Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: R2P in Focus: Accountability and R2P: Achieving Justice for the Victims of Atrocities

R2P in Focus

R2P in Focus is a monthly publication from the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect designed to highlight recent events and political developments concerning the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

Accountability and R2P: Achieving Justice for the Victims of Atrocities

Mass atrocity crimes continue to be committed against civilians in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and several other countries.  Accountability is not only essential for victims of past atrocities but can also act as a catalyst for post-conflict reconciliation and play a key role in preventing recurrence.

In the past year international justice mechanisms have found several notable individuals guilty of command responsibility for atrocities. Examples include the March 2016 genocide conviction of Radovan Karadžić by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the May 2016 war crimes conviction of former Chadian President Hissene Habre by the Extraordinary African Chambers, and the conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba and Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali respectively.

In recent crisis situations, governments and the international community have utilized a variety of means to ensure accountability for mass atrocity crimes. During 2015 the transitional government of CAR passed a law on the establishment of a Special Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute atrocities committed in the country since 2003. In South Sudan’s August 2015 peace agreement, parties to the conflict agreed to the creation of a Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS), which would include domestic and international personnel, to establish responsibility for atrocities perpetrated during the country’s recent civil war.

Meanwhile, the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) has authorized Commissions of Inquiry and fact-finding missions to document evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, most notably in Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Burundi and Eritrea. On 24 March the HRC mandated the creation of an independent fact-finding mission to investigate crimes perpetrated by the security forces in Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine State, during “clearance operations” that started in October 2016. On 21 December 2016 the UN General Assembly also passed a resolution to establish an independent international mechanism to collect evidence of atrocities in Syria, in order to enable future prosecutions of perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

While some of these mechanisms have faced significant constraints in resources, and some continue to face political opposition, efforts to ensure accountability for grave international crimes should remain a global priority. The international community should continue to support the battle against impunity, including through providing funding for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for accountability in Syria and encouraging the AU to establish the HCSS.

The Fight Against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Da’esh to Justice

On 9 March the Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom, Iraq, Belgium, Canada and Germany, in association with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, co-hosted a high-level event entitled “The Fight Against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Da’esh to Justice.” Participants were briefed by the co-hosts along with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Zainab Bangura, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador and Yazidi Genocide survivor, Ms. Nadia Murad Basee Taha, and Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, Ms. Amal Clooney. Global Centre Executive Director, Dr. Simon Adams, moderated the discussion.

Speakers focused their remarks on efforts to hold Da’esh accountable for their crimes in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, including under universal jurisdiction. Dr. Adams, Ms. Murad and Ms. Clooney all called for the Iraqi government to request the UN Security Council establish an international mechanism to investigate Da’esh’s crimes in the country, including the genocide against the Yazidis.

Seventh Annual Meeting of the Global Network of R2P Focal Points

The seventh annual meeting of the Global Network of R2P Focal Points will be held in Doha, Qatar, from 24 to 25 June 2017. The Government of the State of Qatar will co-host the meeting along with the Global Centre. More than 50 R2P Focal Points from around the world were invited to attend.

Any Other Business

  • Sixth Anniversary of the Conflict in Syria. On 15 March the conflict in Syria entered its seventh year. Violations of human rights, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, have become a daily occurrence in Syria. On 28 February, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution aiming to hold perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria accountable. This was the sixth double veto by Russia and China of a UNSC resolution on Syria since 2011. Russia also independently vetoed another Syria resolution on 8 October 2016. Click here to view our statement.
  •  Joint NGO Letter to the UN Security Council on the Situation in Burundi. On 8 March the Global Centre joined 18 other NGOs to call on the UN Security Council to impose targeted sanctions on perpetrators of human rights abuses in Burundi.

Calendar Highlights

7 April

International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda

17 April

Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day

24-25 April

Seventh Meeting of the Global Network of R2P Focal Points

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Author: Shelby Vcelka

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