178 Breaches in the First Week of the Ankara Ceasefire Agreement

11 Individuals at least Killed in the First Week of the Ceasefire Agreement including Two Children and a Fetus

SNHR has published its fifth report monitoring the breaches of Ankara Ceasefire Agreement in Syria. The report documents the breaches that were recorded in one week since the Agreement went into effect. The report says that 11 individuals, including one woman, two children, and one fetus, have been killed since 30 December 2016; most of them were killed by the Syrian regime forces.
The report draws upon the monitoring and documentation processes in addition to speaking to survivors, victims’ families, or with eyewitnesses to some of the incidents.

The report sheds light on every breach committed by the parties that are bound by the truce agreement (Government forces, Russian forces, and armed opposition factions) in areas under the control of armed opposition factions and areas under a joint control (armed opposition factions and Fateh Al Sham Front). The report doesn’t include any combat operations in ISIS-held areas.

The report says that on Monday 2 January 2017, armed opposition factions that agreed to the ceasefire agreement released a statement in which they announced that they will suspend any talks regarding the ceasefire agreement in response to the breaches that were committed by the Syrian regime forces and its ally the Iranian regime.

The report monitors 178 breaches including 169 breaches through combat operations in addition to nine through arrest operations. 160 breaches, out of the 178, were committed by Syrian regime forces. Most of the breaches took place in Hama governorate where 55 breaches were documented, followed by Homs with 30 breaches, Aleppo and Daraa with 19 breaches, and then Idlib with 14 breaches. Additionally, the report records 14 breaches by Russian forces including six in Aleppo, whereas three breaches were committed in Hama and five breaches were committed in Idlib by Russian forces to a total of 14.

Furthermore, the report says that four breaches by armed opposition factions were documented in Aleppo and Hama governorates.
The report stresses that most of the breaches documented up until now were committed by the Syrian regime and its ally on the ground the Iranian regime, which the report considers to be the most affected by any political agreement that aim towards a comprehensive settlement. Furthermore, the report calls on the Russian regime, being a primary sponsor of the agreement, to apply pressure on the Syrian-Iranian regime in order to compel it seriously commit to the agreement’s provisions. Otherwise, the ceasefire will ultimately fail.

Also, the report emphasizes that Russian forces have to adhere to the agreement, and cease bombing civilians because any other breaches by the Russian forces, who should supposedly oversee the implementation of the agreement, will demolish the credibility of any future Russian sponsorship.
Lastly, the report calls on the Turkish government, seeing that it is the other party sponsoring the Agreement, to follow-up with the breaches committed by armed opposition factions, and insure that they won’t reoccur in order to preserve the success of the truce.

This article was originally posted on Syrian Network for Human Rights’ website and the full report can be read here.

U.N. Officials Fear South Sudan is on the Brink of Genocide

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

JUBA, South Sudan– Officials at the United Nations are growing concerned that the situation in South Sudan could possibly turn into a genocide.  This conclusion comes as the newest country in the world has experienced increased violence since its creation.  Two years of violence has left about 50,000 people dead.

A refugee sits waiting at a reception centre in a Uganda settlement

A refugee sits in a camp in Uganda, displaced from the conflict in South Sudan. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

Since South Sudan was created the country has seen widespread violence.  Although violence has been present for two years things have picked up since July when aid workers were killed in the capital in Juba and violence increased in the capital city.  The conflict in South Sudan is the result of a rift between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar and other oppositition groups.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – South Sudan refugee crisis: The wooden bridge between death and safety – 16 December 2016

Newsy – How Genocide In South Sudan Could Be Prevented – 21 December 2016

NPR – U.N. Worries South Sudan Is On the Brink of Genocide – 21 December 2016

Radio Tamazuj – Ban Ki-moon warns of imminent genocide in South Sudan – 21 December 2016

 

A Step Forward: the UN & Justice for Syria

On Wednesday 21 December, 105 member states of the United Nations General Assembly took an important step forward in seeking justice for the people of Syria. The action-taking was a resolution that paves the way for an independent organization to begin collecting, cataloging and analyzing data and other criminal information coming out of Syria into proper evidence to be used someday by a local, regional or international prosecutor someday to hold accountable all parties committing international crimes in Syria from March 2011 to the present.

Since the beginning of the civil war in 2011 there have been dozens of efforts by various nongovernmental organizations to collect data on the crimes being committed in Syria. Though laudable in their efforts, this massive amount of data is useless in a court of law. It is unreliable and not authenticated with no chains of custody or other safeguards. Essentially almost all of the data being collected regarding crimes in Syria is tainted and inadmissible.

Three organizations did begin to emerge that were working in tangent to correct this problem. The Syrian Accountability Center which I founded in March of 2011 to create a trial package for a future local, regional or international prosecutor. It is designed along the same methods I used to investigate and indict President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity in West Africa. Additionally, two other organizations are doing important work, the Coalition for International Justice and Accountability and the Syrian Justice and Accountability Center. The heads of these three organizations met and briefed various UN ambassadors on the evidence challenges in November. It was there I urged the creation of the accountability center concept.

As we began to consider various mechanisms to cure this problem, an accountability center became apparent, a center run by experienced international criminal law professionals who could take this mass of data already collected, and still coming out of Syria, and turning it into that evidence necessary to hold accountable those parties committing crimes in violation of Syrian and international law.

The international community has spent millions of dollars supporting efforts to build data bases by organizations who in large measure do not have the experience to build a criminal case. The accountability center concept was designed to fix this problem. Throughout the Fall of 2016, we carefully planned a campaign to garner the support necessary to succeed in creating the accountability center. Under the leadership of Ambassadors Christian Weneweser of Lichtenstein [PDF] and Alya Althani of Qatar [PDF] various paths were considered from the Security Council, the General Assembly, and possibly a regional organization such as the European Union or the Arab League. The General Assembly was the most realistic pathway to success.

Past attempts to consider accountability solutions have failed in the Security Council due to the intransigence of Russia. Even the issuance of the Caesar Report, which I co-authored, in 2014 that confirmed horrific crimes against the Syrian people by Assad and his henchmen did not move Russia nor China to support a French resolution [PDF] calling for accountability. This stalemate in the Security Council has frozen any action until now.

Our intent in proposing the accountability center concept in September was to create an efficient capability that over the next several years the international community can rest assured that all of the terabytes of data collected will be converted to proper evidence that can be used in a court of law. Additionally, the United Nations had to be seen to be doing something on behalf of the international community. Perhaps this is that “something.” It certainly is an important step forward.

David M. Crane was the founding Chief Prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunal in West Africa, called the Special Court for Sierra Leone (now residual). He is also founder of the Syrian Accountability Project, and the I Am Syria Campaign. Crane currently is a professor at the Syracuse University College of Law.

David M. Crane, A Step Forward: the UN & Justice for Syria, JURIST – Professional Commentary, January 4, 2017, http://jurist.org/dateline/2017/04/david-crane-a-step-forward.php.

Demonstrators Demand Information Regarding Activist Francisca Linconao

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, CHILE—Protesters and activists demonstrated infront of the National Service for Women and Gender Equality demanding information concerning the deteriorating health of Mapuche spiritual leader, Francisca Linconao. Demonstrators were met with water cannons used by Chile’s militarized police. Many protesters were arrested and claims have arisen that the police used heavy-handed methods against them.

Protestors gather at the National Service for Women and Gender Equality. (Photo Courtesy of Telesur)
Protestors gather at the National Service for Women and Gender Equality. (Photo Courtesy of Telesur)

The demonstrations come after Linconao began a hunger strike on December 23rd. She was recently rushed from the detention center to the hospital with chronic gastritis and weighing less than 100 pounds. Reports have surfaced that her health is reaching a life-threatening state. Linconao and 10 others were arrested in March of this year accused of arson for a fire that killed two powerful landlords, Werner Luchsinger and Vivianne Mackay. The evidence used for her arrested under the Chilean anti-terror law remains suspect. Most recently, the main witness retracted her statement. It is believed that Linconao’s arrest is part of the governments campaign to deny the Mapuche community their rights, including territorial rights.

The Mapuche is the largest indigenous population in South America and makes up 10 percent of the Chilean population. They have suffered struggles in defending their native land and traditions. Linconao has emerged as a leading activist and is known for being an important spiritual leader and Mapuche doctor. Linconao continues to claim her innocence “ I have already said that I was willing to go to the trail and prove my innocence, I will not be a fugitive because I am innocent and because I am a Machi who has a role to fulfill in this world: help and cure those who needs me.” Additionally, international organizations like Amnesty International have called for her release while she awaits her trial. On December 14, the court agreed to  transfer Linconao to house arrest while she awaits her trial, but the court retracted its decision.

For more information, please see:

Yahoo News—Police Arrest Protesters Rallying for Release of Mapuche Leader in Santiago—27 December 2016.

Telesur—Mapuche Activists Demand Chile Give Info on Linconao’s Health—26 December 2016.

La Nación—Machi Francisca Linconao Anunció Que Iniciará Una Huelga de Hambre—23 December 2016.

Telesur—Indigenous Groups Demand Freedom of Mapuche Leader in Chile—12 December 2016.

Ukrainian Pilot Savchenko Launches Opposition Movement

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

KIEV, Ukraine — Nadia Savchenko, former military aviator and current Ukrainian lawmaker, has launched a new opposition movement following a split with her former political party.  The new movement is called RUNA, which is an acronym for Ukrainian People’s Revolution.   Savchenko claims that RUNA will be a “mechanism” she describes as a “naturalist association of people” who stray from “populist slogans.”  She does not consider the new platform to be a “political project” just yet, however expects it to be formed into such when the time is right.

Savchenko announces the launch of her new opposition movement at a press conference (Photo Courtesy of RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty)
Savchenko announces the launch of her new opposition movement at a press conference (Photo Courtesy of RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty)

RUNA’s Facebook page display’s the movement’s logo, which is four red and black leaves.  It also sets forth the movement’s goals of active thinking and the revolution of Ukrainians to fulfill the aims of the EuroMaidan Revolution.  The announcement of the press conference officially launching RUNA was made online, and was entitled “Conception of systemic change in Ukraine as a unitary and decentralized republic.”

After being sentenced to 22 years in prison on charges of alleged complicity in the murder of two Russian journalists, Savchenko was pardoned by Vladimir Putin in May and was released in a swap for two Russians held in Kiev.  The release of the prisoners came after Savchenko had a private meeting with the heads of separatist regions in Ukraine.

Savchenko denied the charges against her, and took part in two hunger strikes as a result.  Upon her release from prison, Savchenko was hailed as a hero upon her return to Ukraine, however has since faced criticism from nationalists.

In October, Savchenko quit the Batkivschyna political party headed by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and was formally expelled from it earlier this month.  Batkivschyna was critical of Savchenko’s meeting with Russian-backed separatist leaders from eastern Ukraine to discuss a prisoner swap.  This month she was also formally expelled from Ukraine’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as well as the Parliamentary Committee for National Defense and Security.

Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of ex-Soviet Georgia, has also recently created an opposition movement with intentions of overturning Poroshenko.

 

For more information, please see:

The Daily Star — Hero Pilot Savchenko Launches Ukraine Opposition Movement — 28 December 2016

The Guardian — Ukraine Insurgents Release Two Women Thanks to Savchenko — 27 December 2016

Kyiv Post — Savchenko to Launch New Political Project in Lviv — 27 December 2016

RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty — Ukraine’s Savchenko Unveils New Public Movement — 27 December 2016

ISIS Releases Video of Two Turkish Soldiers Being Burned Alive

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey — The Islamic State (“ISIS”) released a video showing terrorists filming themselves burning two captured Turkish soldiers.

The two Turkish soldiers were burned alive in the video released by ISIS (Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)
The two Turkish soldiers were burned alive in the video released by ISIS (Photo courtesy of Daily Mail)

The 19-minute video released by the terror group is being described as “gruesome,” while the killers are being characterized as “barbarians.” It showed two servicemen with freshly-shaved heads, dressed in fuel-doused camouflage army gear, being dragged from a cage and forced to crawl on their hands and knees by two armed, unmasked ISIS militants, dressed in black clothing and brown suicide vests. Standing barefoot in the middle of a desert with chains around their necks, the soldiers were “connected by the neck to a torched fuse.” With a third terrorist standing guard, the executioner criticized Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and called for “destruction to be sowed” in Turkey. The men were made to stand a few feet from each other, with their backs to the long fuse. One of the militants then pressed a button on a small device, and both men were engulfed in flames shortly thereafter.

The video, titled “The Cross Shield,” was released shortly after Turkey vowed to combat terrorism in Syria when 16 of its troops were killed in battle. Amaq, a news agency linked to ISIS, stated last month that the terror group had captured two Turkish soldiers. The Turkish army had subsequently issued a statement indicating that it had lost contact with two soldiers. The video purportedly accused the Turkish government and President Erdogan of “burning Muslims.” ISIS stated that the executions were “payback” for Turkey’s involvement in the “war against Muslims.”

Following the video’s release, Turkey allegedly blocked access to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to prevent the victims’ families and loved ones from seeing the execution. Turkey Blocks, a website that identifies and verifies reports of mass online censorship, stated that the blocks appeared to be implemented at the ISP level. It further indicated that this blackout was the second in one week, following a shutdown that occurred after the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey.

Turkish troops had entered Syria in August with the aim of overthrowing ISIS and Kurdish militia from the border region.

For more information, please see:

New York Post—ISIS burns Turkish soldiers alive—23 December 2016

AlJazeera—ISIL video shows ‘Turkish soldiers burned alive’—23 December 2016

Daily Mail— Sick ISIS savages film themselves burning two Turkish soldiers alive in disturbing new execution video after capturing them in Aleppo—22 December 2016

Reuters—ISIS burns 2 Turkish servicemen alive, releases gruesome video—23 December 2016

 

FACT SHEET: Principles for Middle East Peace

In his December 28, 2016 Remarks on Middle East Peace, Secretary of State John Kerry presented the Administration’s view on the broad consensus that has emerged regarding principles for a final status agreement that could meet the needs of both sides, reflecting the Secretary’s efforts and discussions with the parties and key stakeholders over the past four years.

These principles were offered not to prejudge or impose an outcome, but to provide a possible basis for serious negotiations when the parties are ready.

Principle 1. Provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine, negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent swaps.

Resolution 242, which has been enshrined in international law for 50 years, provides for the withdrawal of Israel from territories it occupied in 1967 in return for peace with its neighbors and secure and recognized borders. It has long been accepted by both sides, and it remains the basis for an agreement today.

The Arab League has previously agreed, following the Secretary’s engagement, that the reference in the Arab Peace Initiative to 1967 lines now includes the concept of land swaps, which the Palestinians have acknowledged. This is necessary to reflect practical realities on the ground, and mutually agreed equivalent swaps will ensure that the agreement is fair to both sides.

There is also broad recognition of Israel’s need to ensure that the borders are secure and defensible, and that the territory of Palestine is viable and contiguous. There is also a clear consensus that no changes by Israel to the 1967 lines will be recognized by the international community unless agreed to by both sides.

Principle 2. Fulfill the vision of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.

This has been the foundational principle of the two-state solution from the beginning: Creating a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people, where each can achieve their national aspirations. Resolution 181 is incorporated into the foundational documents of both the Israelis and Palestinians. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has been the U.S. position for years, and many others have expressed that they are prepared to accept it as well, provided the need for a Palestinian state is also addressed.
There are some 1.7 million Arab citizens who call Israel their home and must now and always be able to live as equal citizens. That is why it is so important that in recognizing each other’s homeland – Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinian people – both sides reaffirm their commitment to upholding full equal rights for all of their respective citizens.

Principle 3. Provide for a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance, that includes compensation, options and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering, and other measures necessary for a comprehensive resolution consistent with two states for two peoples.

As part of a comprehensive resolution, the Palestinian refugees must be provided with compensation, their suffering must be acknowledged, and there will need to be options and assistance in finding permanent homes. The international community can provide significant support and assistance, including in raising money to help ensure the compensation and other needs of the refugees are met, and many have expressed a willingness to contribute to that effort. But there is a general recognition that the solution must be consistent with two states for two peoples, and cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel.

Principle 4. Provide an agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states, and protect and assure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo.

Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue for both sides, and the solution must meet the needs not only of the parties, but of all three monotheistic faiths. That is why the holy sites that are sacred to billions of people around the world must be protected and remain accessible, and the established status quo maintained. Most acknowledge that Jerusalem should not be divided again like it was in 1967. At the same time, there is broad recognition that there will be no peace agreement without reconciling the basic aspirations of both sides to have capitals there.

Principle 5. Satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end to the occupation, while ensuring that Israel can defend itself effectively and that Palestine can provide security for its people in a sovereign and non-militarized state.

Security is the fundamental issue for Israel. Everyone understands that no Israeli Government can ever accept an agreement that does not satisfy its security needs or risks creating an enduring security threat like Gaza in the West Bank. Israel must be able to defend itself effectively, including against terrorism and other regional threats. There is a real willingness by Egypt, Jordan, and others to work together with Israel on meeting key security challenges. The U.S. believes that those collective efforts, including close coordination on border security, intelligence-sharing, and joint operations, can play a critical role in securing the peace.
Fully ending the occupation is the fundamental issue for the Palestinians: They need to know that the military occupation will really end after an agreed transitional process, and that they can live in freedom and dignity in a sovereign state while providing security for their population even without a military of their own. This is widely accepted as well.

Principle 6. End the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all as envisaged by the Arab Peace Initiative.

It is essential for both sides that the final status agreement resolves all the outstanding issues and finally brings closure to this conflict, so they can move ahead to a new era of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. For Israel, this must also bring broader peace with its Arab neighbors. That is the fundamental promise of the Arab Peace Initiative, which key Arab leaders have affirmed.

(This article was originally published by the U.S. Department of State and can be found here.)