European human rights court finds Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law discriminatory

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

One of the activists involved in the case speaks after the hearing. Image courtesy of AP.

STRASBOURG, France – Russia’s law that banned the “promotion of homosexuality to minors” was ruled discriminatory on June 20 by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The law, introduced in 2013, made it illegal to engage in any event or act that attempted to “promote” homosexuality to minors. Three activists were fined for violating the law when they staged pro-LGBT protests between 2009 and 2012.

The fines ranged from around 85 US dollars (USD) to upwards of 8,400 USD.

The activists were unsuccessful in their first appeals to Russian courts, where they argued that the laws were discriminatory. As a member of the European Convention on Human Rights, the ECHR has the power to hear the cases that Russian courts refused.

The ECHR found that the activists had been discriminated against. They opined that the laws encouraged prejudice and homophobia in a democratic society. Even though the intent of the law, to protect minors, was in the public interest, the Court found that the application of the laws were “arbitrary” and lacked a clear definition.

They also found that the law served no legitimate public interest.

The Court held that the discriminatory effect of the law was a violation of the people’s right to freedom of expression. The Russian government was ordered to pay the activists almost $55,000 (USD) in monetary damages.

Discrimination against the LGBT community in Russia has been prevalent for several years. Until 1993, homosexuality was a punishable criminal offense. Until 1999, homosexuality was considered a “mental illness.”

Nearby Chechnya has also been in the news lately regarding LGBT rights. It has been reported that the republic, located within Russia, has been detaining gay men in detention camps.

Though Russia is a member country of the Convention on Human Rights, a law was adopted in 2015 that would allow Russia to overrule judgments from the Court. The law, supported by President Putin, aimed to give the country the right to ignore ECHR decisions if they “conflict” with the constitution.

The Justice Ministry in Russia has spoken out against the decision, claiming that the law did not establish any measures “aimed at banning homosexuality…or its official censure.” The Ministry has stated that it will appeal the ruling within three months.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda’ Laws Are Illegal, European Court Rules – 20 June 2017

The Guardian – Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law ruled discriminatory by European court – 20 June 2017

Reuters – European court angers Russia with ‘gay propaganda’ ruling – 20 June 2017

BBC News – European Court blasts Russia ‘gay propaganda’ law – 20 June 2017

NBC News – European Court Angers Russia With ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ruling – 20 June 2017

CNN – Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law discriminatory, European court rules – 20 June 2017

BBC News – Russia passes law to overrule European human rights court – 4 December 2015


War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12 – Issue 8


Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 8
June 26, 2017

James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

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 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.




Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon





Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)





Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia





Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine


North & Central America

South America


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives


Martial Law Continues In Mindanao

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

MANILA, Philippines – On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines declared 60 days of martial law in Mindanao. Currently, 21 million people are living under martial law. The order came after the failed attempt to apprehend Isnilon Hapilon, a terrorist leader associated with the Islamic State. Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups is known for kidnapping and decapitating westerners.

President Rodrigo Duterte addressing the country. Photo courtesy of CNN.

An estimated 400-500 fighters took over parts of Mindanao and attempted to create an Islamic caliphate. According to the head of military command in Western Mindanao, the militants control around 20 percent of the town. Around 200,000 civilians fled once the conflict began and hundreds are being held hostage. Currently, 100 militants are still fighting.

The conflict in Marawi City entered its fourth week as of June 13, and President Rodrigo Duterte stated that martial law will continue. More than 180 government troops and 200 militants have died from the battle.

Recently, President Duterte stated that he is willing to extend martial law for the region and continue the battle until the militants are completely destroyed. However, according to the constitution, martial law in the country cannot last longer than 60 days.

The opposition party in the country argued that the imposed law is unconstitutional and have asked the country’s supreme court to rule on the matter. President Duterte stated that he will revoke marital law if the Supreme Court finds it unconstitutional. Nevertheless, President Duterte also commented that if the militants continue to attack Mindanao, he will be “forced to declare martial law again.” He went further and said that he will “not consult anybody” and there is “no telling when it will end.”

President Duterte compared his order to dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The former president ruled the country under martial law from 1972 to 1981 to control communist rebels. During this time, many organizations have reported that the order allowed for human rights abuses by the administration.

Under the current order, many groups also fear human rights abuses in the country as President Duterte attempts to extend martial law in Mindanao.

For more information, please see: 

CNN – Duterte: Martial law in Mindanao to continue until I am ‘satisfied’ conflict has ended – 18 June, 2017

Reuters – Philippines army struggles as city siege enters fourth week – 13 June, 2017

Washington Post – Duterte has put part of the Philippines under martial law. Here’s how dangerous that can be. – 14 June, 2017

ABC – Philippines President Duterte revives Marcos-era memories in threat to extend martial law – 17 June, 2017


Syria Deeply: “De-escalation” discussions, the many fights against ISIS and renewed clashes between rebels and regime

“De-escalation” discussions, the many fights against ISIS and renewed clashes between rebels and regime

Syria Deeply
Jun. 23rd, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

“De-escalation zone” discussions: Ahead of the next round of talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana set for early July, discussions have started about foreign troop deployment to secure four proposed “de-escalation zones.”

At last month’s set of Astana talks, Russia, Iran and Turkey signed off on the memorandum to create four “de-escalation zones” in the country, including areas in the provinces of Idlib and Homs, the eastern Ghouta region in the Damascus suburbs and in the southern provinces.

This week Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkish troops would “probably be most prominent in the Idlib region with the Russians; mostly Russia and Iran around Damascus, and a mechanism involving the Americans and Jordan in the south in the Daraa region is being worked on,” according to Turkey’s Haberturk television.

Russia said it was discussing options to send Kazakh and Kyrgyz troops to Syria, Vladimir Shamanov, head of the Russian Duma defense committee, told RIA news. However, Kazakhstan denied that negotiations were taking place, adding that it would only send peacekeeping troops to Syria under a United Nations mandate, according to a statement from the Kazakh foreign ministry.

Syrian deputy foreign minister Fayssal Mikdad said Damascus is “checking every letter” of the Astana agreement and “will not allow anything thing to pass from which Syria’s enemies could benefit,” according to Syria’s state-run media SANA.

The many fights against ISIS: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued their advance on Raqqa along the southern bank of the Euphrates River. The SDF pushed toward the eastern edge of the suburb of Kasrat al-Farj, in the area between the new and old bridges into Raqqa on Wednesday.

On Sunday, a U.S. fighter jet downed a Syrian army warplane for the first time since the conflict broke out in 2011. The Syrian regime SU-22 jet in the southern Raqqa countryside “dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah,” according to a U.S.-led coalition statement.

The coalition and U.S. Central Command also said pro-government forces attacked the SDF-held town of Ja’din, south of Tabqah on Sunday, driving fighters out of the town. On Monday, SDF spokesman Talal Selo said “if the regime continues attacking our positions in Raqqa province, we will be forced to retaliate … and defend our forces.”

Syrian government allies also stepped up their operations against the so-called Islamic State. On Sunday, Iran fired medium-range missiles from its western provinces into Syria, targeting an ISIS command base in Deir Ezzor, killing several militants and destroying weapons and equipment.

Russia fired six cruise missiles from warships and a submarine based in the Mediterranean on ISIS positions in Hama province, destroying an ISIS command post and ammunition depots, and killing a number of militants, Moscow’s TASS news agency reported on Friday.

Renewed Fighting Between Rebels, Regime: Pro-government forces resumed their campaign against rebels in the southern city of Daraa on Tuesday, after a brief 48-hour cessation of hostilities. Ground clashes and intense aerial bombardments, including barrel bombs and airstrikes, were ongoing in Daraa on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Also on Tuesday, Syrian troops and allied forces launched a new offensive against Western-backed Syrian rebels, pushing into the Bir Qassab area, located 45 miles (75km) southeast of Damascus, toward an eastern desert region near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders known as the Badia. The area recently came under Free Syrian Army control after rebels pushed ISIS militants out.

Read our Daily Executive Summaries

f020b569-7455-410e-8ef8-f41b0077a844.png MOST POPULAR

This Week’s Top Articles



Analysis: Future of Post-ISIS Raqqa Remains Unclear

With the caliphate crumbling under the swift advances of U.S.-backed forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces have put forth a plan for local governance after ISIS. Yet, without a financial backer, the city may have to rely on the state to restore services.



Analysis: The Battlefield in Syria’s Southernmost City, Daraa

In recent weeks Daraa has witnessed the most intense clashes and aerial bombardments it has seen for years. Despite the plan for “de-escalation zones,” civilians in the city are likely to be caught in the newest battlefield for foreign power proxies and the warring Syrian sides.



A Teenage Syrian Refugee on a Mission to Educate Her Generation

Nineteen-year-old refugee education campaigner Muzoon Almellehan has become the youngest-ever UNICEF goodwill ambassador. We talked with her about how she became an activist, fighting misconceptions about refugees and her hopes for the future of Syria.

973ab3c3-9b8d-4a6d-9ac8-50621f4257fe.png EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight



Why States Are Still Investing in Syria Amid Continued Instability

Reema Hibrawi,  Assistant Director at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

The impact of geopolitical dynamics on the economy, potential losses incurred from the ongoing violence and containing the threat of radicalized fighters, are factors pushing countries to invest in Syria, despite the instability, according to the Atlantic Council’s Reema Hibrawi.



Crowdfunding a Stable Financial Future for Refugees and Hostst

John Kluge,  Co-founder and Managing Partner of the Alight Fund

On World Refugee Day, the Alight Fund’s John Kluge and Lev Plaves of the microfinance NGO Kiva explain the limitations facing Syrian refugees regaining their financial footing, and the launch of World Refugee Fund, an initiative crowdfunding loans for refugees.



We Must Start the Conversation About Return of Syrian Refugees Now

Rim El Gantri,  Expert on Human Rights and Transitional Justice

If millions of displaced Syrians are to go home one day, we need to understand refugees’ conditions for returning, attitudes to justice and the possibility of coexistence, say the authors of an International Center for Transitional Justice study of refugees in Lebanon.


Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via emailTwitter or Facebook.

Another Murder of Social Leader in Colombia Adds to Disturbing Trend As the Country Feels Aftereffects of the Peace Treaty with FARC

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia – Over the past year at least 41 human rights activists and social leaders have been murdered in Colombia with the number of possible deaths reaching as high as 100. The latest victim of the disturbing trend is Jose Maria Lemus, a local leader of indigenous people. Back in May the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights confirmed 14 murders of human rights defenders, a difficult process in part because there is disagreement over who is to be considered a human rights leader. The only thing people seem to agree upon is that the number of murders of human rights leaders is higher than in previous years.

Colombian protestors hold inflatables to represent the number of human rights activists and social leaders killed so far. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The attacks are concentrated in areas previously controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who famously signed a peace treaty with the Colombian government back in 2016. Since then, the power vacuum has been left to be filled by a variety of criminal groups. In taking control over these areas it is believed that a major reason for the deaths of these activists and leaders is because they are a threat to the criminals. The vacuum had such devastating consequences that in February, residents of the Choco region begged the country’s only remaining guerilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), to take over the vacuum.

Currently within the Choco region ELN is competing against the paramilitary group Gaitanist Self-defenses of Colombia (AGC) over stretches of the San Juan River, a conflict which has been going on for years. Human Rights Watch has documented evidence of numerous human rights abuses by both sides including but not limited to killings, child recruitment, planting landmines, and other threats. Approximately 1/5th of the people living in Litoral de San Juan were displaced by the violence in 2016, and during the first two months of 2017 that number went up by 1,300 people.

One of the places citizens have fled to is the city of Buenaventura, a place embroiled in problems of its own. In mid-May, there were protests by citizens of the city seeking better living conditions, which after the protesters’ demands were ignored by the government erupted into chaos. Even with the Colombian riot police in the city, and reports of looting, some peaceful protesting is continuing in the city.

For more information, please see:

teleSUR – Another Social Leader Murdered in Colombia – 14 June, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Colombia: Armed Groups Oppress Riverside Communities – 7 June, 2017

Atlanta Black Star – Afro-Colombian City Burns In Protest As Citizens Fight for Basic Human Rights – 1 June, 2017

BBC – Why has Colombia seen a rise in activist murders – 19 May, 2017

The Guardian – Colombia death toll rises as gangs fill vacuum left by Farc rebels – 18 February, 2017

Disputes rise among European nations over refugee crisis

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

Migrants line up for food in a migrant camp in Rome, Italy. Image courtesy of Reuters.

EUROPE – The European Union has begun legal action on June 13 against three member countries for not taking in their fair share of refugees. The action will be brought in the European Court of Justice.

The Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary are the countries that may face fines for ignoring EU plans to resettle asylum seekers in the region. This proposal, formed in 2015, was to relocate 160,000 refugees across the European mainland.

In March, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern suggested cutting EU funds to nations that refuse to comply with the measures.

Hungary has taken hardline measures in its asylum policy. They passed a law that would detain asylum seekers into border camps for them to wait for their cases to be handled.

Under the EU plan, each country is assigned to take a certain number of refugees or migrants from the vast number of those coming in. Poland has not accepted any. The Czech Republic has taken 12 of their 2,000 allotment.

Further south, the populist mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, has asked the national government not to send any more migrants into the city. Italy has had an influx of refugees and migrant workers coming in from North Africa for the past three years.

In March, when the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban passed the bill allowing detainment of migrants before asylum, he reinforced his hardline stance on immigration. He claimed that immigration is the “Trojan horse of terrorism,” and argued that this was necessary to “defend [Hungary’s] borders…[So] no one will try to come to Hungary illegally.”

The rising fears among Europe regarding refugees are often based on security concerns. With the recent terror attacks in the United Kingdom, member nations of the EU remain on guard. Anti-immigrant sentiment is by and large in the continent and is an especially popular topic of discussion in local elections.

Immigration advocates push against the rhetoric pushed by anti-refugee leaders around the world. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called Hungary’s law an act “[promoting] toxic notions of ethic purity”.

Human rights group Amnesty International has also been outspoken against the anti-immigration sentiment of the three countries involved in the EU legal action. The European office director of the group, Iverna McGowan, said that the EU’s action shows that “countries will not be allowed to get away with dragging their feet to avoid accepting refugees.”

She continues, “Solidarity is the key to a fair and humane response to refugees in Europe.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Don’t send more migrants, Rome mayor tells Italy’s government – 13 June 2017

BBC News – EU targets Poland, Hungary, and Czechs for not taking refugees – 13 June 2017

New York Times – E.U. Move Against 3 Countries That Don’t Take Refugees – 13 June 2017

ABC News – EU warns 3 countries of legal action over refugee plan – 13 June 2017

Reuters – Rome’s 5-Star mayor calls to half migrants’ flow into city – 13 June 2017

The Guardian – Austria threatens EU funding cuts over Hungary’s hard line on refugees – 8 March 2017

BBC News – Hungary to detain all asylum seekers in border camps – 7 March 2017



New South Korean President Raises Concerns On ‘Comfort Women’ Deal

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

SEOUL, South Korea – President Moon Jae-in of South Korea raised concerns on a landmark agreement made with Japan in December 2015 dealing with wartime sex slaves. The new South Korean president stated that the agreement is unfair.

South Koreans protesting outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Photo courtesy of NPR.

According to the deal, the Japanese government agreed to provide $8.3 million to help “comfort women” and for Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister, to offer his “most sincere apologies and remorse.” It was also agreed that both countries will not criticize each other on this issue in the international society.

The issue of “comfort women” has been an ongoing controversy between these two countries. Although the exact numbers are unknown, the authorities believe that around 200,000 women were forced to serve as sex slaves when Japan took control of Korea in 1910.

Lee Ok-seon, now age 90, spoke about the time when she was captured by the Japanese military. In 1942, at the age 15, Lee was grabbed by men in uniform and was forced to work in a brothel in a Japanese-occupied area in China. As the survivors age and die, Lee remains as one of the last “comfort women.”

Former “comfort women” and many of their supporters have been protesting outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. In 2011, a group erected a bronze statue of a seated woman outside the Japanese embassy. Back in January of 2017, the Japanese government withdrew diplomats from South Korea after the same statue was erected in the city of Busan arguing that such action violated the 2015 agreement.

The victims believe that the apology made by the Japanese Prime Minister does not go far enough. Moreover, the polls show that the majority of Koreans believe the 2015 agreement to be unfair.

South Korean president, Moon Jae-in spoke with Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister, and discussed the common threat posed by North Korea. Although President Moon stated that the people of South Korea “cannot emotionally accept the comfort women agreement,” he was clear that the issue should not affect the relationship in finding ways to respond to North Korea.

On June 7, Kang Kyung-wha, President Moon’s pick for foreign minister said during her confirmation hearing that she seeks to renew discussions over the 2015 agreement with Japan.

For more information, please see: 

NPR – Not All South Koreans Satisfied With Japan’s Apology To ‘Comfort Women’ – 30 May, 2017

CNN – South Korea’s New President Questions Japan ‘Comfort Women’ Deal – 5 June, 2017

Nikkei Asian Review -South Korea Foreign Minister Pick Vows ‘Comfort Women’ Talks – 8 June, 2017

Chile Convicts 106 in One of the Country’s Largest Mass Prosecutions, Declines to Investigate Unlawful Detention of Indigenous Peoples Activist

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile – 106 former intelligence agents were sentenced by Judge Hernan Cristoso, in one of the largest mass prosecutions for human rights abuses. The agents were sentenced for their roles in the disappearances of 16 leftist militants during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, which lasted from 1973-1990. 13 additional agents who had been charged were absolved from sentencing by the Chilean Judiciary. The sentences range from just over a year and a half to 20 years.

Dictator Augusto Pinochet, who controlled Chile from 1973-1990, and was responsible for the torture and deaths of thousands of people. Photo courtesy of AFP.

The abducted militants were reportedly sent to various torture and detention centers in Santiago between June 1974 and January 1975, and were never seen alive again. Their deaths were then covered up by the Chilean secret police by planting stories in foreign newspapers to imply that they had been killed fighting abroad as a way of absolving the government. Approximately 3,000 people disappeared and 30,000 were tortured during Pinochet’s rule. The disappearances were a part of Operation Condor, conducted by Chile in league with other South American countries such as Argentina and Brazil, which resulted in tens of thousands of activist deaths across the region. It was also motivated by the freshly established Pinochet government to consolidate its power.

Many of the agents who were convicted were already serving sentences for the human rights abuses they had committed. Also among those convicted were two former generals, Cesar Manriquez Bravo and Raul Iturriaga Neumann.

In addition to the criminal penalties for those involved, the current Chilean government was also ordered to pay 5 million Chilean pesos, equivalent to 7.5 million dollars, to the families of the victims as compensation.

Chile has also been criticized recently by Amnesty International for the decision by its Temuco Public Prosecutors Office to close an investigation into the unlawful detention of Victor Queipul Hueiquil, an activist for the rights of indigenous peoples in the country. Victor was reportedly detained for an entire day when police carried out an operation on the land of the Autonomous Community of Temucuicui. During the time of his detention he was allegedly blindfolded, tied up, and beaten while being interrogated.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Chile: Closure of investigation into crimes against Mapuche leader puts indigenous people at risk – 17 May, 2017

BBC – Chilean judge sends 106 former secret agents to prison – 2 June, 2017

CNN – Chile convicts 106 former intelligence agents – 3 June, 2017

teleSUR – Chile Judge Jails 106 Ex-Agents of Pinochet Dictatorship – 3 June, 2017

UPI – Chile judge sentences 106 intelligence agents for kidnappings – 3 June, 2017

Syria Deeply: Civilians under fire in Raqqa, a polio outbreak in Deir Ezzor and barrel bombs in Daraa



Jun. 16th, 2017






Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

Civilians under fire in Raqqa: A United Nations war crimes investigation found that at least 300 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes in Raqqa since March. At least 200 of these civilian deaths happened in one village, al-Mansoura, according to Karen Abuzayd, an American commissioner on the U.N. Commission of Inquiry.

In its new report “Key Concerns for Raqqa Battle,” Human Rights Watch emphasized that all sides fighting in the battle for Raqqa should not just be focused on “defeating ISIS, but also about protecting and assisting the civilians who have suffered under ISIS rule for three and a half years,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s deputy Middle East director. Areas of particular concern for civilian protection are minimizing civilian casualties, respecting detainee rights and safe passage and support for displaced people, according to HRW.

The U.N. estimates that roughly 400,000 civilians remain in the province of Raqqa, and about half are in Raqqa city. Nearly 3,500 people have been displaced from Raqqa since the start of this month, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces advanced further into Raqqa city this week, reportedly reaching the walls of the Old City.

Polio outbreak in Idlib: The World Health Organization confirmed and is monitoring an outbreak of polio in the province of Deir Ezzor.

The outbreak began after the virus was detected in two children – in March and May – who have been paralyzed as a result. A third child tested positive for the strain, but has not been paralyzed. These are the first cases of polio in Syria since 2014.

A vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 was detected in the affected children, which can result from underimmunization of a community.

In order to eradicate the virus, close to 80 percent of children in a community must be vaccinated. However “access for vaccination is compromised due to prevailing insecurity” in ISIS-controlled Deir Ezzor, according to WHO.

Southern Syria: The Syrian government and its allies stepped up their offensive in the southern province of Daraa.

Early in the week, rebel groups and Syrian pro-government forces were locked in fierce fighting around the city’s Palestinian refugee camp.

Syrian army helicopters dropped at least 36 barrel bombs on various towns in the southern province on Thursday, and at least 50 on Daraa city the previous day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


Read our Daily Executive Summaries




This Week’s Top Articles



Long Read: Israel’s Quiet Campaign to Gain a Foothold in Southern Syria

Despite its official policy of non-intervention, Israel has taken on a very proactive role in Syria, working to establish an Israel-friendly zone in Quneitra, akin to its strategy in southern Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.



A Small Syrian Town’s Revolt Against Al-Qaida

Al-Qaida-linked factions have been widening their hold in the only Syrian governorate under near complete rebel control, but one small town in southern Idlib is once again rising up against extremist rule.



Understanding What Syrian Refugees Want

An extensive survey of Syrian refugees in Turkey finds very few of them are en route to Europe. We speak to one of the researchers who conducted the poll about what made Syrians flee, and what they want from the peace process and the future.




Community Insight



Medical Workers Seek Accountability for Syrian Healthcare Attacks

Hashem Osseiran,  Deputy Managing Editor of Syria Deeply


Medical workers are monitoring attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria. Their aim is to provide data that can be used by international agencies to enforce legal protections and hold the perpetrators accountable for breaches of international law.



New Documentary Traces the Rise of ISIS

Kim Bode,  Community Editor of Syria Deeply and Refugees Deeply


In his new documentary, “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS,” filmmaker Nick Quested traces the geopolitical decisions that unwittingly contributed to the Syrian conflict and the rise of the so-called Islamic State.




Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.





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Copyright © 2017 News Deeply, Inc. All rights reserved.



New Tactics in Human Rights: Worried About the Future of Rights in America?

Newsletter | June 2017


Worried About the Future of Rights in America?

We can help you take action.

Since its founding in 1999, New Tactics in Human Rights has focused its training and resources on supporting human rights activists in other countries. Today, the changing political climate in the U.S. is inspiring new advocacy efforts to protect and promote civil rights. In response, New Tactics is now offering US-focused training workshops; modularized courses to build strategic and tactical capacity for domestic activists, based on our Strategic Effectiveness Method.

Refined over sixteen years of international advocacy experience, our method helps organizations that want to protect and promote rights to do their work more effectively by providing a framework and tools through which to be more strategic, focused and flexible.

Our method has already been used by groups in the U.S. to successfully protect and promote a wide range of rights. U.S. human rights and civil liberties organizations used the method to form powerful coalitions to fight the U.S. use of torture and cruelty in post-9/11 counterterrorism operations.

The value of our new US-focused training workshops is in gathering the members of your organization together to work through our methodology. Many minds and thoughts add value to the process, resulting in a campaign that is better and stronger. The trainings are conducted in-person by highly experienced New Tactics trainers, and are customized to your organization and its specific issue, helping to move your work forward in an effective and strategic manner.

All workshops are designed for one trainer and a small group of participants for maximum participation and effective interactions. Details on our workshops can be found below or on our website at For further information including costs for larger groups or to schedule a workshop, please contact Emily Hutchinson at

At New Tactics, we inspire and equip activists to change the world. We hope you will join us by participating in and sharing these exciting new training offerings.





This workshop is most appropriate for organizations that want to gain an overview of the Strategic Effectiveness Method and learn how to use the New Tactics Tactical Mapping tool. As a result, participants will gain a basic understanding of the Strategic Effectiveness Method steps and will use the Tactical Mapping Tool to explore new ways of approaching their issue. This workshop covers all five steps of the Strategic Effectiveness Method and has no limit on the number of participants.





This workshop is most appropriate for organizations seeking to ground their advocacy work within a human rights-based approach and focus on clear and specific human-rights framed issues as the basis for effective action.

As a result, participants will complete the training with a human rights-based problem statement ready for advocacy application. This workshop covers Step 1—“Identify the Problem”— and has a limit of twenty participants. [Note: this module does include developing a human rights-based vision statement – see Two-Day Workshop below]


This workshop is most appropriate for organizations that want to explore new opportunities for coalition building and already have a clear human rights-based problem and vision framework. As a result, participants will acquire valuable tools to identify relevant and often surprising actors and relationships that can be leveraged to expand the range of potential allies and opportunities for collaborations. This workshop covers Step 3—“Map the Terrain”—and has a limit of twenty participants.


This workshop is most appropriate for organizations that want to learn how to identify and select tactics that are flexible, innovative, engaging, and surprising to opponents. As a result, participants will explore, learn, and exchange a variety of tactics and will leave with an expanded range of ideas to try in their own advocacy efforts. This workshop covers Step 5—“Take Action”—and has a limit of twenty participants.





This workshop is most appropriate for organizations that want to advance their advocacy efforts based on clearly defined human rights-based problem and vision statements. As a result, participants will understand and develop a clear and specific human-rights framed problem statement as the basis for their advocacy action. In addition, participants will develop and refine a unifying human rights-based vision statement to enable inspirational advocacy messaging. This workshop covers Step 1 and Step 2—“Identify the Problem” and “Create your Vision”— and has a limit of twenty participants.


This workshop is most appropriate for organizations that already use a human rights-based problem and vision framework and want to strategically plan a specific advocacy campaign. As a result, participants will develop goals and identify specific tactical targets that are grounded in their problem and vision framework. Participants will also identify concrete outcomes for their advocacy plan which will help them to monitor their progress. This workshop covers Steps 3, 4, and 5, and has a limit of twenty participants.





This workshop is most appropriate for one organization (or an organization along with their identified network members) that has already identified a specific issue and wants to develop a human rights-based strategic advocacy plan. As a result, participants use the hands-on skill building 5 Steps to Strategic Effectiveness Method to develop a concrete action plan which can be utilized to guide and monitor their progress. This workshop covers all five steps of the Strategic Effectiveness Method and has a limit of twenty participants. (See components listed under the “Five Day Workshop – Strategic Effectiveness Method”).





This workshop is most appropriate for grant-making organizations that want to provide their network of grantees with strategic thinking and tactical innovation skills. The workshop provides organizations with the 5 Steps to Strategic Effectiveness Method – a hands-on, skill building method for developing human rights-based strategic advocacy action plans. As a result, participants will define human rights-based problem and vision statements, explore, learn, and exchange tactic ideas, and use the Strategic Effectiveness Method to develop a “journey of change” including specific advocacy goals and action plan. This workshop covers all five steps of the Strategic Effectiveness Method and has a limit of twenty participants.





This workshop is most appropriate for organizations that are committed to integrating the Strategic Effectiveness Method into their advocacy efforts on a long-term basis and have one or more trainers on staff with the commitment to learn and implement the method. The organization must complete an application process prior to inclusion in the workshop. As a result, trainees will develop and practice skills in facilitating the 5 Steps to Strategic Effectiveness Method, including peer-to-peer practice. They will then receive direct and virtual feedback and mentoring for 3 months as they train, facilitate and apply the method with a selected organization or group. This workshop covers all five steps of the Strategic Effectiveness Method and has a limit of twenty participants.

Further information about the Strategic Effectiveness Method exists on the New Tactics website, including materials for each step that may be downloaded for free.

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Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Coalition Airstrikes in Syria and the Issue of Civilian Harm

SJAC Update | June 15, 2017
Home of activist Wassim Abdo in Tabqa where his family was killed allegedly by US airstrike


Coalition Airstrikes in Syria and the Issue of Civilian Harm

As the US-led global coalition fights the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the Syrian Democratic Forces, the coalition’s partner on the ground, have advanced on Raqqa. But as ISIS’s so-called capital and military stronghold is giving way, civilians have been stuck in the middle of intense fighting. Between August 2014 and April 2017, the Coalition conducted over 20,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, but since US President Donald Trump took office in January, the number of airstrikes in Syria has increased significantly with over 2,800 strikes in the past five months. As the fighting has moved closer to population hubs like Raqqa, the strikes have taken a toll on civilians. While it is difficult to verify every claim of civilian death, the number of civilians the Coalition has confirmed dead in both Iraq and Syria increased by 90% from January to April as compared to all of 2016. According to statistics compiled by Airwars. from January to June, there have been 977 reports of civilian causalities that are unconfirmed but credible (“reasonable level of public reporting of alleged incident from two or more generally credible sources, often with biographical, photographic or video evidence”), a stark increase from the previous year.

Through the Coalition’s strategy of insulating ISIS by bombing bridges and ISIS’s strategy of using civilians as human shields, the fighting has severely hindered civilians from escaping Raqqa. Those who are able to flee the city have sometimes been met with a shortage of humanitarian supplies. Increased airstrikes, an inadequate humanitarian response, alleged abuses by SDF affiliated forces, and a lack of accountability have led to increased resentment among the local population that will be difficult to overcome as anti-ISIS forces attempt to reestablish security in the area. In Iraq, for example, civilian casualties due to Coalition airstrikes caused such anger in Mosul that in late May, Iraqi forces halted their efforts to in order to reassess tactics.

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

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Members of Venezuelan Government Opposition Barred From Travel and Protests Intensify as Maduro Seeks to Change Constitution

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela -Paulina Facchin, a representative of the Venezuelan opposition group Mesa de la Unidad Democratica in Peru, was barred back in January from getting her Venezuelan passport for the charge of “inciting hatred”. Ms. Facchin had previously done an interview with Peruvian press in which she was deeply critical of the current crisis in Venezuela, and had driven around an opposition legislator during his visit there. Then in mid-May, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition party Henrique Capriles was barred from travelling to New York to meet with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein.

A protestor brandishes a molotov cocktail during a march by healthcare workers. Photo courtesy of Agence France-Presse.

The protests in Venezuela meanwhile, have only grown more violent and out of control. In one example, a lynch mob drenched a person in gasoline and lit them on fire. The violence of the protestors has been met by the government with escalating deadly force. At least 55 people on both sides have been killed in the past seven weeks, with more than a thousand injured. However, it should be noted that the protestors have largely been peaceful, and the ones causing violence appear to be in the minority.

As his people protest in the street, Maduro is seeking to put together a constituent assembly to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution. Critics however, fear that his success in doing so would only further escalate the violence

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Harassing Opposition Activists Abroad – 30 May, 2017

Washington Post – Venezuela is sliding into anarchy – 24 May, 2017

UN News Centre – Venezuela: UN human rights chief regrets opposition leader being blocked to travel – 19 May, 2017

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 7 – June 12, 2017

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Michael P. Scharf
War Crimes Prosecution Watch
Volume 12 – Issue 7
June 12, 2017
James Prowse
Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti

Alexandra Mooney
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 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.

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International Center for Transitional Justice: New Report: Syrian Refugees on the Possibility of Return and Coexistence

New ICTJ Study: Syrian Refugees in Lebanon See Security, Restoration of Dignity as Key Conditions for Return
Read the Report

What do Syrian refugees say they need in order to return home? And what conditions do they believe are necessary to one day fostering coexistence in a post-war Syria?

A new ICTJ report, based on dozens of interviews with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, argues that discussions about the return of the displaced and coexistence must begin now, even in the face of ongoing violence. It stresses the restoration of refugees’ sense of dignity and security as necessary conditions for their return, and for one day building a stable post-war Syria.

“When the return and rebuilding process does begin one day, it will be crucial that the experiences and views of victims, including refugees, be strongly taken into account,” said report co-author Rim El Gantri.

Download the report and read our interview with report authors Rim El Gantri and Karim El Mufti. The Executive Summary of the report is also available in Arabic

Interview with the Report Authors
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Syria Deeply: This Week in Syria

Syria Deeply
Jun. 12th, 2017
This Week in Syria.
Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of the crisis in Syria.

The Battle For Raqqa Begins: After much anticipation, the battle for Raqqa, the former de facto capital of the so-called Islamic State group, began on Tuesday morning.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officially launched a highly anticipated offensive, advancing toward Raqqa from three sides, Reuters reported. On Saturday, the SDF began a pincer operation against opposite flanks of Raqqa, advancing into the northwestern al-Romania district after seizing the far eastern al-Mishlab district and half of the western al-Sabahia district.

The anti-ISIS activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently and so-called Islamic State (ISIS) media outlet Aamaq distributed photos purporting to show U.S.-led coalition forces using white phosphorus on densely populated civilian areas of Raqqa. A U.S. official confirmed to the New York Times that U.S. forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria have access to the substance but said “ it was not being used against personnel.”

Syrian government airstrikes reportedly targeted ISIS positions and armored vehicles in the western Raqqa countryside, along a highway linking the ISIS stronghold to Aleppo on Thursday. Earlier in the week, pro-government forces reached the border of Raqqa province and secured their position on the western bank of the Euphrates.

Fierce Fighting In Daraa: Fighting has intensified in the southern city of Daraa, with some of the most intense aerial bombardments over the weekend.

On Monday, Reuters reported that pro-government reinforcements have been deployed to the city, including Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite Iraqi militias. Major Issam al Rayes, a spokesman of the so-called Southern Front grouping of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), told Reuters that “the regime has brought large columns of troops from the elite 4th Armoured Division,” a key Syrian army unit.

“Everything indicates the regime is preparing for a large-scale military campaign in Daraa in which they plan to encircle the city and reach the Jordanian border,” Rayes said.

The activist-run Nabaa Media outlet in Daraa accused the government of using “napalm-like” weapons on the city, according to the Associated Press.

Since fighting in Daraa escalated in February, some 20,000 residents have fled the opposition-controlled areas of the city, Nabaa contributor Mohammad Abazeid told AP.

Iran-U.S. Tensions: Iran-backed Iraqi forces reached Iraq’s border with Syria over the weekend, encircling U.S.-backed forces roughly 31 miles (50km) northeast of the Tanf base, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Russia confirmed the claim, which, if true, would prevent U.S.-backed forces fighting ISIS from advancing along the Euphrates River in eastern Syria to the ISIS-held areas of Bou Kamal and Deir Ezzor, the Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, an American F-15 fighter jet shot down a drone that U.S. officials claim was connected to Iran or Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah and was used to target U.S.-backed fighters near the Tanf base. U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the coalition fighting ISIS, said though the drone’s weapon did not detonate, the coalition considered it a direct threat and not a “warning shot.”


f020b569-7455-410e-8ef8-f41b0077a844.png MOST POPULAR

This Week’s Top Articles



The Life and Death of One of Syria’s Most Beloved Minesweepers

Abu al Fadl devoted the final months of his life to clearing al-Bab of improvised explosives left behind by ISIS in everything from washing machines to cooking pots. The 60-year-old destroyed roughly 3,500 mines before one took his life.



Analysis: Euphrates Fight May Beat ISIS Militarily, But Not Ideologically

As U.S. and Iran escalate their battle against ISIS in eastern Syria and western Iraq, no one is thinking about the fate of local communities after the militant group’s potential military defeat, writes journalist Lorenzo Trombetta.



Analysis: U.S.-Brokered Deal Aims to Ease Tension Between FSA and Kurds

The move to arm the Kurds is a sign that the U.S. is beginning to deal with the complications of its anti-ISIS policy in Syria, writes Chatham House fellow Haid Haid. However, some Syrian analysts think it’s too little too late.

973ab3c3-9b8d-4a6d-9ac8-50621f4257fe.png EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight



How Russia Can Secure the De-Escalation Zones in Syria

Neil Hauer,  Senior Intelligence Analyst, SecDev Group in Ottawa

Neil Hauer, senior intelligence analyst at the SecDev Group, examines Russia’s primary option to secure the “de-escalation zones” and ensure compliance with the cease-fire: the Chechen units of the Kremlin’s military police.



Safe Zones Must Offer Protection, Not Solely Prevent Search for Asylum

Geoff Gilbert,  Professor of Law, School of Law and Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex

In today’s conflicts, safe zones cannot realistically provide the security guaranteed to civilians under international law and should not be proposed as a substitute for asylum in another country, according to the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.



Journalists Challenge Syrian Media to Improve Gender Coverage in War

Jihii Jolly,  Community Editor of Women & Girls at News Deeply

The Syrian Female Journalists’ Network was founded to ensure better coverage of gender issues and better representation of women in newsrooms in the midst of the country’s protracted conflict. Milia Eidmouni tells News Deeply how they do it.


Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via emailTwitter or Facebook.