral part of the Arab World, and Arabic is the official language of the state. Arab Islamic culture represents a fertile source for intellectual production and social relations amongst all Syrians of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs as the majority of Syrians are Arabs and followers of Islam and its tolerant message which is distinctly moderate.”  

HNC’s formulation of this General Principle shares characteristics with what sociologists call a “hegemonic state,” whose “primary characteristic . . . is the dominance of one community over others, recognizing them only if they submit to its rule.”

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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

Xenophobia Threatens Peace in Germany

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

BERLIN, Germany —  A federal government report released by the German government warns of unrest in Eastern Germany due to far-right violence as the product of “xenophobia and racist attacks.”  The report warns that the line between protests and violence is becoming too blurred, and that the increasing violence tarnishes the reputation of East Germany as a place to do business.  Through the report, the German government urges civil society to take a stronger stand against anti-migrant demonstrations.

Activists in Leipzig, Germany protest the German government’s migrant policy (Photo Courtesy of VOA News)

Within the past year, attacks on refugees residing in East Germany have increased dramatically, including riots and arson attacks on refugee shelters.  Far right-motivated violence was far more prevalent in Eastern Germany last year, at a rate of 58.7 average occurrences per one million inhabitants.  This figure was significantly higher than the rate of 10.5 average occurrences per one million inhabitants in Western Germany.  The attacks are most commonly carried out in the Eastern German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

In 2015, Germany accepted over 1 million refugees into the country.  This movement increased support for the anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is represented in all of the eastern federal states.  AfD is also known for their criticisms of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open-door policy” toward asylum-seeking refugees.

Iris Gleicke, the federal government’s Commissioner for Eastern German Affairs, considers right-wing extremism to pose a “very seirous threat” to the social and economic development of new German states.  Gelicke, who grew up in Eastern Germany, stated that “Society should not look away when people are attacked or refugee shelters are set on fire. A lot is on the line for east Germany.”  On recent trips to Japan and California in attempt to draw investments into Eastern Germany, Gleicke claims that there was concern about whether their staff would be welcome in the Eastern German states, and whether or not their investments would be safe there.

Merkel recently expressed her regret for losing control over the refugee situation in Germany, stating that she wishes she could “turn back time” to better prepare the country for the influx of migrants.  Merkel’s statements come in the wake of her conservative’s party second electoral defeat within the last two weeks, as voters rejected her open-door policy towards refugees.

 

For more information, please see:

The Huffington Post — German Government Fears Xenophobia Will do Economic Harm — 21 September 2016

Independent — Angela Merkel Admits she Lost Control of Refugee Crisis in Germany and Would ‘Turn Back Time’ if she Could — 21 September 2016

Newsweek — Far-Right Violence ‘Threatens East German Economy — 21 September 2016

VOA News — German Government Warns Against Rising Xenophobia — 21 September 2016

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Justice for the Victims of Da’esh’s Atrocities

Joint Civil Society Statement

JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF DA’ESH’S ATROCITIES

19 September 2016

Two years ago Da’esh swept across northern Iraq and conducted a widespread and systematic campaign of mass atrocities against minority communities. Across the Nineveh Plain, Da’esh captured thousands of members of the Yazidi community and set about the summary killing of hundreds of Yazidi men. Women and girls were subjected to sexual slavery and human trafficking. Boys were separated from their families, forced to convert to Islam and sent to military training camps. Since then, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria has concluded that Da’esh’s crimes amount to genocide against the Yazidis and other minority communities.

Da’esh is still systematically carrying out a program of atrocities against religious minorities in areas under its control. An estimated 3,800 Yazidi women and children still remain captive, and recent reports suggest that up to 15,000 victims of Da’esh’s crimes may be buried in more than 70 suspected mass graves across territory previously occupied by Da’esh in Iraq and Syria. More than three million Iraqis still remain internally displaced in Iraq, and many others have become refugees.

Wherever Da’esh exports terrorism, it also exports war crimes and crimes against humanity, including to Libya and Nigeria. Da’esh’s victims in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere need to know that those committing atrocity crimes will be held criminally responsible. International justice is contagious, and accountability is one of the most effective tools for protecting human rights and preventing the recurrence of atrocities.

States have a responsibility to protect all communities from mass atrocity crimes within their borders, and the international community has an obligation to ensure that responsibility is upheld. We call upon the government of Iraq and the international community to investigate and prosecute Da’esh fighters who have perpetrated atrocity crimes and to hold to account all parties committing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Iraq and Syria. In doing so, we also recognize that fighting terrorism and countering violent extremism should never be used as an excuse for repudiating human rights, or ignoring international law.

Finally, the UN Security Council should assist in providing justice for the victims of Da’esh’s mass atrocity crimes by working with Iraq and other states to establish a relevant mechanism of international justice.

Signed:
Amnesty International
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Yazda

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 11, Issue 14 – September 19, 2016

Case School of Law Logo

FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

Founder/Advisor
Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 11 – Issue 14
September 19, 2016

PILPG Logo

Editor-in-Chief
Kevin J. Vogel

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Jeradon Z. Mura

Managing Editors
Dustin Narcisse
Victoria Sarant

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. To subscribe, please email warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.

Contents

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

WEST AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Iraq

Syria

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

With Election Postponed, Violence in Kinshasa Leaves at Least 17 Dead

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo-17 are dead after violent clashes in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Violence broke out after current President Joseph Kabila said the government would be postponing the country’s Presidential election.  The election, which was originally scheduled for later this year, will now be held in mid 2017.

Protesters yell in front of a burning car during a demonstration in Kinshasa. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian.

Opposition leaders are frustrated with the President, claiming that he is trying to stay in office even though the country’s constitution does not allow a President to be in office for three terms.  President Kabila and other government officials are claiming that this is not the case.  The government says that there are not enough resources to hold a fair election and the postponement is only to ensure a fair transition.

The United States and other observers are considering sanctions against the Congolese government if elections are not held as planned later this year. Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, Congo’s Chief Diplomatic Adviser,  is currently in the United States pleading with United States officials to not sanction the Congo’s government.

“There are two resolutions that were pending in the House to impose sanctions on Congolese officials,” Kikaya said previously. “My mission is to plead with American officials and to prove to them that sanctions are not a solution to help us resolve our problems.”

The toll of the delayed election is already being seen at home.  Three police officers and fourteen protesters have been reported dead.  A police officer was burned in retaliation for shooting at protesters, and one opposition leader says he saw 25 protesters gunned down by security forces.  While the government reports the death toll as 17, other reports have marked the number as closer to 50.

For more information, please see:

CNBC Africa – Clashes in Kinshasa leave 17 dead – 20 September 2016

Digital Congo – Balance insurgency opposition: Evariste Boshab announces a provisional toll of 17 dead – 20 September 2016

The Guardian – Clashes in Kinshasa leave 50 dead, say DRC opposition groups – 20 September 2016

UN News Centre – DR Congo: Ban condemns deadly clashes between protestors and security forces in capital – 19 September 2016