Special Features

Published on February 22nd, 2017 | by Shelby Vcelka

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

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

South Sudan

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

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

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

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

Syria

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

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

Democratic Republic of the Congo

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

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