Middle East Briefing: Syria: A Critical Moment for Erdogan/Trump Sets a New Foreign Policy Course/Trump, the GCC and Iran: How This Triangle Can Reshape the Middle East/Make Iran an Offer!

February 20.2017



In Our New Issue of “Middle East Briefing” this week



Syria: A Critical Moment for Erdogan

Following the telephone conversation between the US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, new CIA director Mike Pompeo took off to Ankara February 9 for high level talks with Turkish officials. The mission of Pompeo was …










Trump Sets a New Foreign Policy Course

The resignation of General Michael Flynn is a clear sign that the new administration’s policies are still in a fluid state. However, out of the current fog, comes some identifiable directions and trends. After several weeks, focused on filling the …







Trump, the GCC and Iran: How This Triangle Can Reshape the Middle East

While Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in the middle of his tour in three GCC countries – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani started a short visit to two other GCC countries: Oman and Kuwait. …








Make Iran an Offer!

President Trump has already begun his first major foreign policy project: End Iran’s provocative and destabilizing policies by attaching an expensive price tag to Tehran’s behavior. This should have been done few years ago. When the US failed to do …






Syria Deeply Weekly Update: Inside the ‘universe of degradation’ in Saydnaya; Civilians Under Fire From All Sides In Idlib, Daraa and al-Bab

Syria Deeply
Feb. 17th, 2017
This Week in Syria.
Dear Readers: Here’s your weekly update on the war in Syria.

Despite a nationwide ceasefire that came into effect in December, civilians came under attack this week in several Syrian provinces.

For the first time in more than a year, rebels launched an offensive in the southwestern city of Daraa on Sunday. The offensive, named “Death Rather than Humiliation,” targeted regime-controlled areas in an attempt to prevent their troops from gaining control of the border crossing with Jordan. The Syrian government and Russia responded with intense airstrikes on the city. A Syria Civil Defense worker told Anadolu Agency that bombings destroyed six hospitals in the city, but the civilian death toll is still unclear.

In Idlib, we are beginning to see the civilian cost of excluding groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaida’s former affiliate in Syria, from the ceasefire as factional fighting rages. Thursday’s bombardment on the countryside of the rebel-held province killed at least five people.

In the northern city of al-Bab, at least 45 civilians, including 14 women and 18 children, have been killed since Wednesday by Turkish warplanes and Turkey-backed rebel forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.K.-based monitoring group said at least 110 civilians had been killed in al-Bab since Turkey started its anti-ISIS operation in the city on February 7. Roughly 10 miles (15km) from the Turkish border, al-Bab is the so-called Islamic State’s last stronghold in Aleppo province.



This Week’s Top Articles


After Battle for Wadi Barada, the Damascus Water War Isn’t Over

Muhammad Fares, a Syrian journalist from Wadi Barada, discusses the long history of water as a weapon in the Damascus suburbs and the river valley that contains the larger story of the Syrian conflict.


Clowning Around: Refugee Women Find Confidence With Circus Skills

Young Syrian refugee women have been learning to juggle, walk on stilts and hula-hoop as part of a new scheme in Turkey designed to break down language and social barriers and help the girls make friends.


Community Insight


How Amnesty Uncovered ‘a Universe of Degradation’ at Saydnaya Prison

Alessandria Masi,  Managing editor of Syria Deeply

Nicolette Boehland, lead researcher on Amnesty’s recent report on Saydnaya prison, discusses the human rights NGO’s yearlong investigation of the Syrian government’s alleged campaign of mass hangings and extermination.


Defeating Terror in Syria: A New Way Forward

Frederic C. Hof,  Director, Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

On February 14, Ambassador Frederic C. Hof spoke before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in Washington, D.C., at a hearing titled ‘Defeating Terrorism in Syria: a New Way Forward.’ Here is a transcript of his statement.


Upcoming coverage

Next week, we’ll have a report on the shrinking number of safe spaces around the world for Syrian refugees. We will also keep a close eye on the ongoing conversation between world powers to create safe zones in Syria, as well as the next round of U.N.-sponsored peace talks set to begin in Geneva on February 23.

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky: Russia Reissues Arrest Warrant for William Browder and his Magnitsky Justice Campaign Colleague

17 February 2017 – Today, the Tverskoi District Court in Moscow reissued an arrest warrant for William Browder, head of the Magnitsky Justice Campaign, and his colleague, Ivan Cherkasov, in the latest act of retaliation against the campaigners.

The Russian arrest warrant is in clear response to the global roll-out of the Magnitsky sanctions legislation. In December 2016, the US Global Magnitsky Act was signed by the US president, and on the same day the Estonian Magnitsky Act was signed by Estonia’s president.

In the following month, Russian authorities scurried to produce multiple decrees leading to the current arrest warrant.

The arrest warrant approved by judge Gordeev is issued under the long-running criminal proceedings, orchestrated by the Russian FSB, and used in July 2013 to conduct the posthumous trial against Sergei Magnitsky and in absentia Mr Browder (case No 153123, from which a file was separated and given a new number No 41701007754000008).

The repeat arrest warrant has been immediately dispatched to the Russian National Central Bureau of Interpol.

Russian attempts to use Interpol in their attack against William Browder have been rejected by Interpol three times since 2013 as politically motivated and in violation of Interpol’s Rules.

The UK authorities have also refused multiple requests by Russia for mutual legal assistance in the proceedings against William Browder and his colleague because the British government deemed such assistance would be contrary to UK’s public order, sovereignty and other national interests.

The repeat Russian arrest warrant for Messrs Browder and Cherkasov is the fourth attempt by Russian authorities to try to misuse the mechanisms of international legal cooperation for political purposes.

To justify their repeat arrest warrant, the Russian authorities continue to rely on stale allegations of corporate tax evasion, in spite of the fact that the paid taxes had been stolen by a group of Russian officials in the US$230 mln tax rebate fraud exposed by Sergei Magnitsky.

The latest arrest warrant also alleges that Browder and Cherkasov were involved in “false bankruptcy.” This allegation was made by Russian General Prosecutor Chaika who accused Browder of funding a video exposing the abuse and corruption by Chaika’s family, in which Browder had no involvement.

In support of the repeat arrest warrant, the Russian Interior Ministry produced documents from FSB, Russia’s security service, including testimony obtained from a Russian national at the FSB’s regional headquarters, where, according to him and his lawyer, he was pressured and threatened with death “like Magnitsky.”

The arrest warrant is signed by Russian Interior Ministry Investigator Ranchenkov and sanctioned by a senior Interior Ministry official Krakovsky. Other Russian officials participating in this proceeding are prosecutor of the General Prosecutor’s Office Kulikov and Russian tax service official Mostovoi, previously involved in the posthumous trial against Sergei Magnitsky, acting on power of attorney signed by the head of the Russian tax service Mishustin.


For more information, please contact:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777

e-mail: info@lawandorderinrussia.org




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

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.

South Sudan

During January renewed fighting erupted in several regions of South Sudan. In particular, violence between the Sudan People’s’ Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-IO) has escalated in Central Equatoria and Eastern Nile states, while additional violence has resulted in mass civilian displacement from Yei and Kajo-Keji.

The current fighting has caused the indefinite suspension of humanitarian activities in several parts of the country. More than 52,600 people fled South Sudan to Uganda during January. The UN Refugee Agency announced on 10 February that more than 1.5 million people have fled conflict in South Sudan since December 2013 and an additional 2.1 million continue to be internally displaced.

Despite expressing his commitment to the national dialogue scheduled to start in March, President Salva Kiir has threatened war if the opposition refuses to participate. Meanwhile, significant parts of the August 2015 peace agreement remain unimplemented.

The government needs to take expeditious steps to assist in the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) and establish the Hybrid Court to investigate atrocities committed during the civil war and hold perpetrators accountable. The UN Security Council should immediately impose an arms embargo and expand targeted sanctions until all parties meet their obligations under the existing peace agreement and in relation to Resolution 2304.


Despite the formal ceasefire that has been in place across the country since 30 December 2016, parties to the conflict continue to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 8 February a Syrian Arab Red Crescent distribution center in Aleppo was targeted in airstrikes, killing two humanitarian workers. On 10 February the UN Children’s Fund reported that an increase in indiscriminate attacks across the country, particularly in Idlib governorate, had led to the deaths of at least 20 children. Additionally, Human Rights Watch released a report on 13 February detailing the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces during the offensive to retake Aleppo in November and December of 2016.

In response to ongoing atrocities, UN member states should provide immediate financial and technical support for the “International, Impartial, Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes Under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.” Due to the failure of the UN Security Council to hold perpetrators in Syria accountable for their crimes, the investigative mechanism was established by the UN General Assembly during December 2016. On 19 January the UN Secretary-General submitted a report to the General Assembly containing the terms of reference for the investigative mechanism, including steps to ensure its speedy establishment.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

From 9-13 February violent clashes between the Kamuina Nsapu militia and the army (FARDC) escalated in the area of Tshimbulu in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). FARDC soldiers reportedly killed at least 101 people, including 39 women, while indiscriminately firing at militia members. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that reports indicate “excessive and disproportionate use of force by the soldiers.” Prior to this incident, the UN reported that clashes between the FARDC and Kamuina Nsapu had resulted in over 100 people being killed in the Kasai provinces between August 2016 and January 2017. The UN has accused Kamuina Nsapu of perpetrating atrocities against the population in Kasai Central, including recruitment of children. The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC has deployed a monitoring team to the region to “prevent, investigate and document” human rights violations.

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ICTJ: In Focus: Taking to the Airwaves to Empower Victims in Nepal

ICTJ ICTJ In Focus 65
February 2017

In Focus


Light in the Darkness: Light in the Darkness: “The Story Kitchen” Turns Victims into Reporters in NepalJaya Luintel was a radio reporter in Nepal during the country’s civil war, covering the conflict’s impact on women. Now, she’s helping female victims produce and broadcast their own stories to a national audience. Discover how her organization, The Story Kitchen, empowers women in Nepal.

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From Rejection to Redress: Overcoming Legacies of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Northern Uganda

Women and girls in Northern Uganda were victims of various forms of sexual violence, crimes whose consequences endure today.

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

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