Justice for Yemen | #DayoftheDisappeared | UN sexual abuses addressed

Protestors demonstrating against Saudi-led airstrikes outside the UN offices in Sanaa, Yemen in October 2015. © Reuters/Khaled Abdullah

Rights groups call for justice in Yemen 

Fifty-seven rights groups from around the world have demanded that the United Nations (UN) create an independent body in order to look into grave violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian laws in Yemen. Yemen has experienced escalating and widespread violence since the 2011 Arab Spring protests, with civil war and armed intervention by a Saudi-led coalition of states beginning in 2015. The crisis has left thousands dead and millions of civilians on the brink of famine and hundreds of thousands suffering from cholera.

"Human Rights Council member countries should live up to their own mandate, heed these calls, and put in place a body to begin chipping away at the impunity that has been a central facet of Yemen’s war," said John Fisher from Human Rights Watch, one of the signatories. "Council member countries have twice capitulated to pressure from the Saudi-led coalition and failed to take a principled stance in the face of repeated war crimes and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis." 

 

UN sexual abuses addressed

In a week that saw the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announce the creation of the first Victims' Rights Advocate to address sexual exploitation and abuse in UN peacekeeping, the WFM-Institute for Global Policy with its two Coalitions — the Coalition for the ICC and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect — launched a series of trainings for armed forces on the Rome Statute, women's peace and security, and the Responsibility to Protect, with the aim of preventing similar abuses.

The Coalition for the ICC has long been actively engaged in addressing and reducing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and bringing its perpetrators to justice, both by training armed forces in troop-contributing countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Peru and by promoting the implementation of the Rome Statute's far-reaching SGBV provisions. Now, the Coalition is partnering with the African Coordination for Human Rights Education for Armed Forces in Côte d’Ivoire (CADHA), an NGO training armed forces on human rights and humanitarian international law, to reinforce its activities in this field.

"By training civil society, governments, magistrates, parliamentarians and armed forces, we aim to build capacity and foster their understanding of the implementation of norms, laws and policies for preventing conflict, reducing impunity and protecting the civilian population," explained Ali Ouattara, the WFM-IGP/CICC Regional focal point - Francophone Africa.

Read more on how the Rome Statute is tackling SGBV

 

Shining a light on the disappeared

As the world marked the UN International Day of Enforced Disappearances, rights organizations around the globe discussed the unknown fate of the many victims of the international crime, as well as ways for its prevention. Enforced disappearances are considered crimes against humanity under the ICC's Rome Statute when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at any civilian population. Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, and TRIAL International, along with local groups, are among the many working to shed light on enforced disappearances and ways to justice in states like Afghanistan, Thailand and Mexico.

UN experts meanwhile expressed concern at the shrinking space for human rights defenders working to secure justice for enforced disappearances, and pressed states to ensure their ability to conduct their work effectively and without fear of reprisal.

“We are extremely concerned that we continue to receive reports of acts of intimidation, threats, stigmatization and reprisals against those who work to shed light on cases of enforced disappearances. They should be helped and protected rather than threatened”, stressed Houria Es-Slami, the Chair of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Read more on ICC crimes

 

ICC investigations

DRC: As Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda resumes testifying in his own defense at the ICC, he has denied knowledge of the use of child soldiers among the Congolese militia forces trained by the Uganda government.

Libya: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has met with Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi in order to urge him to stick to a ceasefire and to back UN-led efforts to end Libya’s conflict.

CAR: The government has signed a peace deal with 13 rebel groups in an attempt to end widespread violence, but humanitarian actors and civil society do not believe peace will come until perpetrators of violence are brought to justice.  

In the Courtroom: Get up-to-speed on the latest developments in ICC trials

 

ICC preliminary examinations

Afghanistan: An ISIS attack on a mosque in Kabul has killed at least 20 people in an attack that Human Rights Watch declared "'a serious violation on the laws of war" and "an apparent war crime."  

Burundi: President Pierre Nkurunziza has urged Burundian refugees to return from Tanzania and other neighbouring countries, but testimonies collected by IRRI and the UN suggest that the country continues to face systemic human rights violations.

Nigeria: Amnesty International have called on Nigerian authorities to investigate the alleged unexplained disappearances of 600 members of a pro-Iranian Shiite religious movement.  

Palestine: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has met with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers following the announcement that the UN will release $2.5 million to meet the electricity and medicine shortages in Gaza.

 

Campaign for Global Justice

Turkey's Anadolu Agency has submitted a report to the ICC detailing the evidence of Bashar al-Assad regime's chemical attack on civilians in Syria last April in which at least 100 people were killed and hundreds others injured.

Campaigning for global justice: How you can get involved

 

Around the world

Human rights groups have filed war crimes lawsuits against former Sri Lankan general Jagath Jayasuriya, the ambassador to Brazil. Jayasuriya has diplomatic immunity in Brazil and five other South American countries. 

A senior UN peacekeeping official has called on government leaders to show genuine political will to achieve sustainable peace in South Sudan due to their responsibiltiy for the man-made conflict.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has been left fighting for his political survival after his failed attempt to oust head of the International Commission against Impunity, causing Guatemala to fall into deep political crisis.

Bangladesh has detained and forcibly returned at least 90 Muslim Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, and human rights groups have slammed State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for an 'unacceptable response' to the crisis.

A UN report has pointed to the "systematic" and excessive use of force against anti-government protestors in Venezuela as part of the authorities' "policy to repress political dissent and instil fear in the population".

Venezuela crisis: What role for justice?