Syria Deeply: Thank You and Happy New Year

As 2017 draws to a close, all of us at News Deeply would like to thank you for being part of our powerful, growing community and for recognizing the importance of great journalism.

Your attention, contributions and intelligent, thoughtful feedback have inspired and guided us throughout the past year. Here are just a few examples of work contributed by our community members in 2017 (including selections from our newest platforms, Oceans Deeply and Malnutrition Deeply):

In 2018, expect to hear from us as we experiment with new ways to deliver information, share insights from across our communities and help you accomplish your vital work more effectively.

We look forward to your participation and partnership, and to the results we’ll achieve together.

Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year.

The News Deeply Team

P.S. In case you need something extra to read over the holidays, here are a few more of our favorite and most-read pieces from 2017. 

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War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 21 – December 26, 2017


FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

Founder/Advisor
Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 21
December 26, 2017

Editor-in-Chief
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 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

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Burundi

WEST AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Syria

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

AMERICAS

North & Central America

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

 

Commentary and Perspectives

WORTH READING


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Syrian Network for Human Rights: The Syrian Regime Has Dropped Nearly 70,000 Barrel Bombs on Syria

The Ruthless Bombing

The Syrian Regime Has Dropped Nearly 70,000 Barrel Bombs on Syria

SNHR has released a report entitled: “The Ruthless Bombing” which documents that Syrian regime forces has dropped nearly 70,000 barrel bombs since July 2012.

The report says that the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian regime army manifest one of the most appalling ways in which the international community has blatantly let down the Syrian people as these barrel bombs have been forgotten almost completely in the last year with no condemnations to be heard about the repeated use of this barbarian type of weapons. Additionally, the report questions the possibility of accepting a regime that drops barbarian barrels on its own country without agreeing to any form of political settlements, except for one that rehabilitees it and only leads to giving some ceremonial ministries to its opponents.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
“The repeated use of this arbitrary, indiscriminate weapon against residential communities is a message to the Syrian people that protecting civilians and the international law are mere illusions, and that you have to submit and accept the regime that is killing you. Security Council has to take decisive action against the Syrian regime’s use of arbitrary weapon on this large, widespread scale. The U.N. special envoy has also to play a more effectual role in putting an end to the winter of barrel bombs in Syria.”

The report documents the toll of barrel bomb use by Syrian regime forces from the first time it was used in July 2012 until December 2017 and the resultant casualties and attacks on vital civilian facilities. The report stresses that the use of barrel bombs haven’t stopped for even one month, including the months that saw de-escalation agreements or Geneva Talks.

The report draws upon the daily, ongoing, routine monitoring and documentation efforts, in addition to accounts by survivors, eyewitnesses, and local media activists as the report contains nine accounts. Also, the report relies on videos and pictures that were posted online.

The report sheds light on the nature of barrel bombs, manufacture methods used by the Syrian regime, types of containers and explosive materials, and whatever chemical or incendiary substances that are added in some cases. Also, the report outlines a number of areas where the Syrian regime used barrel bombs heavily in the context of military progression such as Darayya city and Khan al Sheih town in Damascus suburbs, and al Mayadeen city in Deir Ez-Zour.

The report records that no less than 68,334 barrel bombs have been dropped by Syrian regime helicopters or fixed-wing warplanes from its first documented use in July 2012 until December 2017. These barrel bombs have resulted in the killing of 10,763 civilians, including 1,734 children and 1,689 women (adult female). In addition, no less than 565 attacks on vital civilian facilities were recorded in which barrel bombs were used, including 76 on medical facilities, 140 on schools, 160 on mosques, and 50 on markets.

According to the report, the governorates that saw the largest portion of barrel bombs were Damascus and its suburbs, followed by Aleppo and then Daraa while barrel bombs were used the most in 2015 where Syrian regime forces dropped 17,318 barrel bombs in that year alone.

The report says that Security Council resolution 2139 represented some hope for the Syrian people due to the fact that barrel bombs were explicitly mentioned in that resolution which also promised to take further steps in the case of non-compliance. However, the rate of barrel bomb use, according to the report, never changed after the resolution was adopted. The report divides the overall toll of barrel bombs before and after the resolution as the report records no less than 20,183 barrel bombs since from July 2012 to February 22, 2014, when the resolution was adopted, while no less than 48,151 barrel bombs were documented in the period of time from the resolution was adopted until December 2017.

According to the report, 87 attacks with barrel bombs loaded with a poison gas and four attacks with barrel bombs loaded with incendiary ammunitions were recorded. All of these attacks took place after Security Council resolution 2139 was adopted.

The report stresses that the Syrian government has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254, and used barrel bombs in a systematic, widespread manner. Also, the Syrian government, through the crime of willful killing, has violated Article 7 of Rome Statute as well as the rules of the international human rights law, which guarantee the right to life. Seeing that these crimes were committed in a non-international armed conflict, it constitutes war crimes.

The report adds that barrel bomb attacks are an indiscriminate bombing that targeted defenseless civilians and caused significant damages to civilian objects. The damage was too excessive compared to the anticipated military benefit.

According to the report, The Syrian regime has violated the rules of the customary international law, the CWC, and all relevant Security Council resolutions -particularly 2118, 2209, and 2235- through the use of barrel bombs. Additionally, using chemical weapons constitutes a war crime according to the ICC’s Rome Statue.

Furthermore, the report says that Syrian regime forces have used barrel bombs loaded with incendiary ammunitions against populated residential neighborhoods without taking any measures to reduce the damages to civilians and civilian buildings and facilities.

The report calls on the Security Council to ensure the serious implementation of its resolutions, and calls on the four permanent state members to apply pressure on the Russian government in order to cease its support for the Syrian regime. In addition, the report stresses that an arms embargo should be imposed on the Syrian regime and all those who supply the Syrian regime with finance and weapon should be prosecuted in light of the risk of these weapons being used in crimes and serious violations of human rights.

Also, the report calls on the Security Council to refer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and provide all possible facilitations in this regard. Additionally, the report says that the Security Council should start imposing security and peace and Syria and prosecute all those whose involvement in perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity should be prosecuted. The report calls on the European Union and the United States to support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 71/248, adopted on December 21, 2016, establish local tribunals that enjoy a universal jurisdiction, and address the war crimes that were perpetrated in Syria.

The report says that steps should be taken on the national and regional levels to form alliances to support and protect the Syrian people from the daily killing. In addition, steps should be taken to put the principle of universal jurisdiction into practice with regard to these crimes before local tribunals. Moreover, the report says that pressure should be applied on the Syrian government in order to compel it to ratify Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and comply with its restrictions.

The report calls for the implementation of the “Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) norm especially after all political steps had been consumed through the agreement of the Arab League and then Kofi Annan’s plan and the Cessation of Hostilities statements and Astana Agreements that followed. Therefore, steps under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations should be taken, and the norm of the Responsibility to Protect, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, should be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.

International Center for Transitional Justice: Year in Review 2017

Explore our global impact in 2017
View this email in your browser
2017 was a tumultuous year for justice, full of setbacks and successes. Through it all, ICTJ stood with those seeking to break the cycle of massive human rights violations and lay the foundations for peace, justice, and inclusion.
Go to Year in Review
Dear friends,

2017 has been a difficult year for those of us working in the human rights field. We have seen the resurgence of illiberal powers and populism coupled with a growing disdain for human rights across a wide swath of capitals, including some which have abruptly switched sides. At the same time, some traditional supporters of human rights organizations have pulled back their support.

Against this challenging background, I am proud to report that ICTJ continues to push forward for justice, for victims, and for accountability. We have adopted a new strategic plan that is built around the proposition that in these difficult times ICTJ can make a difference in contexts around the world by working more creatively and more efficiently with a wider variety of partners.

Thus, despite the current morass in Syria, instead of waiting for a far-off transition, we have engaged deeply with victim groups. These efforts have resulted in a new approach to documentation of the many shocking violations in the country. Focusing on the destruction of schools, this documentation will be presented in Geneva to a Panel of Conscience, composed of high level international officials, in March 2018. It will allow the world to hear the voices of victims and their quest for justice in a much more direct way. This approach will bring the plight of victims to a wider audience in Europe and beyond.

ICTJ continues to play a unique role in the peace process in Colombia, ensuring that justice remains at the heart of the process. We provide support in a myriad of ways through constant engagement with civil society and the parties to the peace agreement. Juan Mendez, former ICTJ President, has continued to serve as ICTJ’s representative on the Selection Panel for the judges who will serve on the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. ICTJ serves as a key and trusted interlocutor for all.

In Tunisia, the landscape remains difficult, but our team, composed largely of women, has worked tirelessly and earned trust from all sectors of society. I had the honor of attending the public hearings of the Truth and Dignity Commission, which electrified the nation and the region. ICTJ’s support helped the hearings capture the imagination of not just the Tunisian public, but the world.

There is much else that ICTJ has done over the last year that are highlighted in our Year in Review gallery. We have addressed the consequences of impunity in a range of countries, from the Philippines to Myanmar as well as the struggle for justice in Nepal, Kenya, and Cote d’Ivoire. ICTJ has worked extensively on the critical questions of peace and justice in a variety of ways, and conducted groundbreaking research on reparations, on truth-telling and on broader transitional justice themes as well. We continue the struggle to ensure that women are included in transitional justice processes.

Finally, we have raised our voice on the question of racial justice in the United States. We seek to help activists, policy makers, and the general public in the United States understand the relevancy of transitional justice experiences around the globe, closing the year with our Annual Lecture on Transitional Justice (co-sponsored with NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice), with a conversation between Darren Walker, Sherrilyn Ifill, and myself. This discussion, along with our other work in this regard, has opened new pathways for ICTJ to contribute to this important discussion in its own backyard.

In a difficult context, ICTJ is grateful for the generous support of our allies in the donor and international communities. Due to their support, and the tireless efforts of our staff, ICTJ has adapted to new realities and made contributions to justice efforts across a range of countries with innovation, determination, and continued refection on how we can do our work more effectively.

As we continue to adapt, ICTJ is expanding its network of supporters by asking likeminded individuals who share our commitment to justice and human rights to consider making an annual gift to ICTJ. Please click here to make your gift and help us continue our work across society and borders.

Best wishes for the holidays and the New Year,

David Tolbert, President
International Center for Transitional Justice

 

Support ICTJ
Copyright © 2017 International Center for Transitional Justice, All rights reserved.

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ASP 2017: Day Nine Summary – Marathon diplomatic negotiation criminalizes aggressive war at ICC

Assembly of States Parties 2017
Marathon diplomatic negotiation criminalizes aggressive war at ICC

Summary Day Nine
Assembly of States Parties 2017

In the very early hours of 15 December, 123 states reached consensus on bringing justice one step closer for victims of aggressive wars. 
For the first time since the post-WWII trials in Nuremburg and Tokyo, an international court may be able to hold leaders individually criminally responsible for the crime of aggression, at times referred to as the ‘Crime against Peace’.

Get all the updates from the final day of ASP, Day Nine, here.

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MEET THE NEW ICC JUDGES
States elect five women and one man to serve nine year terms as ICC judges.
As five of the six outgoing ICC judges are women, the Coalition campaigned to ensure that female candidates were nominated by states to ensure fair gender representation on the ICC bench.
We urged states to seek out the very best and most qualified female candidates to uphold this fundamental standard.
NEED TO KNOW: ASP 2017

Day One: UN Secretary General, ICC President and Prosecutor call for global justice effort

Day Two: Judges’ elections rule the day

Day Three: Elections’ finale, general debate commences

Day Four: General Debate dominates; Talks on Crime of Aggression activation

Day Five: NGOs enter the fray, justice policy talks ahead of Rome Statute 20th

Day Six: State cooperation crucial for an effective ICC

Day Seven: Building better institutions for global justice

Keep up to date with our daily summaries from ASP 2017 plenary discussions, side events, and other key developments, as well as related news coverage and publications. Follow us on Twitter with the hashtag #ASP16 for real time updates..

Daily Agenda: ASP 2017
ASP 2017: Background, documents & more
Coalition key recommendations to ASP 2017
Will it be activated? All you need to know
2017 at a Glance: International Criminal Court
Campaign on ICC elections: Elect the best
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Policy on ICC investigations and cases
The Coalition is an independent civil society network fighting for global justice for grave crimes through the International Criminal Court and national courts. The Coalition does not endorse, promote or take a position on any ICC situations, investigations or prosecutions. Individual Coalition members may endorse referrals, provide legal and other support on investigations, or develop partnerships with local and other organizations in the course of their efforts.


Disclaimer
This email is an informal and unofficial summary of news coverage. The Coalition does not take a position on or endorse any articles summarized in this email. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the Coalition is not responsible for any omissions or inaccuracies contained within source articles or this email, which is provided for informational purposes only.


The content of this email is not exhaustive – please send us material for inclusion.
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Syria Deeply: Join Our Deeply Talks: Diplomacy and Deadlock in Syria

Dear Syria Deeply community,

Peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Geneva are expected to end next week, just days before Russian-sponsored negotiations in the Kazakh capital of Astana are scheduled to kick off December 21.

In our upcoming Deeply Talks, we’ll take a closer look at the recent flurry of diplomacy, and explore prospects and challenges of a settlement for Syria ahead of Russia’s proposed Syrian National Congress, which is slated to be held in the city of Sochi in early 2018. You can catch up on the latest developments in our daily Executive Summaries.

Join us Thursday, December 14, at 10:30 a.m. EDT (4:30 p.m. CET), for a conversation with Rami Khouri, senior public policy fellow at the American University of Beirut, and Maxim Suchkov, editor of Al-Monitor’s Russia-Mideast coverage.

The 30-minute call, moderated by Syria Deeply’s deputy managing editor, Hashem Osseiran, will examine the motives underlying Moscow’s diplomatic efforts; Washington’s position toward Russian-sponsored peace efforts; and whether a resolution to the war is in sight.

To RSVP and receive dial-in instructions click here.

If you’d like to ask our editor or guests a question in advance, please respond to this email.

Warm regards,

Kim Bode

Community Editor

RSVP
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Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Race to the Ballot Box – UN Must Learn from Past Mistakes, Avoid Pre-Mature Elections in Syria

SJAC Update | December 12, 2017
Syrians cast their vote in a controversial presidential election in 2014. Although the government claimed voter turnout was at 73%, many observers criticized the process and said the results were illegitimate. | Photo from Wikimedia

Race to the Ballot Box: UN Must Learn from Past Mistakes, Avoid Pre-Mature Elections in Syria

Last week, the eighth round of UN-sponsored peace negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition began in Geneva. Leading the talks, Syria Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura prioritized discussion of elections. In March 2016, de Mistura had proposed an 18-month timeline for the election date, and the issue has continued to be on the top of his agenda. His emphasis on elections is likely a strategic one. Elections would symbolize a turning point in the conflict and signal that recovery is on the horizon. It would also lessen an overwhelming obstacle in the negotiations – who will lead in post-conflict Syria – by leaving the decision to the Syrian public. Despite these benefits, the Special Envoy should bear in mind lessons-learned from past transitional elections and avoid prioritizing a short-term win over adherence to best practices.

Some scholars argue the promise of early elections is vital to peace and democracy in post-conflict settings because they facilitate peace settlements, encourage international actors to contribute peacekeeping forces, and expedite democratization processes. But elections also carry a number of risks, particularly in unstable post-conflict contexts:

  1. Renewed violence: In transitional elections, security issues are a primary concern. Early elections in the absence of demobilization or disarmament efforts increases the likelihood that one side to the conflict will reject the results and return to armed conflict. This is especially true when there is no means of power-sharing and government institutions have not been rebuilt. In 2010, a presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire descended the nation into a renewed civil conflict after losing candidate Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power and forces loyal to each candidate took up arms.
  2. Inaccessible ballot locations: Insecurity and violence will also prevent voters from going to the polls. Moreover, some 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the war began. Ensuring that displaced peoples have a safe, confidential, and practical means of voting will require resources, infrastructure, and coordination with states that are hosting refugees. Without security at ballot boxes or an opportunity for the displaced to vote, the results of any election will be skewed and seen as illegitimate.
READ MORE
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.

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War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 20 – December 11, 2017

 


FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

Founder/Advisor
Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 20
December 11, 2017

Editor-in-Chief
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 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

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Burundi

WEST AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

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

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

Iraq

Syria

Afghanistan

AMERICAS

North & Central America

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

WORTH READING


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Syria Deeply: Diplomacy and deadlock in Syria; Moscow declares end of ISIS and partial withdrawal of Russian forces

Syria Deeply
Dec. 12th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

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

As part of our Deeply Talks series, Syria Deeply will host a live 30-minute conversation with Rami Khouri, senior public policy fellow at the American University of Beirut, and Maxim Suchkov, editor of Al-Monitor’s Russia-Mideast coverage, about the recent flurry of diplomatic discussions that aims to set the stage for a settlement to the near seven-year conflict. To RSVP and to receive dial-in instructions, click here. To submit questions for our editors or guests, email our community editor Kim Bode (kim@newsdeeply.com) or tweet us @SyriaDeeply with the hashtag #DEEPLYTALKS.

Peace Talks: The Syrian government’s delegation returned to Geneva on Sunday to rejoin United Nations-sponsored peace talks, just a day before Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry announced that a new round of negotiations in Astana is scheduled to start next week.

Two-day talks in the Kazakh capital are expected to begin December 21, days after U.N.-sponsored discussions in Geneva are expected to end. The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, previously said talks in the Swiss city would run until December 15, but as of Tuesday it remained unclear how long negotiations will continue.

The lead negotiator in the government’s delegation to Geneva, Bashar al-Jaafari, quit negotiations more than a week ago, and said that there would “be no progress” as long as the opposition did not reverse its call for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad before the start of a political transition.

As they have in previous rounds of Astana negotiations, representatives from Russia, Iran and Turkey are expected to attend the talks later this month. However, Iraq’s ambassador to Russia, Haidar Mansour Hadi, said on Tuesday that Baghdad would also like an invitation to Astana, according to Russian TASS news.

“I want to ask the Russian leadership to invite Iraq to attend the talks in Astana,” Hadi said in a meeting with Russian politician Konstantin Kosachev.

Putin’s Promises: President Vladimir Putin said he ordered a “significant part” of Moscow’s troops to begin their withdrawal from Syria on Monday, during a surprise visit to Russia’s Hmeimim air base near the coastal Syrian province of Latakia.

“The conditions for a political solution under the auspices of the United Nations have been created,” Putin said, according to Reuters. “Friends, the Motherland is waiting for you. You are coming back home with victory,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Russia’s commander in Syria, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, said Moscow will withdraw “23 warplanes, two helicopter gunships, special forces units, military police and field engineers.” He did not specify how many soldiers and weapons would remain, but said it would be enough to “successfully fulfill the tasks” of stabilizing the situation in Syria, according to the Associated Press.

Putin has previously made similar statements but they did not result in a major or permanent withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria.

Moscow’s decision comes days after it declared the complete defeat of the so-called Islamic State in Syria. “There is not a single village or district in Syria under the control of [ISIS]. The territory of Syria has been completely liberated from fighters of this terrorist organization,” senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi told reporters.

Syria Deeply has not been able to independently confirm the absence of ISIS in every “single village or district” in the country.

Read our Daily Executive Summaries

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

This Week’s Top Articles

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ARTS & CULTURE

Women at the Forefront of Saving Syria’s Heritage

Syrian women at home and abroad are leading efforts to safeguard Syria’s cultural heritage and ensure that traditions are preserved in the wake of years of conflict and widespread displacement.

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WAR ECONOMY

Eyes on Damascus: Exchange Rates, Financial Restrictions and Subsidized Fuel

As the Syrian government and foreign powers look to wind down the war in Syria, we are closely monitoring developments on the ground in the capital for our monthly report from Damascus.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Escaping Europe: Why Some Syrian Refugees Have Chosen to Leave

The route from Turkey to Greece was once crowded with Syrian asylum seekers fleeing to Europe. But in recent months some refugees have begun to move in the opposite direction because of what they describe as a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in host countries.

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

Community Insight

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Conversations: Life as a Paramedic During ISIS’ Rule of Raqqa

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Youmna al-Dimashqi,  Independent Syrian Freelance Journalist

For medical professionals in ISIS’ former stronghold of Raqqa, trying to save lives meant risking shelling, airstrikes and arrest.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Syria’s Largest Militant Alliance Steps Further Away From al-Qaida

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Mona Alami,  Nonresident Fellow, Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham Alliance is distancing itself from hard-line al-Qaida loyalists in its latest attempt to reinvent itself as a pragmatic local player among the opposition, writes Levant researcher and journalist Mona Alami.

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DISPLACEMENT

A Nation in Pieces: Views From Syrians in Exile

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Sima Ghaddar,  Contributor, The Century Foundation

Syrians living in Lebanon, Europe and the U.S. reveal a common conviction that national unity and a common sense of identity are necessary to rebuild the country, but most say that both seem distant in a country divided along ethnic-sectarian lines.

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Miami Herald Publishes Investigation into Abuses of Florida Juvenile Justice System

By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MIAMI, Florida — On Tuesday, October 10, the Miami Herald published a series of the results of a 2-year long investigation into the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s history of abuses toward juveniles in their care.

The entrance to the Palm Beach Youth Academy in West Palm Beach, FL. Photo Courtesy of Emily Michot, Miami Herald.

This investigation was launched following the death of 17-year-old Elord Revolte, who was beaten to death by fellow detainees on August 30, 2015, and was at least the twelfth questionable juvenile detainee death since 2000.  The investigation examined a 10-year span of records ranging from incident reports, investigations, court cases, archived surveillance tapes and interviews with former inmates, their families, guards, and other staff members.

Allegations range from fights between the detainees set up by staffers for their entertainment (Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility), to multiple counts of confirmed sexual relationships between staff and detainees, to a severe medical neglect of detainees.

Elord Revolte’s death was an instance of a ‘honey-bun hit’, where a staffer would offer a honey-bun—or some other kind of sweets, fast food, etc.—as a bounty in exchange for beating up the targeted inmate.  This food bounty would allow the staffers to avoid Abuse Hotline charges by turning detainees into enforcers in order to outsource discipline. The DJJ investigation estimates between 12 and 16 other detainees participated in the assault upon Elord.

According to the DJJ’s Investigation Report into the matter, Elord was placed on medical confinement for a “24-hour concussion precaution” following the August 30 assault. On the morning of August 31, he complained of a “crackling” chest pain and told a nurse that he needed to go to the hospital.  Around 4:45 p.m., Elord was taken by a nurse to the hospital in a state vehicle.  He was admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s emergency room at 5:17 p.m. Elord Revolte died at 11:05 p.m., 30 hours after the assault as a result of a heart attack caused by his extensive internal bleeding.

Five juvenile justice officers were fired by the DJJ as a result of the investigation for poor performance, negligence, and failure to perform duties as assigned.

Following the publication of the Miami Herald series ‘Fight Club’, the Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice Christina Daly, issued a press release stating:

“DJJ has not, does not and will not ever tolerate or condone mistreatment of children in our care. Staff who are not well intentioned to help transform the lives of our children have no place within this agency. Anyone who is found to have encouraged, enticed, or ordered youth to engage in fights or assault other youth is, and will be, held accountable to the full extent of the law, including criminal prosecution. We consistently work to identify, investigate and hold fully accountable any staff member who does not meet our high standards – both within DJJ facilities and with our contracted providers.”

According to the DJJ, one of their biggest problems is a 60% turnover rate for entry-level officers due to low pay.  Other issues include inadequate background checks that result in the hiring of personnel with a history of violent and sexual abuses, as well as a tolerance for cover-ups.   However, in a presentation to the Senate Criminal Justice committee, Secretary Daly stated that the “crime rate among Florida youth has dropped by 37 percent since 2010, and the state has also seen a sharp drop in the number of children arrested or placed in DJJ custody,” and that the arrest rate for girls dropped by more than half.

The Miami Herald reports that over the past 10 years, “DJJ has investigated 1,455 allegations of youth officers or other staffers failing to report abusive treatment of detainees— or, if they did report an incident, lying about the circumstances. That’s nearly three times a week.”

For more information, please see:

Miami Herald – Despite challenges, Florida’s juvenile justice system continues to improve – 10 November 2017

Florida Politics – Juvenile Justice Secretary talks ‘Fight Club’ during Senate presentation – 23 October 2017

Miami Herald – Juvenile justice chief defends agency, calling abuses ‘isolated events’ – 23 October 2017

Tampa Bay Times – Fight Club: Dark secrets of Florida juvenile justice – 11 October 2017

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice – Setting the Record Straight: Miami Herald Omits Facts, Ignores Reforms in Series Targeting DJJ – 10 October 2017

Miami Herald – Dark secrets of Florida’s juvenile justice system: A Miami Herald investigation – 10 October 2017

Miami New Times – After Herald Catches Prison Guards Running Child “Fight Clubs,” State Attacks Reporters – 10 October 2017

Miami Herald – 5 fired at Miami-Dade lockup where teen died in beat-down – 30 September 2015

Female Leaders Tackle Gender Equality at Summit in Iceland

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Over 400 political leaders from around the world gathered in Iceland on Wednesday, November 28th to discuss gender equality.

Former President of Iceland Vigdis Finnbogadottir. Photo Courtesy of David Keyton.

The group, comprised mostly of female political leaders, convened to address barriers to progress in the quest for gender equality.

The summit, held annually, is sponsored by the Women Political Leaders Global Forum, an organization intent on increasing the number of female political leaders in the world, in collaboration with the Council of Women World Leaders, a network for female prime ministers and presidents.

The theme of this year’s summit was “We can do it!”, a reference to Iceland’s success in achieving gender equality.

Iceland is known for being a champion of gender equality. For the past nine years, the World Economic Forum has identified the country as having the smallest gender gap, with pay being a factor considered along with life expectancy and access to educational opportunities. Iceland has the highest employment rate of females worldwide, with 8 out of 10 women there employed.

Iceland was the first country in the word to elect a female president. In 1980, Vigdis Finnbogadottir defeated three male candidates.

There is a great disparity in the ratio of male to female political leaders in other parts of the world. Women make up only 7 percent of heads of state and comprise less than a quarter of parliamentary seats worldwide.

The pay gap is another topic of concern. The World Economic Forum’s most recent index suggests that under current trends it will take another 217 years for the pay gap to close between men and women. In Iceland, the pay gap is projected to close by 2022.

On November 20th, the European Union recommended a two-year plan to close the gender pay gap. The plan recommends sanctions for companies that do not provide equal pay as well as the monitoring of policies to ensure discrimination is not taking place.

On average, women earn 16.3 percent less hourly than men. This number has remained steady for the past five years.

In addition to addressing pay gaps and the lack of political diversity, the summit addressed the recent tide of allegations of rampant sexual harassment throughout the world.

“That kind of behavior, which is now deemed widely unacceptable, has been one of the barriers to women getting ahead,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. “Lots of sectors — parliaments, film industries and others — are having to face their past and say, ‘We are going to do it better.’”

While strides have been made in terms of achieving greater gender equality, proponents believe there is much left to be done. At the summit, Finnbogadottir received an honorary award at and addressed the crowd.  “Gender equality has changed tremendously in Iceland since then but we still got some ways to go,” she said.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – EU Proposes Two-Year Plan to Close Gender Pay Gap – 20 November 2017

The Guardian – Only 23% of the World’s Politicians are Women. It’s Time for That to Change – 29 November 2017

Press Herald – Iceland Summit Stresses Gender Equality in Politics – 29 November 2017

The Washington Post – Women Leaders Tackle Gender Equality at Iceland Summit – 29 November 2017

The New York Times – A Man Among Female Leaders: ‘The Risk of Mansplaining Is Very High’ – 2 December 2017

Business Day: Dutch businessman convicted of Liberian war crimes arrested in Cape Town

Picture: ISTOCK

Picture: ISTOCK

The Hague — A Dutch businessman, convicted in April of selling weapons to ex-Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor, was arrested in SA on a Dutch warrant, officials said on Friday.

“Blood timber” trader Guus Kouwenhoven was sentenced as an accessory to war crimes for providing arms to Taylor’s government in violation of a UN embargo. He has been living in Cape Town and had refused to return to the Netherlands for trial, citing health problems. He was not present at the trial.

Dutch prosecution spokesman Bart Vis said Kouwenhoven would appear before a judge in SA on Friday and a court there would rule later on the Dutch extradition request.

Known in Liberia as “Mister Gus”, Kouwenhoven ran two timber companies from 2000 to 2003 and used them as cover to smuggle arms, according to the Dutch court that sentenced him to 19 years in prison in April 2017.

At the time, Liberia was in the grip of a civil war between then president Taylor’s government and several rebel factions. Liberia’s string of conflicts since the 1990s left an estimated 250,000 people dead. Thousands more were mutilated and raped, and all sides in the conflict used child soldiers.

Taylor stepped down in 2003. He was arrested in 2006 and, in 2012, sentenced to 50 years in prison for aiding and abetting war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone by the UN’s Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Reuters

Pope Francis Visits Myanmar as Rohingya Crisis Looms

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Pope Francis visited Myanmar for four days as the country deals with Asia’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades. At the Yangon sports ground, Pope Francis delivered his first public mass in the country. Tens of thousands of people gathered to listen to his speech where the Pope demanded “respect for each ethnic group.” In his homily, Pope Francis talked about forgiveness and ignoring the desire to revenge.

Pope Francis travels to Myanmar for a four-day trip before heading to Bangladesh to meet with Rohingya refugees. Photo courtesy of Lauren DeCicca.

However, during his trip, Pope Francis did not publicly speak about the persecuted Muslim minority. The authorities believe that as many as 620,000 have fled to Bangladesh to avoid persecution in Myanmar. During his homily, he did not directly reference violence against the Rohingya.

The recent events in Myanmar has led the international community to accuse the country of ethnic cleansing. In Myanmar, the term Rohingya is rejected, and the people are labeled as “Bengalis.”

Although many Rohingya activists did not blame the Pope directly, they voiced their concerns to his advisors who appeared to have persuaded the Pope to avoid bringing up the Rohingya issue in a public setting.

On Wednesday, November 29th, in response to many criticisms, a papal spokesman stated the moral authority of the Pope “still stands.” He further stated that people can “criticize what is said or not but the Pope is not going to lose any moral authority on this question here,” referring to the Rohingya crisis.

Whether the Pope should address the Rohingya issue has been debated fiercely within the Vatican. Among many voices, the most vocal was Charles Maung Bo, Myanmar’s first cardinal. He has been very vocal about defending the Rohingya and condemned those who have persecuted them. However, before the Pope’s visit, he advised the Pope to refrain from using the word.

Pope Francis is scheduled to fly to Bangladesh where he will meet Rohingya refugees on Thursday, November 30th.

For more information, please see:

ABC – Pope heads to Bangladesh with Rohingya crisis looming large – 29 November, 2017

BBC – Pope in Myanmar: All or nothing for the Rohingya – 29 November, 2017

The Guardian – Pope Francis disappoints Rohingya by failing to condemn persecution – 29 November, 2017

Mosquitos still a risk to Brazil public health

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Although the number of Zika cases have dropped significantly, Brazil’s public health is still threatened as summer approaches. Outbreaks of Zika, Dengue fever, and Chikungunya fever are all possible in the coming warmer climate.

The larvae of the mosquito Aedes aegypti. Image Courtesy of Eduardo Knapp.

All three of these diseases are carried by the same bug, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is endemic to Brazil. The Zika outbreak received the most attention in 2015. The world watched as mosquitos plagued the country and created tragic stories of malformations in babies of infected women. Although Dengue and Chikungunya fevers were not in the spotlight, they were spread by the same mosquito and caused a record 800 deaths in Brazil that same year. Most of these deaths occurred in the impoverished northeast region where urbanization grows rapidly. In total, these mosquitos infected approximately 4 million people in the country.

However, statistics show that Brazil has seen some improvement since then. Only 16,800 new cases of Zika were reported from January to November in 2017. This is compared to the 214,100 cases during those months in 2016. Similarly, the number of cases of Dengue fever and Chikungunya fever also fell by 83.7% this year.

Despite these positive trends, at least 357 Brazilian cities are still at risk of a renewed outbreak. These cities are considered at risk because larvae from infectious mosquitos were found in more than 4% of properties visited. In comparison, 2,450 cities were found to be a satisfactory situation where mosquito larvae were found in less than 1% of property. The Northeastern area has the highest number of cities at risk. Scientists expect outbreaks in the upcoming summer because conditions are conducive for mosquitos to thrive. They warn that the most common type of breeding site for these mosquitos are storage areas of water in drums, barrels, and vats.

Of the diseases, Dengue fever is the most dangerous and can be lethal in its hemorrhagic form. Chikungunya can lead to chronic joint problems as well. As the mildest of the three diseases, Zika still poses severe risks because of its effect on pregnant women. When women are infected during gestation, their fetuses can develop malformations such as microcephaly. Microcephalic newborns’ brains do not develop properly and are left with smaller than normal heads. This can lead to intellectual disabilities, poor motor functions, and several other issues.

One example of mosquitos’ ability to spread disease comes from the Acre State in Brazil. For decades, residents lived in the perfect climate for mosquitos, yet there were none to be found. In 2000, it got its first case of Dengue, and only ten years later there were 35,000 cases. Studies link this sudden infection to commercial development. Researchers wrote, “the landscape changes that occurred in the last decade have created favorable conditions for the establishment of dengue virus transmission.” New roads and airstrips provided jobs and economic advancement, but also more mosquitos and hosts for the virus. The increase in human movement caused their capital Rio Branco to go from classification as “dengue-free” to “highest risk” by the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

For more information, please see:

Folha De S.Paulo – Brazil Has at Least 357 Cities at Risk of a Renewed Aedes Linked Outbreak – 29 November 2017

Xinhua Net – Outbreak risks remain in summer though Zika cases down 92 pct in Brazil – 29 November 2017

NPR – Why a Brazilian State Went From 0 Cases of Dengue To 35,000 A Year – 28 November 2017

ICFI – Brazil cuts science budget amid mounting yellow fever threat – 8 November 2017

Egypt sentences 16 men to three years for ‘debauchery’

Matthew Sneed
Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – A court in Cairo sentenced sixteen men to jail because of their identification as gay. Each received a three-year sentence for being found guilty of “inciting debauchery” and “abnormal sexual relations.” Fourteen of the convictions were handed down on November 26, with two more following on the next day.

Egypt began a cracking down on LGBT activities following the waving of the rainbow flag at a concert in September. Photo courtesy of Rainbow Egypt

Al-Ahram, a newspaper owned by the Egyptian government, reported that police raided an apartment in Cairo in September. At the apartment, they found the men in “indecent positions” and alleged that the men were engaging in prostitution with other men. “The defendants denied being homosexuals,” reported the paper. The prosecution ordered that the suspects be subjected to medical examinations to determine if they had committed homosexual acts.

The arrests have been part of an increased crackdown on the LGBT community in Egypt following an incident where a rainbow flag was waived during a concert in Cairo. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) stated that at least seventy-five people have been arrested since the rainbow flag was raised on September 22. Of those arrests, ten are believed to be in connection to raising the flag while the rest stem from entrapment through dating apps. In addition, it was reported that at least 5 men received anal examinations.

While homosexuality is not a crime under Egyptian law, officials have used the 1961 prostitution law to charge people they believe engaged in homosexual activities. However, the Egyptian Parliament had proposed a bill that would make same-sex activity illegal. For the first time in the history of the nation, it would define “homosexuality.” Promoting or engaging in same-sex activities could lead to five years in prison and a combination of charges could result in a sentence of up to fifteen years. In addition, the publication of LBGT-friendly material would warrant a three-year sentence.

The U.S. State Department has expressed concerns regarding the actions of the Egyptian Government. One official stated, “We urge countries to uphold and respect their international human rights obligations and commitments,” said the official. “The United States will continue to engage on issues of universal human rights and democracy.”

On November 1, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “urged Egyptian House of Representatives Speaker Ali Abdel Aal Sayyed Ahmed to publicly condemn the criminalization bill and the broader anti-LGBT crackdown.”

For more information please see:

BBC – Egypt jails 16 for ‘debauchery’ as LGBT crackdown continues – 28, Nov. 2017

Washington Blade – State Department reiterates concern over Egypt ant-LGBT crackdown – 28, Nov. 2017

Independent – Egypt LGBT crackdown: 16 men jailed for three years on ‘debauchery’ charges