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.
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.