The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Weekly News Brief 4/18/2013



On Monday, a Lebanese official announced that Lebanon will send a letter of complaint to the Arab League over recent violations of its territory along the Syrian border, urging the UN to address the increasing refugee crisis. Hezbollah also condemned the violations of Lebanese territory and blamed Syrian rebel groups for one attack. On Sunday, rockets fired into the Hermel region of Lebanon from Syria, killing two and wounding others. UN diplomats said Tuesday that the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, may cut ties with the Arab League.

According to diplomats at the UN, Brahimi has stated that the Arab League’s moves to recognize the opposition have undermined his role as a neutral mediator. Also on Tuesday, Belgian police arrested six men on charges of aiding in jihadist recruitment for Syrian rebel groups.

Russia and Turkey remain split on ending the Syrian crisis ahead of a meeting of a core group of the Friends of the Syrian People, a cooperative of states and organizations that meets periodically to discuss the Syrian crisis outside of the UN, scheduled for Saturday. Russia has denounced the Friends of the Syrian People as making a negative contribution to the Geneva decision and to fostering dialogue in the civil war. On Wednesday, differences emerged in the testimonies given before Congress by Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel over the coherence of the Syrian opposition. Secretary Kerry expressed a more optimistic view over the possibilities of supplying arms to moderates within the Syrian opposition, while Secretary Hagel, along with General Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cautioned that the situation within the opposition had become more confused.

Last Thursday, the Syrian National Coalition stated that Syrian government forces massacred 60 civilians in what the Coalition described as revenge killings for rebel gains in the area. The reported massacre took place in the town of Sunamayn, which has seen heavy fighting between government and rebel forces in recent days and is near a strategic highway between Damascus and Dara’a. The same day, the Local Coordination Committees, a network of Syrian activists working on the ground, denounced al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s call for an Islamic state in Syria as “blatant interference in Syria’s internal affairs.” On Tuesday, rebels regained ground lost on Sunday to Syrian government forces in a battle for control over the main highway leading to Aleppo and a truce was held in the northern Aleppo district of al-Sakhour to allow Red Crescent workers and members of an opposition local council to collect 31 mostly-civilian bodies. Opposition groups accuse government snipers of killing the civilians. An activist group also reported Tuesday that a government rocket attack killed 7, including children, in a village located between Homs and the Lebanese border.


According to Reuters, the European Union will lift all sanctions “with the exception of the embargo on arms” on Burma next week. This follows the easing of sanctions by the United States over past two years in recognition of Burma’s recent democratic reforms. Rights groups are expected to strongly criticise the move, particularly following recent sectarian violence against Muslims in central Burma that some have called genocide.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi broke her two-week silence last week on the violence in central Burma that targeted Muslims, leaving 43 dead and 13,000 displaced. Suu Kyi advocated for the “rule of law and security for people” as essential to deal with both current and possible future violence.

Following Suu Kyi’s comments, three Muslims were sentenced to 14 years in prison for their role in the recent outbreak of violence. The three people included the owner and two employees of a gold shop where the violence began. According to the court, fighting broke out over the appraisal of a gold hair clip that was allegedly damaged at the store. The fighting quickly spread throughout the town of Meikhtila and, eventually, the region. As of yet, no Buddhists have been convicted.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Two Congolese military officers have been suspended for their implication in mass rapes and other human rights violations committed in Minova in the east in late November 2012. Investigations found that two FARDC units engaged in these atrocities, and in February, MONUSCO sent a letter to FARDC’s chief of staff requesting formal suspension of these units. Last week, the government announced that several arrests had been made as an interim disciplinary measure, and that a number of officers had been suspended and put at the disposal of the Military Prosecutor.

As a result of instability in the Central African Republic, there are now over 30,000 refugees in the DRC, 1,000 in Cameroon, and nearly 7,000 in Chad.


Violent battles between the rebel group Sudan Liberation Army -Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) over control of Labado and Muhajeriya in East Darfur broke out last week causing about 36,000 civilians to flee to UNAMID bases for protection.The SLA-MM held control of Labado for a short period of time before the SAF forces ousted them. Following the recapture of Labado, the SAF said rebels caused much chaos and looting in the city during their control. SLA-MM in turn blamed the army and allied militias for killing 10 civilians during the town’s takeover.

Fighting between the Misseriya and Salamat tribes resumed in Central Darfur on Thursday.  The fighting came one day after leaders from both groups signed a ceasefire. The conflict has already caused 10,000 people to be displaced. The spokesman of the SAF announced the recapture of the Dandor garrison near South Kordofan’s capital from rebel forces on Wednesday. SPLM-N claims it shelled the headquarters of the SAF headquarters in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, in response to the airstrikes on civilian areas by the army.  On Monday, SPLM-N forces had taken control of Dandor garrison, and they plan to regroup and attack the government even more “violently” in the future.

Direct talks between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement- North (SPLM-N) to settle the South Kordofan and Blue Nile conflict will start on April 23, announced the rebel group on Monday.

South Sudan

An independent Swiss Research Group, the Small Arms Survey, issued a report that affirms that Sudan has supplied weapons and ammunition to rebels fighting South Sudan’s government.  Sightings of Sudanese aircraft dropping weapons in South Sudan, as well as the discovery of new Sudanese and foreign manufactured arms offer proof to the suspicions of the South Sudan government.  The report also explains that the SPLM supports the SPLM-N but with significantly less arms support than the Sudanese government has offered South Sudanese rebel groups.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has withdrawn some powers from his vice president, possibly because he is a likely challenger for the ruling party leadership. Kiir, who has led the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) since 2005, also halted a national reconciliation initiative that had been launched by Vice President Riak Machar, which had been viewed as an attempt to raise his political profile. The two men were on opposing sides of a split within the SPLM during much of the 1983-2005 civil war that ended after the two factions reunited.

The Sudan oil ministry said Sunday that the first crude oil from South Sudan reached its territory, bringing both impoverished nations closer to billions of dollars in revenue after a dispute over fees. This good news comes shortly after presidents Al Bashir and Kiir met in Juba last week, where they both agreed to restart trade relations. The discussions unfortunately did not yield a resolution to controversial status of Abyei.

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