This post was written by STAND’s Policy Intern, Rosie Berman. Rosie is a rising junior at Clark University where she studies Political Science and Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
The Bangkok based human rights group, Fortify Rights, has reported that Burmese security forces systematically torture civilians in the Kachin state. The torture was carried out on ethnic minority Kachin civilians in an attempt to gain information about the strength and movements of Kachin Independence Army fighters. The government and the army have dismissed these accusations.
Central African Republic
The African Union (AU) has backed a UN inquiry calling for the Security Council to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides of the conflict in the Central African Republic. The UN inquiry also called for additional peacekeepers, saying that “If the international community does not react with speed and determination by sending more peace keeping forces to CAR, we may soon face a situation which will rapidly deteriorate and bring about genocide and ethnic cleansing.” Twenty-one more people were killed in the past week, including two publically executed in front of a courthouse outside of Bambari.
Almost 90,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled the war torn Central African Republic for neighboring Cameroon since December. Many of these refugees have arrived after weeks or maybe months on the road, malnourished and dangerously ill. Between 20 and 30 percent of these refugees suffer from acute malnutrition. The internationally recognised emergency threshold is 15 percent.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Prosecutors have presented enough evidence to justify putting Congolese rebel leader Bosco ‘the Terminator’ Ntaganda on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court. Ntaganda commanded the militia United of Congolese Patriots, which targeted civilians civilians belonging to non-Hema ethnic groups including the Lendu, Bira and Nande groups. He stands accused of rape, murder, and enlisting of child soldiers and will face 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
More than 100 members of the militia Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FLDR) militia surrendered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The FLDR is linked to both the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and to widespread human rights abuses in the Kivu province of the DRC. The UN mission in the DRC welcomed this move, but cautioned it would take time to see if the FLDR, which is estimated at 1,500 fighters by the UN and 4,000 according to the Rwandan government, was serious about disarming.
There is now fighting between the DRC and Rwanda across their shared border, according to the Congolese Information Minister. The Rwandan government has yet to comment. This is a developing story.
The United Nations mission in South Sudan has confirmed reports of the looting and destruction of hospitals and homes, and of sexual and gender based violence. The UN also reports that four million people–roughly one-third of the South Sudanese population–need urgent humanitarian aid, especially food. The number of severely food insecure people in South Sudan has risen to nearly 1.3 million people, an increase of 200,000 since January.
The leader of South Sudan’s rebels, former vice president Riek Machar, has said he is not completely in charge of his forces. Machar’s rebels have been accused of committing atrocities during the nearly 6 month civil war between Machar’s Nuer ethnic group and President Salva Kiir’s Dinka. The war has claimed thousands of lives and displaced over 1.3 million people. Currently, 75,000 of these displaced persons are sheltering in UN compounds in fear of ethnic violence. Despite this, there was an apparent breakthrough in the peace talks between the warring parties, with Kiir and Machar agreeing on a transitional government.
Four people have died, five wounded, and 100 more unaccounted for following consecutive militia attacks in the area of Kuru, 20 km southwest of Tawila in North Darfur. The first attack occurred last Friday, when pro-government militiamen opened fire on a group of people who were sleeping, leaving two dead. The next attack occurred when mourners for one of the dead were fired upon by another pro-government militia. The militiamen also stole money, property, and livestock.
The Syrian government has condemned the European Union’s criticism of its presidential election as a “violation” of its national sovereignty. The election returned President Bashar al-Assad to power for another seven-year term with nearly 90 percent of the vote. Voting took place only in government-controlled areas of the country and came despite three years of a brutal civil conflict which has killed more than 162,000 people.
President Assad himself tops a list of 20 sample war crimes indictments of government officials and rebels drafted by an expert group led by David Crane, ex-chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and now head of the Syria Accountability Project, and handed to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The list includes members of Syria’s military and political elite, and of Islamist rebel groups Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and al-Nusra Front.
In an unannounced visit to Lebanon, US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged more than $290m in additional aid for UN agencies and non-governmental organisations working with the nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The largest chunk of the aid, $51 million, went to helping Lebanon itself, which now hosts the highest concentration of refugees as a percentage of population in the world.
Robert Ford, the former US Ambassador to Syria who resigned in February, has called for the empowering and arming of moderate rebel groups in a strongly-worded op-ed.