Impunity Watch: IW Headlines

IW Headlines

First Phase of Syrian Evacuations Completed Following Agreement to Release Hostages

Posted: 24 Apr 2017 09:46 AM PDT

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria — On Friday, April 21st, the evacuation of thousands of Syrian civilians from four besieged areas was completed following a forty-eight-hour delay. The population transfer was resumed after an agreement to release hundreds of government detainees was reached.

30,000 people are expected to be evacuated as part of the population transfer deal (Photo courtesy of ABC News)

Friday’s evacuations marked the completion of the first phase of a population swap deal in Syria. Approximately 11,000 individuals, 8,000 from the pro-government towns of Foua and Kfarya and 3,000 from the rebel-held towns of Zabadani and Madaya, were evacuated. Forty-six buses carrying residents from Foua and Kfarya arrived at a suburb of Aleppo, and fifteen buses carrying residents and rebels from Zabadani departed for Idlib.

The fate of one of the largest population transfers in Syria’s civil war had been tied to twenty-six hostages who had been held in Iraq by members of the Shiite militia. Evacuees were forced to spend two nights in their buses after a disagreement emerged regarding the release of the hostages. The prisoners, which included members of Qatar’s royal family, were released after Qatar led negotiations for the deal. Under the deal, the Syrian regime will release 500 prisoners which will be transferred to a rebel-held area outside of Aleppo.

The evacuation plan, which has been dubbed “demographic engineering” by the opposition, entails the transfer of approximately 30,000 people from their hometowns over a period spanning sixty days. Most of those being evacuated will be from pro-government villages in the northern province of Idlib.

The agreement has been protested by rights groups, which stated that the evacuations were a “forcible displacement that is altering the country’s demographics along political and sectarian lines.” The head of the United Nations investigative panel on Syria, Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, cautioned that those evacuated into Idlib and Aleppo are “likely to be caught in escalating fighting from increasingly radicalized extremist groups.” Mr. Pinheiro noted that the panel is concerned that a “disaster” will happen in Idlib, and stated that the newly situated individuals “are under serious risk about their lives[.]” He linked the concerns to the strong presence of extremists in the areas of Idlib and western Aleppo.

The second phase of the population transfer is scheduled to begin in June.

For more information, please see:

The Washington Post—UN panel: Syria evacuees likely to be caught in new fighting—21 April 2017

ABC News—In Syria, first phase of population transfer concludes—21 April 2017

TRT World—Syria evacuation resumes after agreement on prisoner swap deal—21 April 2017

BBC News—Kidnapped Qatari hunting party of 26 freed in Iraq after 16 months—21 April 2017

Reuters—Evacuations from besieged Syrian towns end after two-day halt—21 April 2017

Syrian Accountability Project – Idlib Left Breathless: The Chemical Attack in Khan Sheikhoun

Posted: 24 Apr 2017 09:02 AM PDT

Final Idlib Left Breathless 17

Jurist: The Fist in a Velvet Glove-Hardened Humanitarianism

Posted: 24 Apr 2017 08:57 AM PDT

The Fist in a Velvet Glove-Hardened Humanitarianism

Friday 21 April 2017 at 12:16 AM ET edited by Yuxin Jiang

JURIST Guest Columnist David M. Crane, Syracuse University College of Law, discusses the necessity of use of force in the Syrian conflict…

©  WikiMedia (Voice of America News: Scott Bob report from Azaz, Syria.)

The cornerstone to the UN paradigm is to settle disputes peacefully, using force only as a last resort. Yet, restoring international peace and security sometimes requires a hardened approach to ensure that peace and security.

There are decades of international treaties, custom and precedent that support what I call hardened humanitarianism. When we have to deal with a tyrant, thug, dictator or rogue head of state who turns on his own citizens, the international community or a member state of that community should step forward with a clear and firm position-stop it or force will be used.

A tyrant only understands one thing-power. When he feels the sting of consequence for his actions that tyrant begins to focus on that use of force against him. The use of this more hardened approach in using force to stop a tyrant’s actions will cause that tyrant to pause, to consider his next steps.

Appeasement in the face of tyranny never works. History is replete with anecdotal evidence of this from the Armenian genocide to the Sudetenland. A hardened policy of seeking a peaceful dialog with the assurance of a forceful resolution, should that dialog fail, makes for a more meaningful discourse.

Our international legal and policy system has drawn lines related to protecting civilians in a conflict and banning certain type of weapons systems per se. Most, if not all, states parties have signed onto these norms. We don’t have to be histrionic when a tyrant ignores these clear lines beating our chests with empty words. When that tyrant steps over a line hit them hard, use force, show the world there are consequences!

US action against Al Qaeda after they attacked the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are examples of facing down the lawless elements of our society under the international legal concept of reprisal. In 2005 the world came together to create a doctrine that laid down a marker that declared that the international community has a right to step in to block a tyrant or head of state who is turning against his own citizens committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Called the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the doctrine was a clarion call to arms should there be alleged violations of international law. Unfortunately, R2P has fallen short of the ideal based on the political perception that it is a doctrine that can be easily used by various powers against weaker nation states for alleged violations. Despite this the principle idea of this responsibility to protect citizens from their own leaders remains.

The long and tragic kaleidoscopic conflict that is Syria has now gone beyond peaceful resolution. A hardened sense of humanity calls for continued cruise missiles strikes and other military action every time Assad crosses the lines laid out under international norms. Kaleidoscopic conflict is fast becoming a new concept in the dirty little wars of the 21st century. Old doctrines for war fighting and the legal set of rules that surround warfare that have been tested over time are being challenged at all levels. Just when planners think there is a viable course of action developing related to a conflict, such as in Syria, one thing changes and everything changes, hence the term kaleidoscopic. This impacts on what is called the deliberate planning cycle in modern parlance throwing out how international and domestic organizations plan for and deal with conflict on a day to day basis. At the end of the day we are beginning to face situations where there is no solution under current policy and doctrine. This gives us pause as to how to advise world leaders in dealing with any given conflict. This pause can allow a tragedy, such as in Syria, to go on and on without any foreseeable ending.

These dirty little wars have a direct impact on how parties to a conflict deal with civilians found in and around the battlefield. One of the key cornerstone concepts of the international humanitarian law is that civilians are to be protected and that the intentional targeting of a civilian is a war crime plain and simple. We see around the globe today parties to a conflict flagrantly ignoring this key legal concept. With no apparent repercussion to these attacks on civilians, actors move about the battlefield with impunity. Again this is the conflict in Syria, but can be seen also in the fighting in South Sudan. This is why a more hardened approach to our humanitarian principle of using force where legally appropriate will cause actors to pause and reconsider wholesale destruction in any given conflict.

This hardened approach must be done under law or we weaken our international norms, yet it must be done. Enough is enough in Syria. States parties who for whatever reason give that tyrant support should also be dealt with for their aiding and abetting of international crimes with legal sanctions. We charged President Charles Taylor with aiding and abetting a conflict, among other modes of liability, in next door Sierra Leone, and he was convicted on those charges I signed in an indictment against him on an aiding and abetting theory. The aiding and abetting mode of liability in international criminal law is alive and well and certainly can be touted as a possible ramification for a country who aids a party to a conflict that gasses its own people with sarin. Russia’s complicity in that gas attack sets Putin and his regime up for political sanction and possible legal action in the future.

Certainly, dialog and appropriate diplomatic discourse should continue. An end to the Syrian conflict must be the goal, hopefully a peaceful end, yet the hardened fist of a legal use of force to protect humanity should be a viable course to bolster that dialog. The missile strike on the airfield in Syria changed the political discourse on how the world’s is looking at the quagmire that is the Syrian conflict. Regardless of how one feels about the motives or the rationale behind the strike, it is posited that Assad, with the advice of Russia and Iran will think carefully about another sarin gas attack. If they know that force could be used again in reprisal for clear violations of international norms such as gas, perhaps they will refrain. This is the outcome that is hoped in using this new concept of hardened humanitarianism.

Suggested citation: David M. Crane, The Fist in a Velvet Glove-Hardened Humanitarianism, JURIST – Forum, Apr. 20, 2017,

This article was prepared for publication by Yuxin Jiang, a Senior Editor for JURIST Commentary service. Please direct any questions or comments to her at

U.N. Peacekeepers Ran Sex-Ring in Haiti

Posted: 24 Apr 2017 06:00 AM PDT

By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America


Port-au-Prince, HAITI — Over 100 U.N. Peacekeepers stationed in Haiti are implicated in a child sex ring.  According to an investigation which focused on the presence of the Peacekeepers across the world over the past 12 years, over 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse by Peacekeepers were reported.  From 2004 to 2007 in Haiti, over 134 Sri Lankan Peacekeepers exploited an average of nine children per day.  While 144 Peacekeepers were sent home after an internal U.N. report on the abuse, none have been sent to jail.

A woman who was raped and impregnated by a Peacekeeper wipes her tears during an interview (Photo Courtesy of AP).

One teenage Haitian boy said he was gang-raped in 2011 by Uruguayan Peacekeepers who filmed the assault on a cell phone.  The report also revealed that dozens of Haitian women were also raped, while dozens of others engaged in “survival sex” with the Peacekeepers.  One victim girl told U.N. investigators that from ages 12-15 she had sex with about 50 Peacekeepers, including a “Commandant” who paid her 75 cents.

Haitian lawyer Mario Joseph is working towards getting compensation for victims of a cholera outbreak, which has been linked to Nepalese Peacekeepers, that killed an estimated 10,000 people.  Joseph is also trying to get child support for a dozen Haitian women who were impregnated by   Peacekeepers.  Joseph asked people to “Imagine if the U.N. was going to the United States and raping children and bringing cholera,” noting that “[h]uman rights aren’t just for rich white people.”

U.S. Senator Bob Corker agreed with Joseph, and recalled his own disgust at the hearing of the U.N. sexual abuse cases uncovered last year in Africa.  Corker commented that “If [he] heard that a U.N. peacekeeping mission was coming near [his] home in Chattanooga, [he would] be on the first plane out of here to go back and protect [his] family.”

This past March, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced several new measures to help combat sexual abuse by Peacekeepers.  However, the report had little impact and never materialized.

This sex-ring scandal comes on the heels of the April 13th vote by the U.N. Security Council to end the Peacekeeping mission in Haiti.  On the same day, Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., mentioned the scandal in her remarks to the U.N.  Haley asked “[w]hat do we say to these kids? Did these peacekeepers keep them safe?”

The U.N. has no jurisdiction over Peacekeepers, which means the countries who provide the troops are left responsible for their punishment.


For more information, please see:

Telesur — UN Peacekeepers Gave Haitian Kids Snacks to be Part of Sex Ring — 15 April 2017

Foreign Policy — U.N. Peacekeepers Ran a Child Sex Ring in Haiti — 14 April 2017

Independent — UN Peacekeepers in Haiti Implicated in Child Sex Ring — 14 April 2017

Associated Press — AP Exclusive: UN Child Sex Ring Left Victims but no Arrests –12 April 2017



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Author: Sarah Lafen

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