The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

News Roundup, July 17th

This post was written by STAND’s Policy Intern Rosie Berman. Rosie is a junior at Clark University where she studies Political Science and Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 


Thailand’s military government plans to deport over 100,000 Burmese refugees. These refugees have lived in camps along the Thai-Burmese border for two decades. Many of them fled from Karen State in southeast Burma, where the Burmese military fought for decades against ethnic armed groups. Since Burma’s quasi-civilian government began signing ceasefire deals with the armed groups in 2012, the refugees have faced increasing pressure to return home.

Five journalists were sentenced to ten years in prison with hard labor for for publishing an article earlier this year about the possible existence of a chemical-weapons factory in central Burma. This ruling comes on the heels of President Thein Sein’s boast during a radio address that Burma’s media environment was one of the freest in Southeast Asia. However, Sein had also threatened in the same radio address that “[If] media freedom threatens national security instead of helping the nation, I want to warn all that we [the Burmese government] will take effective action under existing laws.” It appears that for at least these five journalists, Sein’s threat has become a reality.

Central African Republic

Seleka has reinstated former President Michel Djotodia as their leader. International pressure forced Djotodia to step down from his role as Central African Republic president and Seleka leader after he failed to curb the violence which broke out after he took power last year. Djotodia’s reinstatement risks complicating the peace talks due to take place in the neighboring Republic of Congo later this month between Seleka leaders and the anti-balaka militia that they have fought for months. Meanwhile, UN experts have reported that the Central African Republic (CAR) is now de facto partitioned between Seleka and anti-balaka, with anti-balaka controlling diamonds in the west and Seleka controlling the eastern gold mines.

Amnesty International has identified state and nonstate leaders from the Central African Republic (CAR) for their roles in violence which has killed thousands and forced nearly a million people to flee their homes over the past year. These leaders include former presidents François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia, Christian anti-balaka militia coordinator Levy Yakété and Seleka rebel commander Noureddine Adam. The report,  “Central African Republic: Time for Accountability,” calls upon CAR interim President Catherine Samba Panza’s government to bring offenders to justice with the support of the African Union and the international community.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

On July 8, President Obama issued an executive order that amends Executive Order 13413 of October 27, 2006, to take additional steps to assist in the protection of peace, security, and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This new executive order will expand the sanctions criteria to cover individuals or groups who undermine democratic processes or institutions, commit targeted violence against civilians, recruit child soldiers, obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid, attack international peacekeepers, or fund any of these through the illicit trade in natural resources.

South Sudan

Former South Sudanese Vice President turned rebel leader Riek Machar met with Djiboutian president Ismail Omar Guelleh in Djibouti on Sunday. Machar was received warmly and the two discussed a wide range of issues including the progress made and challenges faced in the IGAD-mediated peace process in Addis Ababa. The two leaders stressed importance of ending the war and promoting economic ties between the two countries. Last month, Machar visited Kenya and South Africa. His meetings with respective leaders there also appear to have gone well.

The European Union has imposed sanctions on two South Sudanese military leaders, rebel chief Peter Gadet and army commander Santino Deng, for breaking ceasefire agreements. General Gadet, an ethnic Nuer who defected from the army to join Riek Machar’s rebels, is accused of leading an attack on Bentiu in April, in which around 200 civilians were killed, despite a ceasefire agreement. Mr. Deng led the recapture of Bentiu, and so also broke the ceasefire, according to the EU. Both men are subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Friday that the number of refugees fleeing South Sudan for neighboring countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda, is expected to reach as many as 715,000 by the year’s end. This is more than double the number envisioned when UNHCR began a funding appeal four months ago for South Sudanese refugees. The agency revised its funding appeal to $658 million from the original $371 million and warned that without urgent contributions, the consequences could be drastic.

South Sudanese rebels have held what they described as a successful meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week to discuss legal and human rights related issues. In its official deliberation, the group outlined commitments to protect, defend and promote human rights in the liberated areas and the wider state of South Sudan, enlighten citizens and fellow rebels about the International Conventions on laws of war, and embark on serious and critical reforms of the legal system in the country. Whether these commitments will change rebel actions on the ground, which have been marked by atrocities, is yet to be seen.


Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir has renewed a promise to end rebellion and tribal conflicts in the country by the end of 2014. At the same time, he has denounced criticism directed at the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) from some political groups. The RSF, widely known as the Janjaweed, were originally mobilized by the Sudanese government to quell the insurgency that broke out in Darfur in 2003. The Janjaweed are responsible for numerous atrocities including the destruction of villages, mass killings, and rapes of civilians.

There are currently over 2.3 million people displaced in Darfur according to a survey conducted by the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) from December 2013 to April 2014.. Among them are 82,530 orphans, 34,099 widows, and 52,352 infirm and elderly. The displaced reside in 46 camps and in 68 settlements not recognized as camps. Over 3,000 destroyed villages were also counted during the survey period.


Seven fighters from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and at least 16 Sunni Islamist rebels were killed in fighting in a mountainous area on the Syria-Lebanon border. Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters have driven rebels from major towns along the border with Lebanon in the past year. This has helped to shore up Assad’s control in a corridor of territory stretching north from Damascus and driven remaining rebels into the mountains at the Lebanese border.

Islamic State has taken control of the rebel-held portion of the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. Rival rebel fighters either changed sides or fled. According to activists on the ground, Islamic State controls between 95 and 98% of Deir Ezzor province. The Assad regime controls half of Deir Ezzor city, a handful of villages, and the military airport.

Despite objections by the Syrian government, the United Nations Security Council voted 15 to 0 on Monday to authorize cross-border convoys of emergency aid for millions of deprived Syrian civilians in rebel-held areas, without prior approval by the Syrian authorities. Under the resolution, which is legally binding, United Nations convoys can enter Syria through two crossings in Turkey, one in Iraq and one in Jordan, all beyond the Syrian government’s control. Nearly half of Syria’s population — 10.8 million people — need assistance. Roughly half of these people live in rebel-held areas.


Week of 7/7 News Roundup

This post was written by STAND’s Policy Intern Rosie Berman. Rosie is a junior at Clark University where she studies Political Science and Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 


Two people were killed and more than a dozen injured in clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city. The violence was sparked when Buddhist gangs attacked Muslim businesses, cars, and a mosque with makeshift weapons, enraged after the alleged rape of a Buddhist woman by Muslim men. Mandalay is the home of the extremist Buddhist monk Wirathu, who appears to have been instrumental in spreading the rape rumors that led to the latest violence through his Facebook page.

Fighting between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Burmese Army in Papun District killed one and wounded one. KNLA sources said the fighting broke out because government troops entered Karen controlled territory. The Burmese army said this incident would not derail the peace process between the Karen and the government, but that all local units would need to follow an agreed code-of-conduct for the sake of emerging peace in the country.

On July 3rd, a soldier from the Burmese army’s Marrawaddy outpost severely tortured an elderly Rohingya man on a new expressway that runs from the Maungdaw-Buthidaung highway to Ahngumaw Village in Rathedaung Township, Arakan State. A Maungdaw Township officer had recently issued an order prohibiting Rohingya from crossing or using the road. Individuals who disobeyed that order will be punished. Village doctors treating the victim say that both army personnel and Buddhist extremists frequently harass, torture, and rob Rohingya villagers with impunity.

Central African Republic

Ugandan troops hunting for fighters loyal to Joseph Kony in the Central African Republicclashed with Seleka fighters, resulting in casualties on both sides. The Ugandan army claims that Seleka is “in bed” with Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and accuses the CAR rebel group of forcing civilians to provide food and medicine to the LRA, and trading ivory and minerals with Kony’s troops. Seleka accuses the Ugandan mission in CAR of plundering the country of gold, diamonds, and ivory.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

On July 3, Dr. Jill Biden arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to highlight the importance of girls’ education and women’s participation in government, the economy, and civil society in accelerating economic development, improving health and educational outcomes, strengthening democratic governance, and fostering peace and security. Dr. Biden will meet with women entrepreneurs, political leaders, girl students, survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence, and boys who were removed from armed groups. Her visit is meant to reinforce the US’s government’s commitment to assist women in their efforts to promote security, recovery, and growth in the DRC.

A UN Security Council committee blacklisted the Ugandan Islamist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) for recruitment and use of child soldiers, killing, maiming and sexually abusing women and children, and attacks on UN peacekeepers. The group, which has been sheltering in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since the mid-’90s, would now be subjected to an arms embargo, asset freezes, and travel bans. Congolese officials hold the ADF responsible for the killing of at least 21 people in villages near Beni in North Kivu province in December.

The United Nations reports that more than 130,000 citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been deported from Brazzaville, capital of the neighboring Republic of Congo. Additional UN reports say that deportees have suffered physical abuse, sexual violence, and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of Congo-Brazzaville’s police

South Sudan

South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, has called on African leaders to take a leading role in the resolution of his country’s crisis. Kiir made these remarks at the six corridor summit held in Kigali, Rwanda, which was attended by a number of regional leaders and heads of state. Kiir also pledged his administration’s full commitment to ensuring a speedy resolution to the conflict. “I wish to assure the region and the rest of the world that I am doing my best,” he said.

South Sudan’s Council of Ministers has passed an order that anyone who violates the curfew in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, will be shot dead if caught. The curfew, which lasts from 11p.m. to 6a.m. was imposed when the fighting broke out in December. Activists believe the new crackdown is a tactic to divert attention away from the real reasons people are committing crimes- desperation, poverty and insecurity- which have all been exacerbated by nearly seven months of conflict.


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was invited to Qatar by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Over the course of two days, Bashir and Thani will exchange views on developing bilateral ties and discuss regional current events. Qatar has long been one of Sudan’s few political and financial backers. With conflict continuing in Darfur and Sudan’s economy increasingly troubled, Bashir will need what ever support he can get.

Three student activists detained by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Khartoum embarked on a hunger strike on Friday to protest a renewed detention period of three months. The activists were arrested on May 12 without charges, against the backdrop of student demonstrations at the University of Khartoum. The mothers of two of the students reported to Radio Dabanga that their sons had been tortured.

Pro-government militiamen have reportedly killed four students, and plundered the town of Kutum in North Darfur. The militias have also tightened their control on vital roads in the state, imposing fees and levies at the toll gates they have randomly set up. Their sharpened control of these roads has coincided with an uptake in violence, abductions and looting of vehicles.


Syrian government troops advanced in and around Aleppo on Monday in what appears to be an attempt to lay siege to rebel-held parts of the country’s largest city. An activist says that the aim of government forces is to try capture Aleppo’s northern district of Handarat to be able to further close in on rebels. The advance comes two months after hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters withdrew from parts of Homs that they had held for nearly two years despite a government blockade. Homs, once the center of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, is currently under government control.

Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/L) currently holds all of Syria’s main oil and gas fields. These include Syria’s largest oil field, the al-Omar, on the border of Iraq, and the Tanak oil field, which is located in the Sheiytat desert area in the east of Deir Ezzor. Al-Omar field has changed hands several times in the course of Syria’s three-year conflict. It was held by the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front before Islamic State took it over.

Women, Conflict, and Peacebuilding: Can the United States be a Leader?

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. These views do not necessarily represent the views of STAND.

One in three women worldwide has experienced gender-based violence in her lifetime. Hillary Rodham Clinton surely sought to reduce that number when she created the post of Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues during her tenure as Secretary of State. On June 18, I attended an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, at which the Honorable Catherine M. Russell, current US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues spoke about her work advancing policy and programs related to the issues women face worldwide. Ambassador Russell devoted a significant portion of her lecture to a discussion of how conflict affects women, and how women contribute to the peacebuilding process. I am taking this opportunity to both expand on Ambassador Russell’s discussion of women, war, and peace, and consider whether the United States can act as a leader in these areas.

Women in Conflict

We tend to view the male experience of conflict as the universal measure. However, how women experience conflict is not the same, and their experiences should not, and must not be discounted. After all, women make up 80% of all refugees and internally displaced persons, and disproportionately face rape and other forms of sexual violence. Rape is frequently used during war as a tactic of terror and intimidation and can also be used as a tactic of genocide, where women are forcibly impregnated with children belonging to the perpetrators’ group in a further, and insidious, attempt to erase the targeted group. Women and girls also may be kidnaped for use as child soldiers, or as sex and domestic slaves by fighting forces.

Women are not only the victims of violence but perpetuate it as well. Women serve in direct combat as members of both regular armies and irregular armed groups. They also perform more traditional roles in support of combat troops, such as cooking and nursing.

In her talk, Ambassador Russell focused on one main US initiative designed to protect women in times of conflict: Safe from the Start. Safe from the Start a US initiative announced in September, 2013, that provides funding for humanitarian agencies to to hire specialized staff, launch new programs, and develop innovative methods to protect women and girls at the onset of crises around the world. Safe from the Start hopes to prevent the United States and its partners from having to ‘play catch up’ in providing these vital services after a crisis begins.

Women in Peacebuilding

Once conflict ends, women are largely excluded from formal peace processes. Ambassador Russell mentioned that since 1992, fewer than 3% of mediators and 8% of negotiators were women. When women are excluded, important issues that women care most about — but affect all of society — such as family, education, food security, and violence against women, tend to get ignored. Ambassador Russell described how the US government recognized this dynamic prior to the Geneva II talks, and provided training for women’s civil society groups attending the talks. This was a wise decision on the part of the US government, as peace cannot be made or kept when 50% of the population remains disempowered and the issues that they care about are unaddressed.

Peacebuilding must also provide assistance to women who served as combatants during the conflict period. According to a UNICEF report, female combatants of all ages tend to be excluded from demobilization programs, and to face greater stigma within their communities after hostilities cease. Ambassador Russell did not mention demobilization efforts that included or focused specifically on women, or US support for such. I believe that if the United States wants to be a leader in providing peacebuilding assistance that includes women and focuses on their needs, it cannot neglect demobilization efforts.

Achieving Justice

Ambassador Russell also discussed the importance of ending the culture of impunity around sexual violence. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, mobile courts travel to remote locations to prosecute perpetrators of gender-based violence. Those convicted arepunished with up to 20 years in prison and sometimes financial settlements are awarded to victims.The courts are staffed by Congolese lawyers and judges who are trained by international legal organizations. Not only do these mobile courts bring justice to women who rarely achieve it and work to end the atmosphere of impunity around sexual violence, but they help build a legal system for a post-conflict DRC by training Congolese legal personnel.

The United States is also working to end the culture of impunity. In his remarks at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict last month, Secretary of State John Kerryannounced that the United States both refuses to tolerate peace agreements that provide amnesty for rape, and has introduced a ban on visas for perpetrators and enablers of sexual violence.

Can the United States be a Leader?

Ambassador Russell emphasized that the United States must serve as a global leader in the battle to eradicate sexual violence and empower women. Leadership means many things. However,  the majority of leadership trainings I have attended (which is a lot) have stressed that a leader must lead by example. How can the United States lead by example in the global fight to eradicate sexual violence on and off the battlefield and end the culture of impunity around it when in the US Military, a woman serving in Iraq or Afghanistan was more likely to be raped by a fellow servicemember than be killed in the line of fire, less than five percent of all sexual assaults are put forward for prosecution, and less than a third of those cases result in imprisonment? How can the United States act as a global leader in women’s empowerment when 138 Congressmen and 22 Senators voted against the reauthorization of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act? And how can the United States assist women in taking control of their lives when attempts to restrict access to abortion and other forms of birth control continue to occur at both the state and federal level?

From Safe from the Start to empowerment of civil society groups to bans on visas for perpetrators and enablers of sexual violence, Ambassador Russell offered numerous examples of United States initiatives to assist women in both conflict and peacebuilding. Although commendable, these initiatives is not enough if the United States wants to be a global leader. If the United States wants to lead the struggle for global women’s rights, it must lead by example. If it wants to lead by example, it must improve how women are treated at home.


Resources on Women in Conflict:

Iraq: The Women Left Behind (Al Jazeera)

Secretary of State John Kerry at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

We Are Still Here: Women on the Frontlines of Syria’s Conflict (Human Rights Watch)

Women, War and Peace (PBS)

News Roundup Week of 6/30

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. 


New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has produced a documentary detailing the plight of the Rohingya in Burma’s Rakhine state. The documentary itself can be found here. Kristof’s answers to viewers’ questions can be found here.

Fighting in Burma’s Shan state between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has reportedly killed at least four government soldiers this week, Kachin rebel sources say. James Lum Dau, the deputy chief of foreign affairs for the KIA’s political wing, told the Irrawaddy Magazine that government troops had not only clashed with the KIA, but with other ethnic armed groups such as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). Lum Dau warned that there would be no nationwide ceasefire agreement if the government continued to attack ethnic minorities while simultaneously negotiating peace proposals. “So long as the government is insincere in the peace process, there will be no peace.” He said.

Central African Republic

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that thousands of people have fled this past week from deadly attacks by various armed groups in the Central African Republic town of Bambari. At least 45 people have been killed and scores wounded in the attacks and counterattacks. UNHCR staff in Bambari say that the town has been reduced to a ghost city, and that Christian neighborhoods have been virtually emptied of residents from previous attacks. Displacement sites, however, are packed with people.

The head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, urged the Security Council to to take strong action to help restore the rule of law in the Central African Republic and bolster women’s participation, leadership and protection. Women in the Central African Republic face rape and sexual slavery perpetrated by armed groups. These crimes often occur during house-to-house searches, at unauthorized roadblocks, at military camps, and as part of sectarian violence. Ninety percent of internally displaced person camps lack services for survivors of gender-based violence. The very few services that are available assist hundreds of victims of rape every month.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Autopsies on five bodies returned by Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo showthey were likely executed. The Rwandan government says the men were killed in combat after they attacked Rwandan soldiers on its territory. This comes in the wake of clashes between the two states early in June.

The Rwandan Hutu militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), iscontinuing to disarm, with 83 soldiers surrendering their weapons last week, and another 105 doing so the week before. The group has been active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the past 20 years and has committed numerous crimes against civilians in the DRC during that time. One of its leaders, Sylvestre Mudacumura, is also wanted by the International Criminal Court because of his role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

South Sudan

The US based Fund for Peace has named South Sudan the most fragile state in the world, citing chronic instability, fractured leadership and growing ethnic conflict. Somalia had held the title since 2008.

Former South Sudanese political prisoner, Ezekial Lol Gatkuoth, has joined Riek Machar’s rebels. Gatkuoth, a senior officer in the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), had been detained with ten others following the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in mid-December last year on charges related to an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

South Sudan’s upper house of parliament has ratified a peace agreement signed between the government and Jonglei-based rebel leader David Yau Yau. Yau Yau launched military campaigns in the Pibor county of Jonglei state after he lost elections for Jonglei’s state assembly seat in 2010 and accused the SPLM of rigging the polls. He rejoined the government in 2011, but rebelled again a year later. The South Sudanese government believes the agreement is the best way to address development failures in Pibor county.


Sudanese troops and rebels have been engaged in heavy fighting near the South Kordofan state capital of Kadugli. Reports of casualties could not be immediately confirmed and analysts say to treat figures given by either side with caution. Like the Darfur conflict, the three-year-old South Kordofan war has been fuelled by complaints among non-Arab groups of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi travelled to Khartoum to meet with his Sudanese counterpart, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, last week. The two discussed both bilateral and regional issues. Afterwards, the two countries’ foreign ministers issued a joint statement saying that they will form a joint committee in the upcoming three months to enhance bilateral relations. The article made no mention, however, of how Sisi’s visit with Bashir, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, may further damage Sisi’s already poor human rights record.

Syria and Iraq

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has declared an Islamic Caliphate in an area straddling Iraq and Syria. The group has also dropped Iraq and Syria from its name, calling itself simply ‘The Islamic State.’ A spokesperson for the Islamic State said the group’s chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is the leader of the new caliphate and called on Muslims everywhere, not just those in areas under the organisation’s control, to swear loyalty to him. The spokesperson of the Grand Mufti of Egypt, however, has dismissed ISIS’s caliphate as an illusion. “What they [ISIS] called the Islamic caliphate is merely a response to the chaos which has happened in Iraq as a direct result of the inflammation of sectarian conflict in the entire region,” the spokesperson said.

President Obama requested $500 million from Congress to train and equip appropriately vetted members of the Syrian opposition. However, military and State Department officials have indicated that there were not yet any specific programs to arm and train the rebels the money would fund. Administration officials could not specify which moderate Syrian opposition members they intended to train or support, or where these rebel fighters would be trained.

At least two people were killed in a car bomb blast at a market in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, as residents shopped a day before the start of the holy month of Ramadan. The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local activists believe ISIS was behind the attack, due to the group’s rivalry with other rebel groups in the area. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has also reported that ISIS fighters crucified eight men said to be rival rebel fighters in the town square of Deir Hafer in Syria’s Aleppo province on Saturday as a warning to others.

News Roundup Week of 6/23

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.


A UN envoy to Burma has reported appalling conditions in displacement camps which hold around 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims. According to the envoy, the displaced Rohingya had wholly inadequate access to basic services including health, education, water and sanitation. In March, extremist Buddhists who accused international aid groups of bias towards Muslims, raided warehouses and destroyed property causing most of the humanitarian organisations which provided vital assistance to the displaced Rohingya to pull out their staff. The UN says only 60% of the workers have been able to return.

Burma’s minister of religious affairs was fired by President Thein Sein last week. The dismissal of Minister of Religious Affairs Hsan Hsint came in the wake of a high-profile police raid on a Buddhist monastery which angered many Buddhist monks, including the popular Ashin Wirathu. Wirathu is known to give impassioned speeches which contain anti-Muslim rhetoric. Additionally, the chief minister of the Rakhine state (where conflict between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority is rife), Hla Maung Tin, has been ‘allowed to retire.’ The phrase is often used as a euphemism meaning a minister was asked to leave. Win Myaing, spokesperson of the Rakhine state government, declined to comment on the chief minister’s retirement.

Central African Republic

A Christian militia has attacked a Muslim village near Bambari, killing 18 residents. This attack comes just two weeks after fighting between Christian militias and Muslim gunmen based in the area killed 21. The International Federation for Human Rights reports that the tit-for-tat violence evidenced by this attack threaten to create the conditions for a genocide reminiscent of Bosnia in the 1990s.

The United States pledged an additional $51 million in humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic (CAR). This new assistance brings the total U.S. humanitarian funding for the crisis to nearly $118 million in Fiscal Year 2014, helping people inside CAR as well as refugees in neighboring countries. The aid will provide clean water, food, emergency health services and relief supplies. It will also support programs that identify lost children and reunite them with surviving caregivers, create safe spaces for displaced children, and fund psychological services.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

World Refugee Day was June 20. This week’s section on the Democratic Republic of the Congo will highlight the DRC’s refugee population. Since 2000, around 500,000 people have fled from violence and instability in the DRC. Most live in neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda.

All statistics come from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

South Sudan

South Sudan’s rebels have boycotted the peace talks between them and the government in protest against what they consider unfair processes in the selection of other stakeholders in the negotiations. Rebel spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, argued that the selection process of the civil society organizations and faith-based groups included in the talks as stakeholders was biased, as groups who fled the country and now live abroad were excluded from participation, and that the groups picked are dominated by the pro-government societies from Juba.

Doctors Without Borders reports ‘catastrophic’ conditions at the United Nations base in Beitnu, South Sudan, where more than 40,000 people have taken refuge from rampant violence. The group says three children under five are dying each day, with most deaths linked to acute diarrhea, pneumonia, or malnutrition. Clean drinking water is also hard to come by at the base, as flooding and violence have made it difficult for water trucks to reach the area, forcing people to drink from puddles contaminated with human waste.


Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to abandon her Christian faith and then released on Monday, was rearrested with her husband and two children at the Khartoum airport on Tuesday while trying to leave the country. Ms. Ibrahim’s father was Muslim but she had been raised a Christian by her mother after her father abandoned her family when she was six.

The Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) launched a Justice Committee, and a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on Monday. DRA chairman Dr Tijani Sese cited the successes of past Justice and Truth and Reconciliation Committees in South Africa, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Morocco, and Argentina, and called upon the committees to assume their full responsibilities towards achieving justice, and assessing the root causes of the conflict in Darfur. However, Darfuris living in displacement camps have expressed no confidence in the new committees, citing that the committees cannot achieve their goals while militias supported by the Sudanese government continue to systematically burn villages and displace people.

After surrounding the South Kordofan village of Lagori for many hours, a joint force of Sudanese Army soldiers and Police raided the village, searched it, and kidnapped ten villagers, including the mayor. The Nuba Mountains-based Human Rights and Development Organization (HUDO) reports that the villagers were taken into military custody and tortured. HUDO also believes that the raid was linked with the government forces’ defeat in nearby Daldako, a stronghold of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), last month.

The Sudanese government has reconstituted the janajweed, militias known for destroying villages and murdering civilians belonging to ethnic groups the government considers ‘enemies.’ In the past, the government has denied their links with the janjaweed, but this time has provided the militias with uniforms, weapons, and other equipment.

Syria and Iraq

The last of Syria’s declared chemical weapons have been shipped out of the country for destruction, says the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). However, it appears that President Assad may not have revealed the full extent of his chemical capabilities. A joint OPCW-UN operation is currently investigating Assad’s use of chlorine gas in systematic attacks.

Human Rights Watch reported on Monday that Syrian rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front, the Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have used child soldiers in roles including soldiers, stretcher bearers, and suicide bombers. Some children followed family members or friends into armed groups, while others were already in conflict zones and had no other options. Nusra and ISIS both targeted children through education programs containing military training. Commanders of these two groups also encouraged children to volunteer for suicide missions. Though not included in the report, pro-government forces have also been alleged to have used child fighters.

The Syrian government, rebel groups based in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, and many Palestinian factions have reportedly agreed to a ceasefire there. The ceasefire will both open the main entrances to the camp and restore basic services. About 18,000 people have lived under siege since last July, with food and medicine scarce, and parts of the camp lying in complete ruin.

The Syrian government warned the UN Security Council that delivering humanitarian aid across its borders into rebel-held areas without the government’s consent would amount to an attack, suggesting it would have the right to retaliate against UN convoys. Russia has made it clear that it was against allowing cross-border access without the consent of the Syrian government and opposed a Chapter 7 resolution, which would make the resolution allowing the UN to deliver humanitarian aid across Syria’s borders into rebel held areas legally binding and enforceable with military action or other coercive measures such as sanctions.

Special Report: ISIS

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.

What is ISIS

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (also referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS or ISIL) is a jihadist group that hopes to create an Islamic caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria. The group is commanded by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had joined the insurgency against the 2003 US invasion and later spent 5 years in prison after being captured. ISIS can trace its roots to Tawhid and Jihad, a Sunni group which rose against the US and Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Tawhid and Jihad linked itself with Al Qaeda in 2004 and rebranded itself Al Qaeda in Iraq. In 2006, it rebranded itself as the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI). ISI became ISIS when Baghdadi turned his sights toward the Syrian civil war in 2012. ISIS is thought to include thousands of fighters, including many foreignersfrom the across the Arab world, the Caucasus, and the West. Al Qaeda Central disowned the group in early 2014, citing its refusal to obey orders from central command to leave Syria and focus on Iraq, and its brutality in the field. ISIS has fought with other rebel groups, tortured detainees, actively recruited child soldiers, and summarily executed civilians while fighting in Syria.

Where is ISIS

ISIS has a strong presence in northern Syria including Aleppo and Raqqa and in a number of Iraqi towns near the Turkish and Syrian borders. It has also conquered the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, much of Ramadi, Mosul, Tikrit, and currently threatens Baghdad. Having this corridor helps ISIS move money, fighters, and equipment between Iraq and Syria.

Who is threatened?

The falling of large swaths of territory into ISIS’s hands provides ISIS a staging point to launch attacks across the Middle East and beyond. However, those under the most threat from ISIS are civilians living in the captured territory. Syrian civilians who live in formerly ISIS-controlled territory report that the group demanded strict adherence to their narrow interpretation of Islamic law with public beatings and executions for those who disobeyed. It is likely ISIS will continue their brutal methods in Iraq. Shi’ite Muslims, who ISIS considers infidels, and Iraq and Syria’s non-Muslim minorities are especially vulnerable.

International Response

President Obama said on June 12 that he is not ruling out any options for a response to ISIS’s advances. The White House later clarified that “boots on the ground” was not under consideration. Potential responses include expanded intelligence and targeting assistance for Iraqi military forces, airstrikes against the militant group, and potentially drone strikes. Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki has requested both piloted air and drone strikes. However, a number of lawmakers say they expect President Obama to consult with Congress before taking any direct action.

Iranian officials have also called for action against ISIS. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said that, “The expansion of terrorist elements of [ISIS] and their violent acts in Iraq was a warning for the region…. There is a need for attention and action from governments and the international community.” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Marzieh Afkham, condemned the ISIS attacks in Mosul, calling them a danger that reaches beyond Iraq’s borders. She later expressed Iran’s readiness to help the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government in confronting terrorism.

Secretary Kerry has signaled that the Obama administration was open to cooperating with Iran on Iraq and a senior US diplomat and has met with his Iranian counterpart in Vienna toexplore whether the United States and Iran could work together to create a more stable Iraqi government and ease the threat from ISIS.

News Roundup week of 6/16

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.


A parliamentary committee has voted to retain a constitutional clause barring opposition leader and pro-democracy advocate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from standing for president. The clause bans anyone with non-Burmese partners or children from running. Suu Kyi’s late husband and two children are British citizens. Parliament must still vote on the ruling before it is final.

According to the United Nations, more than 86,000 people, the majority Rohingya, fleeing Burmese pogroms, have left by boat since the latest round of ethnic violence broke out in mid-2012. These refugees brave rough waters in barely seaworthy crafts to reach the supposed safe havens of Indonesia, Thailand, or Malaysia. However, upon reaching their new countries, many are sold to traffickers and used as forced laborers, often on fishing boats.

Hundreds of ethnic Palaung in Shan State’s Kutkai Township have fled their homes after the Burmese Army fired artillery on their village amid ongoing clashes between the military and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). According to TNLA spokesperson Mai Aie Kyaw, there were no TNLA troops stationed in the village, and that the artillery shelling appeared to be intended to scare Ton Pan’s civilian inhabitants. He added that all those who fled had sought refuge in a village nearby.

Central African Republic

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is appealing to neighbouring countries to keep their borders open and allow access to safe haven for people on the run from the Central African Republic. This appeal comes amid reports that Chad has recently turned back CAR citizens seeking safety at the Sido border entry point. Since the conflict began in 2012, around 226,000 people have fled to neighboring countries while an estimated 550,000 are displaced within the CAR.

Central African Republic Prime Minister, Andre Nzapayeke, called for a pause in his country’s civil war so citizens could enjoy the World Cup. He specifically appealed to young people to fully enjoy the event and warned them against taking part in the fighting. Prime Minister Nzapayeke later said that he hoped the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts on June 28, will provide another opportunity to put the fighting on hold.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

A report from the human rights group Freedom from Torture has found that security forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are systematically raping President Joseph Kabila’s female opponents. The type of “crimes” the female political activists were punished for included storing and distributing political leaflets, banners and T-shirts and attending meetings and demonstrations. Rape by state security forces can be defined as an act of torture under international law.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) information minister says hundreds of rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) from South and North Kivu provinces have been disarming as part of the government’s program to improve security and stabilize the country. The government’s disarmament program is expected to last between the next two to three weeks, according to Mende. He says the administration in Kinshasa expects other armed groups to also disarm. As of now, about 15% of FDLR fighters are in Congolese government camps after they voluntarily disarmed.

Syria and Iraq

Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs on opposition-held districts of Aleppo on Monday, killing at least 31 people including several children. Two bombs hit the Sukkari neighborhood minutes apart, the second catching those who had gone to the assistance of the casualties from the first. Human rights groups consider the regime’s use of barrel bombs against international law, as the bombs lack any guidance mechanism, causing indiscriminate casualties. Elsewhere in Syria, rebel shelling of a government-held area of the Idlib province killed 13 people, 8 of which were children.

The United Nations Human Rights chief, Navi Pillay, has said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant (ISIS/ISIL) and their allies have almost certainly executed soldiers, military conscripts, police and others who had surrendered or had been captured, in several locations around Tikrit. Pictures posted on a Twitter account sympathetic to ISIL show masked fighters loading the captives on trucks before forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs. The final pictures show bodies soaked in blood after being shot.

South Sudan

United Nations aid agencies have appealed for $1 billion to provide humanitarian aid to millions of South Sudanese affected by the conflict. The United Nations hopes to use this money to save lives, prevent a famine, and avert the loss of a generation of children and young people to this conflict.

South Sudan’s Vice President, James Igga, vowed in Kampala, Uganda, on Saturday, that Juba would neither accept President Salva Kiir to step down nor form a power-sharing interim government which would include the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM-in-Opposition). Rebel spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, claimed that Igga’s remarks were inconsistent with the agreed agenda currently on the table as well as the spirit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-mediated peace talks in Addis Ababa. A proposal for the two rival parties to negotiate a peace agreement within 60 days that would lead to formation of a transitional government– the composition of which is yet to be negotiated– is currently on the table.


The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Mashood Baderin arrived in Khartoum on Sunday for a ten-day visit. Baderin said his visit to Sudan will discuss the reality of the human rights situation in the country and developments that have occurred, especially in Darfur and South Kordofan. He will will visit the states of South Darfur and Blue Nile and meet a number of state officials at the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs, civil society organizations, and editors of newspapers. He will conclude his visit with a press conference.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, has accused Sudan of intensifying attacks on civilians in the southern states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Power said that ground and air attacks have increased since April, with hundreds of barrel bombs and other explosives dropped on towns and villages, deliberately targeting hospitals and schools. She also condemned the alleged targeting of civilian aid workers, which she said would seriously violate international law if proven accurate.

News Roundup 6/12/14

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.

South Sudan

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.