A new charter on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in responses to humanitarian crises was endorsed at the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 24, 2016. [UN News Centre] The Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action encourages States and civil society organizations to consider the specific needs of people with disabilities in all stages – design, planning, coordination, and implementation – of humanitarian responses. [UN News Centre] The agreement, launched by Handicap International, responds to a pattern of increased challenges that people with disabilities face in emergency situations, armed conflict, and natural disasters. [UN News Centre] Although the pact is non-binding, it garnered substantial and diverse support from States, non-governmental organizations, and United Nations agencies, including being endorsed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. [UN News Centre; Thomson Reuters] Read more
Category Archives: military and humanitarian intervention
The International Criminal Court (ICC) last week authorized the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in South Ossetia from July 1 to October 10, 2008 during the armed conflict between Georgia and Russia. [ICC Press Release] According to the ICC Prosecutor, between 13,400 and 18,500 ethnic Georgians were forcibly displaced and the ethnic Georgian population in South Ossetia was reduced by at least 75 percent. [The Guardian] The forthcoming investigation will seek to gather additional evidence of international crimes committed in or around South Ossetia by Georgian, Russian, or South Ossetian forces and identify the individuals most responsible for the most serious abuses. See ICC Office of the Prosecutor, Corrected Version of “Request for Authorisation of an Investigation Pursuant to Article 15”, ICC-01/15-4-Corr., 16 October 2015.
In authorizing an investigation into the situation in Georgia on January 27, 2015, Pre-Trial Chamber I determined that all of the requirements set forth in Article 53(1) of the Rome Statute had been satisfied. See ICC, Situation in Georgia, ICC-01/15, Decision on the Prosecutor’s Request for Authorization of an Investigation(27 January 2016). Importantly, the Pre-Trial Chamber agreed with the Prosecutor that South Ossetia should be considered part of Georgia and not an independent State, and that alleged acts of sexual and gender-based violence appropriately fall within the scope of the investigation. See id. at paras. 6, 34, 35. This is the first time the ICC will examine alleged crimes committed by Russian authorities, and it is the first situation the ICC is formally investigating outside of Africa. Read more
In November 2015, representatives of African and European intergovernmental organizations and civil society gathered in Rwanda for the 11th African Union – European Union (AU-EU) Human Rights Dialogue, a platform for sharing experiences concerning human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Participants in the Human Rights Dialogue, which was held in Kigali on November 24, 2015, included the Hon. Justice Augustino S. L. Ramadhani, President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR); Hon. Madam Zainabu Kayitesi, Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); Ambassador Gary Quince, Head of the EU Delegation to the AU; Ambassador Michael Ryan, Head of the EU Delegation to Rwanda; and other AU and EU staff working on human rights issues. The outcome document summarizes previous and future areas of cooperation between the AU and EU, including protecting the freedom of expression, migrants’ rights, human rights and business, and the abolition of the death penalty. See European Union External Action Service, Joint Communiqué. Read more
Amid an ongoing human rights and political crisis in which hundreds have lost their lives, civil society and human rights bodies are calling on Burundian authorities to avoid inciting violence, put a stop to attacks against advocates and journalists, and cooperate with monitoring efforts. On November 12, 2015, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution condemning the killings and human rights abuses in Burundi and threatening possible sanctions against responsible parties. [The Guardian] The resolution came at the same time as the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) met to discuss moving peacekeepers from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo to Burundi. [The Guardian] The international and regional actions seek to end a spate of violence and repression that began in April 2015 surrounding the re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza in a vote boycotted by the opposition. [VOA News] The political unrest, which has led to over 240 killings and an estimated 200,000 displaced, now threatens to devolve into civil war and mass atrocities that some are warning could resemble the 1994 Rwandan genocide. [VOA News] Read more
On October 20, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, presented his seventeenth expert’s report to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly during its 70th Session, in New York. [Anti-Torture Initiative] The report addresses the extraterritorial obligations that arise under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and its Optional Protocol.
The report expounds on when positive and negative obligations apply extraterritorially; defines jurisdiction with regard to the control a State party must have over a situation in order to trigger obligations; the application of the exclusionary rule without regard to location; and the duty to investigate and prosecute torture as part of international cooperation. See Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, UN Doc. A/70/303, 7 August 2015.
Mr. Méndez stated:
I am calling upon States to exercise jurisdiction over acts of torture and ill-treatment, regardless of the locus where wrongfulness took place, and to provide civil remedies and rehabilitation for victims of acts of torture or other ill-treatment, regardless of who bears responsibility for mistreatment or where it took place.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested authorization to investigate possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia, a step that could lead to the eventual prosecution of individuals suspected of responsibility for directing or carrying out these crimes. [ICC Press Release: Prosecutor Requests] The Prosecutor has received information that as many as 113 ethnic Georgians were killed in a campaign by South Ossetian – and possibly Russian – forces that forcibly displaced up to 18,500 Georgians from South Ossetia, and that both Georgian and South Ossetian forces attacked peacekeepers. See ICC Office of the Prosecutor, Request for Authorisation of an Investigation Pursuant to Article 15, 13 October 2015. Read more
Burkina Faso’s interim President Michel Kafando was reinstated on September 23, 2015, following a truce agreement between coup leaders and the national army. [BBC News: Reinstated; Al Jazeera: Coup leaders sign truce] This truce agreement came after the September 16th coup in which members of the Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP, for its French name: Régiment de sécurité présidentielle), calling themselves the National Democratic Council, under the leadership of General Gilbert Diendéré, kidnapped interim President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and two ministry officials, Augustin Loada and Rene Bagoro. [The Guardian: Warning Shots; The Guardian: Violent Protests] Following this, the military announced that it was in power and that the transitional government, which had been put into place in November 2014, had been dissolved. [Al Jazeera: Military Claims Control; Al Jazeera: Transitional Government] Under the agreement that was reached on September 23rd, the RSP agreed to step down and return to its barracks and the national army agreed to withdraw its troops from the capital, Ouagadougou, and guarantee the RSP’s safety. [Al Jazeera: Coup leaders sign truce]
On September 16, 2015, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a report on the human rights violations, including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and gender-based violence, committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan government forces from 2002-2011. See Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), 16 September 2015 (hereinafter Report). The report concludes with a number of recommendations, including those of a general nature as well as more specific ones regarding institutional reforms, justice, truth and the right to know, reparations, and suggestions directed at the United Nations and Member States. See id. at 248-251.
On August 3, 2015 the Kosovo Parliament passed the “Law on Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office,” a constitutional amendment that will establish a special war crimes court to prosecute former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas for crimes committed during and after the Kosovo War between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2000. The court will operate under Kosovo law and prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and organ harvesting, among others. The court is likely to be based in the Netherlands because of concerns regarding judicial corruption and the lack of a robust witness protection program in Kosovo. As part of the vote that took place, the Kosovo Parliament also passed a law providing legal aid for KLA defendants. If the Netherlands agrees to host the court, discussions in the upcoming months must take place between Kosovo, the Netherlands, and the European Union regarding logistics, including the court’s budget, judges and prosecutors, and location, as well as sentencing and witness protection issues. [Balkan Insight: Major Challenges Ahead; Human Rights Watch; Reuters]
In a decision dated July 16, 2015, Pre-Trial Chamber 1 (PTC) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) granted the request by Comoros to review ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s decision to not investigate the interception of a humanitarian aid flotilla by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), which resulted in ten deaths and numerous injuries on May 31, 2010. In her decision dated November 6, 2014, the ICC Prosecutor had concluded that there was no “reasonable basis” for the ICC to continue with an investigation of this incident. See ICC-01/13-6-AnxA, Article 53(1) Report, 6 November 2014, para. 28. Subsequently, the PTC, upon review of the request submitted by Comoros, decided that the ICC Prosecutor had committed “material errors” in her assessment and on this basis, asked that the Prosecutor reconsider the decision to not initiate an investigation. See ICC-01/13-34, Decision on the request of the Union of the Comoros to review the Prosecutor’s decision not to initiate an investigation, 16 July 2015, paras. 49-50.