Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Atrocity Alert: Syria, South Sudan, Burma/Myanmar and Nigeria

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.

Syria

Following a three-week pause in airstrikes on opposition-held Eastern Aleppo, the Syrian government renewed their bombardment on 15 November. As of 20 November the World Health Organization reported that the 250,000 Syrians still trapped inside the city are entirely without access to emergency medical care following airstrikes on the few remaining hospitals. Local health authorities have also reported civilians suffering symptoms of chlorine exposure following a suspected 22 November chemical attack by government helicopters. Non-state armed groups have also continued shelling residential areas of western Aleppo, including a direct hit on a school on 20 November, killing eight children. In his briefing to the UN Security Council on 21 November, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien called for an end to all attacks on civilians and an immediate lifting of the siege by Syrian government forces. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in the 60 days since the cessation of hostilities collapsed, 834 civilians have been killed in East Aleppo. In light of the failure by the Security Council to uphold its responsibility to protect the long-suffering people of Syria, the UN General Assembly should immediately take up the issue.

South Sudan

On 17 November the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, briefed the UN Security Council on his recent visit to South Sudan, warning that there is a “strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential for genocide.” Special Adviser Dieng called upon the Council to request that the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) monitor, investigate and report on all incidents of hate speech and urged Council members to impose an arms embargo, noting the devastating impact of the proliferation of arms. During the meeting the Permanent Representative of the United States, Samantha Power, announced her delegation’s intention to put forward a resolution for an arms embargo on South Sudan. The draft resolution should be adopted without delay.

Burma/Myanmar

Burma/Myanmar’s army continues to undertake violent “clearance operations” in ethnic Rohingya areas of Arakan/Rakhine state following the 9 October attacks on border posts. According to Human Rights Watch, during these operations security forces have razed more than 1,250 homes in five Rohingya villages, with more than 820 destroyed since 10 November. On 18 November the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, criticized the government for placing the region on “lockdown” for six weeks and for its “blanket denial” of human rights violations, urging an immediate investigation into reports of torture, sexual violence and summary executions. An estimated 30,000 people have been displaced from Arakan/Rakhine state since 9 October and emergency humanitarian access remains suspended for an estimated 160,000 people. The UN Refugee Agency has appealed for neighboring countries to allow safe passage to civilians fleeing violence amidst reports that Bangladesh has closed its border to Rohingya asylum seekers.

Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin

Despite a Nigerian government offensive against Boko Haram, over the past two weeks the extremist group has reportedly escalated its attacks. Employing scorched earth tactics, Boko Haram has razed nine villages in Borno state. The town of Chibok, where hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped in April 2014, is currently under siege by Boko Haram. The group also carried out multiple suicide attacks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, on 18 November, and perpetrated three attacks in northern Cameroon on 21 and 22 November, including an attempted suicide bombing of a camp for displaced civilians.

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Author: Shelby Vcelka

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