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- 07/01/16--12:32: World: CrisisWatch No. 155, 1 July 2016
Thirty-five armed conflicts were reported in 2015, most of them in Africa (13) and Asia (12), followed by the Middle East (six), Europe (three) and the Americas (one).
Two new armed conflicts were accounted for in 2015: in Burundi, due to the escalation of instability and political violence amidst a climate marked by popular demonstrations, repression of dissidents and an attempted coup d’état; and in the Philippines (Mindanao-BIFF) as the result of intensified clashes between the Philippine Armed Forces and the armed group BIFF.
At the end of 2015, only 34 of the 35 cases were active, since the situation in India (Assam) ceased to be considered an active armed conflict due to the decrease in violence, in keeping with a pattern of reduced hostilities in recent years.
Eleven conflicts reported a higher intensity during the year, with a death toll in many cases well above the threshold of 1,000 fatalities per year: Libya, Nigeria (Boko Haram), Somalia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Egypt (Sinai), Iraq, Syria and Yemen (Houthis).
In 2015, many of the contexts of conflict (43%) reported dynamics and levels of violence similar to those of the previous year, while a decrease in the levels of confrontation was observed in nearly one third, including the case of India (Assam), which stopped being considered an armed conflict. A worsening of the situation was observed in another third of the cases, resulting from the intensification of hostilities and levels of violence. Though worse, this situation was not as bad as reported in 2014.
Beyond their multi-dimensional nature, the main causes of two thirds of the armed conflicts in 2015 (24 cases, equivalent to 69%) included opposition to the government (whether due to its internal or international policies) and the struggle to achieve or erode power, or opposition to the political, social or ideological system of the state. The underlying motivations of over half (19 cases, or 54%) included demands for self-determination or self-government and identity-related aspirations.
During 2015, armed conflicts around the world continued to have a serious impact on civilians. As detailed in the analysis of cases from each context, the consequences are not limited to mortal victims resulting from fighting, but also include massacres and summary executions, arbitrary detention, torture and many other forms of physical and psychological abuse, the forced displacement of populations, the use of sexual violence, the recruitment of children and many other forms of abuse against boys and girls, in addition to other dynamics.
Throughout 2015, the deliberate use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in contexts of armed conflict was observed by armed groups in countries like Iraq, Mali, CAR, DRC, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.
Forced displacement was one of the most visible consequences of armed conflict in 2015, a period that confirmed the trend observed in previous years regarding a significant rise in the number of refugees and internally displaced people around the world.
At the end of 2015, UNHCR’s figures based on data corresponding to the first quarter of the year noted that the total number of displaced people and refugees reached 60 million people.
At the close of 2015, 37 weapons embargoes were being imposed on a total of 24 states and non-state armed groups by the UN, the EU, the Arab League and the OSCE. This was one more than the previous year due to the inclusion of Yemen.
Twenty armed conflicts and 52 active situations of tension were reported in 2015 in which neither the UN nor other regional organisations imposed weapons embargoes.
Eighty-three scenarios of socio-political crisis were reported around the world in 2015. The cases were primarily concentrated in Africa (36) and Asia (20), while the rest of the situations of tension took place in Europe (11), the Middle East (11) and the Americas (five).
The most serious socio-political crises in 2015 took place in Central Africa (LRA), Cameroon, Chad,
Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia, Bangladesh, North Korea-South Korea, the Philippines (Mindanao),
India (Manipur), India-Pakistan, Pakistan, Armenia-Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh), Russia (Kabardino-Balkaria), Egypt, Israel-Syria-Lebanon and Lebanon.
In line with previous years, over half the sociopolitical crises were of an internal nature (43 cases), more than one fourth were internationalised internal tensions (22 cases) and a fifth were international (18 cases).
Regarding the evolution of the tensions, two fifths (34 cases) reported a worsening of the situation compared to 2014, while one third (29 cases) experience no significant change and one fourth improved to some extent (20 cases).
In line with data from previous years, the different main causes of 67% of the tensions included opposition to the internal or international policies implemented by the respective governments, which led to conflict to achieve or erode power, or opposition to the political, social or ideological system of the respective states.
Four peace negotiations were resolved satisfactorily during the year: CAR, Sudan (Darfur – SLM-MM),
Mali (CMA-Platform) and South Sudan.
Explorations were conducted in three conflicts for the purpose of opening a formal negotiating process: Colombia (ELN), Pakistan (Balochistan) and Syria.
Of these negotiations, 17.9% ran smoothly or were resolved (seven cases), 30.7% had significant difficulties (12 cases) and 43.6% failed (17 cases).
Seventy per cent of the active armed conflicts in 2015 for which data on gender equality are available took place in contexts with serious or very serious gender inequalities.
The refugee crisis in the EU was marked by the gender dimension and showed serious human rights violations against the population fleeing the wars.
In 2015, a high-level review was conducted on the 15 years of implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
Peace negotiations in Colombia, Cyprus and Afghanistan demonstrated the importance of the gender dimension in peace processes.
The report identifies five opportunities for peace for 2016: the restart of peace negotiations in Cyprus; the new political situation in Burkina Faso after the end of the transition process; the exploration of scenarios of peace in Thailand; the transition towards democracy and peace in Myanmar; and the positive impact of the introduction of the gender perspective in peace processes in terms of inclusiveness and sustainability.
The report highlights another 10 alarming scenarios ahead of 2016: the rise in violence and instability in Burundi, pushing the country to the brink of civil war; the risk for stability in Mali posed by the activities of jihadist groups; the prospects of rising violence and political upheaval in DRC; the fragility of the peace agreement in Sudan and the risks for its implementation; the polarisation of powers in the new political scenario in Venezuela; the impact of the lack of legitimacy of the Taliban leadership in the peace process in Afghanistan; the difficulties of the peace process in Mindanao; the risks of further drift in the conflict between Turkey and the PKK; the serious worsening of the situation in Yemen following the intensification of the dynamics of violence in the country; and the destabilising international effects of the jihadist threat.
- 09/02/16--04:30: World: CrisisWatch August 2016
- 09/14/16--01:19: World: Zeid's Global Human Rights Update
- 11/02/16--15:23: World: CrisisWatch October 2016
- 12/01/16--13:10: World: CrisisWatch November 2016
- 12/19/16--23:19: World: Unaccompanied Minors in European Countries (2008-2015)
- 01/02/18--12:10: World: CrisisWatch December 2017
- 03/01/18--12:24: World: CrisisWatch February 2018
- 04/03/18--12:07: World: CrisisWatch March 2018
- 05/02/18--12:43: World: CrisisWatch April 2018
- 06/01/18--12:43: World: CrisisWatch May 2018
- 08/01/18--12:21: World: CrisisWatch July 2018
- 09/03/18--13:37: World: CrisisWatch August 2018
- 10/01/18--13:04: World: CrisisWatch September 2018
In a wide-ranging opening speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein sheds a light on "preventable calamities" and worrying trends in human rights around the world, including detailed concerns about the situation in more than 50 countries
Distinguished President of the Council,
Colleagues and friends
(Issued as received) When the Inter-American Commission announces it has to cut its personnel by forty percent – and when States have already withdrawn from it and the Inter-American Court; When States Parties have threatened to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – and, even more recently, others threaten to leave the United Nations, or the European Court of Human Rights and the European Union;
When those calling for departure have seemingly already fled in their minds from the urge to protect the world from the untold sorrow and miseries which twice swept it, and brought about the creation of many of these very institutions;
When filthy abuse by politicians of the vulnerable is tolerated; when the laws – human rights law, refugee law, international humanitarian law – are increasingly violated, and when hospitals are bombed – but no one is punished;
When human rights, the two words, are so rarely found in the world of finance and business, in its literature, in its lexicon – why? Because it is shameful to mention them?
When working for the collective benefit of all people, everywhere is apparently losing its ardour, and features only in empty proclamations swelling with unjustified self-importance and selfishness – Then do we really still have an international community? When the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling? Or are there only fragmented communities of competing interests – strategic and commercial – operating behind a screen of feigned allegiance to laws and institutions?
I think of a video clip I saw on the internet the other day, where the body of a young child, a young girl, with a face that is white with dust, nose bloodied, hair springing with life still – and her body crushed, inert as the rubble – dug out as she was from a bombed building in Syria, so reports said, just days ago.
The poet Hafiz says:
As pallid ghost appears Speak the epic of thy pain Please stop this, because this madness can be stopped.
As I speak before this 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, at which all of the 193 Member States of the United Nations are represented, the international community's familiar customs and procedures are much in evidence.
And yet the workable space in which we function as one community – resolving disputes, coming to consensus – is under attack. The common sets of laws, the institutions - and deeper still, the values – which bind us together are buckling. And suffering most from this onslaught are our fellow human beings – your people – who bear the brunt of the resulting deprivation, misery, injustice, and bloodshed. I, and many others, seek your support.
Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers. Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions which act as checks on executive power are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods.
These trends bleed nations of their innate resilience. They do not make them safe: they make them weaker. Piece by piece, these mutually reinforcing trends are shearing off the protections that maintain respect, enable development, and provide the only fragile basis for world peace. They are attacks on sanity. And they can be reversed.
This is a period of powerful lessons – if we choose to learn from them.
We can build societies in which disputes can be peacefully resolved by impartial and effective institutions, and where people's right to development and other fundamental rights are respected.
We can shore up the basic building blocks of co-existence and well-being, both within States and between them.
Sound rule of law institutions, which offer the confidence of impartial justice, build confidence and strength. Equality: every individual must be clear in the knowledge that regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, opinions, belief, caste, age or sexual orientation, her equal rights are fully acknowledged. Trust can only accrue if government is transparent and accountable – and when people know they are entitled to contribute to all decisions in which they have a stake, there is greater social unity. When fundamental economic and social goods – such as education, clean water and adequate health-care – are viewed, correctly, as rights, resources are allocated with greater fairness and society as a whole is stronger. The freedoms of expression, association and belief must prevail, together with independent media, in order that people be fully informed and free to contribute ideas and experiences without fear of attack.
These are powerful levers for development and peace. They are investments which pay instant and long-term benefits in maintaining peace, in maximising sustainable development, and in optimizing the well-being of each society and humanity as a whole. In contrast, the damage done by denial of human rights spills across borders and mutilates the destiny of generations to come. Human rights are not costly – they are priceless.
We are 7.4 billion human beings clinging to a small and fragile planet. And there is really only one way to ensure a good and sustainable future: ensure respect, resolve disputes, construct institutions that are sound and fair and share resources and opportunities equitably.
The 2030 Agenda, which arises out of the Declaration on the Right to Development, is a practical, structured road-map for investing in human rights, including vital economic, social and cultural rights, and maintaining loyalty to the needs of humanity as a whole. These and other policies that benefit humanity are in the national interest of every State.
The 2030 Agenda details the way forward to combat exploitation and exclusion, and to build more just and resilient societies that fulfill the rights of all – including women and others who frequently suffer discrimination. It may not be a perfect or entirely sufficient programme, but it constitutes a universal commitment by States to the absolutely vital work of prevention.
At next month’s High Level Political Forum, we need member states and our civil society partners to push for real delivery on the Agenda’s promises, based on its core commitments to human rights. I also ask States to use their development aid more effectively, to promote the human rights goals that truly build development. Accountable, inclusive and transparent governance and rule of law institutions that are impartial and effective – these massively amplify development. And in the coming months and years, we have an opportunity to truly improve life for millions of people.
My Office is dedicated to that goal. The objective of our scrutiny is to give States the benefit of detailed, fact-based analysis, and to use that analysis as the basis for cooperation programmes that assist States to improve their protection of human rights.
In many situations, and especially when there are conflicting accounts, the independent, objective, and factual information that my Office provides can play an important role to prevent further violations. I very much regret the refusal by some countries to permit my staff to have access in order to monitor and report on events. I must emphasise that non-cooperation by Governments will not result in my Office remaining silent. On the contrary, it creates a presumption of major violations, and may deprive local and national actors of the opportunity to explain and provide information about events.
In updating this Council at the September session, I may list a number of countries where engagement with or access for my Office is impeded.
This morning, in the course of this update, I will outline some very pressing human rights concerns, which could have been prevented – and must now be redressed. To undertake that work, my recommendations are clear. In every situation of conflict, the principles of distinction, proportionality, precaution and necessity must be strictly observed, in line with international humanitarian law. I urge every State to fully comply with international human right norms and implement the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms and of my Office. All political detainees should be released, and reforms undertaken to ensure fair trials and an impartial and effective administration of justice. Independent national institutions and civil society organizations must be free to raise their voice.
Freedoms of expression, assembly and association must be respected and wherever people are jailed for exercising these rights – and there are many – I urge the authorities to release them with immediate effect.
The actions of the police, security forces and all other agents of the State must be in line with relevant human rights obligations and minimum standards. When reports suggest violations of human rights, I call on the authorities to conduct investigations to establish the facts, prosecute perpetrators and ensure redress for victims. Economic, social and cultural rights are vital, and their respect must include equitable access to resources, services and opportunities. Refugee law must also be respected, especially the principle of non-refoulement. And all forms of discrimination must be eradicated, to ensure that every member of society can freely make choices and participate in decisions.
On a daily basis, we are witness to horrors of every kind around the world. I extend my condolences and respect to all victims of human rights violations, including the victims of conflict and those who suffer violations of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. I also condemn with the greatest possible force the outrageous attacks by violent extremists on innocent people, chosen at random, or because of their presumed beliefs, or opinions, or – as we saw yesterday – their sexual orientation.
Martin Luther King spoke of the deep shame reserved "for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight". But he also pointed out that we can "re-dedicate ourselves to the long, and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world."
Globally, many countries have distinguished themselves by their principled welcome to large numbers of desperate, often terrified and poverty-stricken migrants and refugees. They have provided assistance, enabled access to education and labour markets, and protected many vital human rights in line with their commitments under international law.
Many other countries have not done so. And their failure to take in a fair share of the world’s most vulnerable is undermining the efforts of more responsible States. Across the board, we are seeing a strong trend that overturns international commitments, refuses basic humanity, and slams doors in the face of human beings in need.
The only sustainable way to resolve today’s movements of people will be to improve human rights in countries of origin, and I strongly urge the members of this Council to embark on that work. But meanwhile, the countries of Europe must find a way to address the current migration crisis consistently and in a manner that respects the rights of the people concerned – including in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement.
It is entirely possible to create well-functioning migration governance systems, even for large numbers of people, with fair and effective determination of individual protection needs. If European governments can remove hysteria and panic from the equation – and if all contribute to a solution – I am confident that they will be able to achieve this.
Recently I have sent staff to key locations along the Central Mediterranean and Balkan migration routes. They have observed a worrying increase in detention of migrants in Europe, including in the “hotspots” – essentially vast mandatory confinement areas which have been set up in Greece and Italy. Even unaccompanied children are frequently placed in prison cells or centres ringed with barbed-wire. Detention is never in the best interests of the child – which must take primacy over immigration objectives. Alternatives to the detention of children must be developed, drawing on the solid examples of non-custodial, community-based and child-friendly good practices that we have seen in the region in past years.
I also strongly recommended comprehensive collection of data by the EU on the detention of migrants in all Member States. These figures would, I fear, be very shocking.
I deplore the widespread anti-migrant rhetoric that we have heard, spanning the length and breadth of the European continent. This fosters a climate of divisiveness, xenophobia and even – as in Bulgaria – vigilante violence.
In contrast to these many deplorable failures of vision and humanity, a number of cities across Europe have responded commendably to the needs of vulnerable newcomers. I welcome the approach adopted by the Mayors of Lampedusa and Paris, alongside numerous other communities, many much smaller. With several European cities, such as Barcelona and Madrid, ready to relocate and resettle people, EU Member States need to make good on their commitments. In September 2015, they committed to relocate 160,000 people from Greece and Italy, but according to figures published last month fewer than 1,600 – less than 1% -- have actually been relocated.
In south-east Turkey, I am alarmed by satellite imagery which indicates widespread destruction in the eastern area of the town of Nusaybin due to the use of heavy weapons. Hundreds of buildings have been damaged or destroyed, including extensive damage between 25 and 29 May. Last month, I requested that my staff be given access to the affected areas, in the context of multiple and contradictory reports of violations of international law and other human rights abuses. While I welcome the personal invitation by the Turkish government for me to visit the country, this invitation must first be extended to my staff so that a team from my Office can establish clarity about the facts. I remain acutely concerned about the harassment of civil society organisations and journalists.
The rights of people still suffering from the protracted conflicts in the South Caucasus have long been a concern of my Office. We have received allegations of violations of international law in the context of the upsurge in hostilities along the line of contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, especially in April. Significant efforts are needed to address the situation of displaced people. My Office is ready to assist in the collection of objective information on human rights needs in the affected areas.
In several countries of central and south-eastern Europe, including Hungary, Poland and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, I am concerned by challenges to the independence of rule of law institutions which provide an important check to executive overreach. Human rights defenders and civil society activists are under increasing pressure, indicating an almost region-wide narrowing of the democratic space, and we have observed multiple cases of harassment or persecution of journalists. In Poland, the European Commission has issued an opinion that is highly relevant to the regrettable constitutional crisis in the country, and I encourage the Government to cooperate under the EU’s Rule of law framework. I further encourage the authorities to benefit from the expertise of Poland’s highly respected Ombudsman organisation.
In Azerbaijan, I welcome recent releases of civil society actors and journalists. I invite the authorities to use this momentum to undertake meaningful steps towards widening space for civil society and safeguarding freedom of expression, including improving the justice system and the legal framework regulating NGO activities. My Office is ready to further advance a constructive dialogue with the Government with a view to addressing these issues.
This week, a number of amendments to the Russian Federation’s law on foreign agents come into force. More than 90 NGOs are now listed as "foreign agents” a designation which implies that their activities are “political”. I continue to urge the authorities to follow up on recommendations from UN human rights mechanisms and to amend this law in line with Russia’s international human rights obligations.
In Ukraine, we are concerned about the increasing violations to the ceasefire and the presence of heavy weaponry on both sides of the contact line. Only full implementation of the Minsk Agreements by all parties can protect civilians and restore hope for a lasting peace. My Office has access to detention facilities in areas under the control of the Government and there has been some improvement in conditions, and in terms of specific individual cases. But this access has not been possible in areas controlled by armed groups, leading to an assumption that allegations of very severe conditions may be accurate. We continue to receive reports of torture, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and sexual and gender based violence linked to the conflict on both sides of the contact line. In areas controlled by the armed groups, we deplore the continued collapse of rule of law and severe restrictions on freedoms of opinion, expression, association and assembly. ASG Simonovic has recently completed a mission to Ukraine and will brief the Council during this session.
I welcome the continued search by many States for innovative, human rights-based approaches to challenges, including economic, social and cultural rights. Last week Switzerland held a referendum to consider a guaranteed basic income. The vote was negative, but in other countries, such as Brazil, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands, local and national governments are experimenting with new ways to approach social protection and equal opportunities using some form of basic income.
In many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy. Torture, summary execution and arbitrary arrests are assaults on the people's security, not measures to protect security. It is a mistake to imagine that attacking the people’s rights makes them any safer or more content.
The antidote to the savagery of violent extremism is greater rule of law. The best way to fight terrorism, and to stabilize the region, is to push back against discrimination; corruption; poor governance; failures of policing and justice; inequality; the denial of public freedoms, and other drivers of radicalization.
The disaster of Syria continues to deepen. So disturbed are we by the Inferno that Syria has become that to brief, month after month, this gathering or other bodies has become grotesque in itself. Collecting and analysing information so appalling, and reporting on it, is intended to serve action. But when it simply piles up and then dissipates into the corridors of power, we are shaken, feeling as I'm sure many around the world feel, almost helpless in this horror.
Torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, forced evictions and the destruction of schools and entire neighbourhoods continue unabated. Hospitals are attacked, apparently deliberately: last week, in Aleppo, three medical centres hit in a single day – one, a paediatric centre, for the second time. Women and girls in particular, and minorities, are abused by twisted fanatics with a dehumanising sadism that is part of no religion. Over half a million people are trapped in sieges by government forces or armed groups, and are forced to scavenge for their basic needs – in some cases, since 2012. In yet another atrocity, on Friday the people of Daraya were hit by multiple air and ground attacks – just hours after aid made it through to them, for the first time in four years. When the reckoning is taken, all global decision-makers will find their legacy has been forever damaged by their failure to take decisive action to end this terrible, and entirely preventable, conflict. The serious and systematic crimes that are being inflicted daily on the people of Syria profoundly dishonour all those responsible.
In Iraq, I am acutely concerned about the situation of tens of thousands of civilians who currently remain trapped inside Fallujah, and I refer you to my public communications on this topic earlier this month. I have urged the authorities to take immediate steps to redress the situation regarding people fleeing the outskirts of the city. I welcome the announcement last week that the Prime Minister will appoint a committee to investigate all allegations of violations committed against these displaced people, and I trust that this investigation will be truly consequential. I also commend the statement by Ayatollah al-Sistani urging security forces to protect the lives of civilians. The country must avoid further divisions or violence along sectarian lines, lest it implode completely.
I am also profoundly concerned about the suffering of the people of Yemen. The armed conflict that began more than a year ago has taken a terrible toll on civilians, with 9,700 civilian casualties documented by my Office. The humanitarian situation is disastrous and continues to worsen. More than 21 million Yemenis – 80% of the population – need basic assistance, 2.8 million people have been forced to leave their homes. Humanitarian aid is frequently obstructed by the parties to the conflict and limited by funding difficulties. In September, I will be submitting a comprehensive report on human rights violations in Yemen and the progress made by the national commission of investigation. I strongly urge all parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular concerning the protection of civilians. The delivery of humanitarian aid must be ensured in all conflict zones and besieged areas.
The occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel entered its 49th year last week. Tensions remain high across the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel, and the risk of a further sudden escalation in violence remains very real. Violence is among the many consequences of this prolonged oppression, including and inexcusably against civilians on both sides. Both sides have seen civilians attacked recently, and I deplore those actions. The reactions of the Israeli authorities – in particular, instances of excessive use of force – have also been a cause for concern. I have reminded the Israeli Government of its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law on a number of occasions. The increase in detention of Palestinians this year, particularly in administrative detention without trial, is another serious concern. At the end of April there were almost 700 Palestinian administrative detainees, more than double the figure at the end of September 2015 and the highest number since June 2008. Over 400 Palestinian children are currently detained in Israeli prisons, among them 13 who are in administrative detention – again, the highest figure since public records began in 2008. I once again join the call by a number of Treaty Bodies for the practice of administrative detention by Israel to be abolished.
The situation in Gaza is untenable, with the continuing illegal blockade impeding reconstruction and basic services, and bleeding the people of hope. Arbitrary and often violent enforcement of the so-called "Access Restricted Areas" along the land and sea borders of Gaza not only obstructs access by Gazans to their livelihoods, but also results in deaths and injuries. So far this year, 73 fishermen have been arrested and detained by Israeli security forces – the same number as for all of 2015. Recent skirmishes along the border are a warning signal that another escalation of hostilities is a very real prospect unless there is real improvement for the people of Gaza.
Libya continues to be beset by violence and impunity, and my Office continues to document violations and abuses by all parties. Civilians have been attacked, killed, and abducted on account of their origins, religion, or political views and all parties have used heavy weaponry in residential areas without regard for civilian life. The main hospital of Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city, came under repeated fire throughout the month of May, and two weeks ago shells damaged the intensive care unit. Thousands of people continue to languish in detention centres controlled by various armed brigades, where my staff have documented extremely dire conditions. Human rights defenders and journalists have been attacked or abducted.
We have also received disturbing reports of many migrants in Libya being subjected to prolonged arbitrary detention; attacks and unlawful killings; torture and other ill-treatment; sexual violence; and abduction for ransom. On a visit to one centre in which migrants were detained, UN staff found dozens of people crammed into storage rooms without space to lie down. All cooperation measures that are taking place between the European Union and Libyan authorities on migration and border management must only be carried out in full respect for the human rights of the people involved. Such cooperation should not, for example, facilitate migrants being sent back to face arbitrary detention in centres where such abuses are rampant.
I remain acutely concerned about the actions by violent extremists in Egypt, as well as by the shrinking democratic space, including constant harassment of civil society organizations and human rights defenders. Measures being employed to restrict freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression include excessive use of force by security forces, arbitrary arrests and detention. The legislation governing peaceful assembly is excessively restrictive. Crackdowns breed grievance and rage, and feed cycles of violence. I urge the authorities to reflect on the long-term implications of their policies.
At least 250 people in Bahrain have reportedly been stripped of their citizenship by the Government because of their alleged disloyalty to the interests of the Kingdom. In addition to these severe restrictions on freedom of expression, which contravene Bahrain’s international human rights obligations, an indefinite ban on gatherings in the capital has been in place since 2013. Dozens of people – including minors – have been prosecuted for participating in protests. Repression will not eliminate people’s grievances; it will increase them.
In Mauritania, there has been considerable progress on the issue of slavery in recent years, although much work remains to be done. My Office in Mauritania will continue to work with the Government and civil society to further human rights through constructive dialogue, including on the right to a fair trial.
New waves of attacks by violent extremist groups in Mali have targeted civilians, the armed forces and UN peacekeepers; MINUSMA has become the most deadly of all current peacekeeping missions. In addition to the toll of civilian casualties, the activities of extremist groups are also denying the population access to basic services, as they obstruct the work of the authorities and aid agencies. Schools have closed in some areas due to fear that they will be attacked, because these groups oppose their values. It is essential that all security forces conduct counter terrorism operations in line with international human rights standards – avoiding, in particular, arbitrary arrests, arbitrary detention and use of excessive force. Such methods are contrary to international law and create widespread resentment, fuelling greater recruitment by extremist groups.
In Burundi, killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests by agents of the State or associated militia continue throughout the country and the political and security situation is tense and highly volatile. Almost on a daily basis, grenades explode indiscriminately in the centre of Bujumbura, or are aimed at police and military targets. In recent weeks military officers from the defunct Armed Forces of Burundi, known as ex-FAB, have also been targeted, and I am concerned that some of these killings may be ethnic-based. There are also deeply disturbing allegations of ethnic-based hate speech against Tutsis during a large public rally organised two weeks ago in the south of the country by the Imbonerakure militia. These allegations of speech amounting to incitement to violence must be urgently addressed.
As this Council is aware, the independent experts whom you mandated to conduct investigations travelled to Burundi in March. Their Secretariat was deployed to Burundi in May. Its six human rights officers and one security officer are conducting missions to Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo this month to interview refugees. The second mission of the independent experts is planned for this week, and they are due to report to the Council in September. I note also that the International Criminal Court recently announced it will open a preliminary examination into violence in Burundi.
The formation of a transitional government of national unity offers hope, at last, for the people of South Sudan. However, violence has continued in some areas – particularly in Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr el Ghazal, which were not previously affected – and restrictions imposed on humanitarian access remain a significant problem. I trust that there will be no further delays in establishing the hybrid criminal court and other key institutions mandated by the peace agreement. The appalling violence that the country has suffered has roots in past failures of accountability, and there must now be a clear and determined commitment to hold perpetrators to account. I am hopeful that this session's enhanced interactive dialogue will contribute to that accountability and reconciliation, and that the new Commission on Human Rights on South Sudan will provide much-needed support.
In Sudan, the ongoing conflict in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur, the fighting in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States and inter-tribal clashes continue to result in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and large-scale displacement of civilians. Accountability and respect for human rights remain the only realistic hope for a sustainable end to this protracted conflict. I call on the Government to cooperate with the investigation and prosecution processes laid out in the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, as well as with the work of the International Criminal Court pursuant to Security Council resolution 1593.
The peaceful transfer of power to the Central African Republic's newly elected President, in March, was an important milestone. President Touadera's government has no representative of any armed group, breaking with past practises and sending a courageous message that using violence will not lead to political reward. Nevertheless, the new government faces enormous challenges ahead and will need strong support to deliver effective reforms that can secure a path away from conflict and towards sustainable peace, respect for human rights and development. I encourage steps towards the disarmament of armed groups, the protection of civilians who remain threatened, and an end to impunity for human rights violations, to help reconcile divided communities.
Mozambique, which has been considered an African success story in recent years, shows signs of backsliding into violence. The resumption of an armed confrontation between Renamo’s armed wing and the national army has led to the displacement of people in affected areas. Abductions, summary executions, and ill-treatment and threats to human rights defenders and journalists have been reported. I urge the Government to do its utmost to hold perpetrators to account, and to address the corruption that deprives so many of their economic and social rights.
Gambia's President reportedly made statements vilifying and threatening the Mandinka ethnic group at a political rally ten days ago. His speech included comparisons to animals and death threats to both the Mandinka and to political opponents. This appalling rhetoric may constitute incitement to violence under the terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Furthermore, in the run-up to the Presidential elections scheduled for December, peaceful demonstrations have met with severe actions by police. I call on the President and the Government to unreservedly guarantee the rights of all the people of the Gambia.
In the Republic of the Congo, I am concerned about recent reports of human rights violations in the Pool region, following an alleged militia attack on a police office. This week, with the Government's agreement, I have deployed a six-week mission to assess the human rights situation, with particular attention to the affected area, and to make appropriate recommendations on possibilities for strengthening OHCHR's engagement in the country.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there has been a sharp reduction in the democratic space since the changes to the electoral law of January 2015, including arbitrary arrests and detention; the prohibition or disruption of numerous meetings and demonstrations by the opposition or civil society; and ill-treatment of protestors. Last month police fired on demonstrators in North Kivu province, and subsequent related protests in Kinshasa also resulted in violence. I remind the authorities that all Congolese have a right to participate in the public affairs of their country.
I am also concerned about heightened tension in Kenya, where elections will take place next year. Fears have been raised by the excessive use of force by police in response to protests over alleged bias by the election commission; by the widespread use of speech tantamount to incitement to violence; and by some violence on the part of protestors. Kenya's people, who endured the massive post-election bloodshed and destruction of eight years ago, deserve better. As in every country, I urge the authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly and to investigate and prosecute the use of excessive force. I also urge protesters to remain peaceful.
The Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea mandated by this Council has found reasonable grounds to conclude that widespread and systematic crimes against humanity have been committed since 1991. My Office is ready to support the Government in implementing the Commission's recommendations. I have noted recent developments in the country, including the release of some Djiboutian prisoners of war as well as reports of the release of Eritrean ex-combatants, and I encourage the Government to continue along this path and release other political prisoners.
The government in Nigeria has made progress in addressing insecurity linked to the operations of Boko Haram. I encourage the government to address issues highlighted by militancy in the Niger Delta, including dislocation and environmental damage resulting from business activity. Attacks against sedentary communities by Fulani herdsmen should also be addressed. The perception of exclusion and discrimination in the South, which is articulated by the Indigenous People of Biafra, is also of concern. As the country painfully learned from its initial response to Boko Haram, high-handed and militaristic responses to grievances may exacerbate situations and cement intractable problems into place. I welcome unreservedly the government's anti-corruption focus, and I hope national anti-corruption bodies will be rapidly strengthened, to enhance their transparency and impartiality.
In Afghanistan, civilian casualties continue to rise. Earlier this year, UNAMA’s Human Rights Unit documented a 2% increase, and almost one third of the victims were children. UNAMA is also reporting numerous attacks across the country targeting judges, prosecutors and judicial staff, with the Taliban claiming responsibility for many of these incidents. I deplore this continuing carnage, and demand that all attacks against civilians immediately cease.
Regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where very serious human rights concerns persist, my Office is working to implement Resolution 31/18, which mandates the establishment of a group of independent experts, in order to recommend mechanisms for accountability, truth and justice for the victims of possible crimes against humanity. I continue to believe that dialogue with the Government is also essential, to encourage reform and cooperation. In April, the Government submitted reports to CEDAW and CRC. I welcome this as an indication of its willingness to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms, and I renew my offer of technical cooperation.
I am very concerned about the dramatically increased number of brutal murders in Bangladesh that target freethinkers, liberals, religious minorities and LGBT activists. I note recent reports of police arrests, and I urge that investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of these vicious crimes be made a priority, with full respect for human rights. I also urge all government officials and political and religious leaders to unequivocally condemn these attacks on freedom, and to do more to protect affected groups.
In China, I have repeatedly noted my concern regarding the detention and interrogation of lawyers in connection with their work, as well as harassment and intimidation of Government critics and NGO workers. I am concerned that legislation on NGOs which is due to come into effect next January will further shrink the space available for civil society. Following last year's wave of arrests, at least 24 individuals have reportedly been charged with crimes, including subversion, incitement to subversion and assembly to disturb social order, and I understand that by mid-August, judicial authorities will decide whether or not to proceed with their prosecution. I call on the authorities to reconsider these proceedings and to release all individuals who have been detained in the context of legitimate work and activism, including the ten activists arrested in recent days.
In Cambodia, recent arrests of opposition members, officials of the National Election Committee and members of civil society indicate a drastic and deplorable narrowing of the democratic space. This will not help to create an environment conducive to credible elections in 2017 and 2018.
I remain concerned about the shrinking democratic space in the Maldives. Recent events once again raise significant fair trial issues. I am troubled by the application of terrorism-related charges against opposition leaders, and a number of new rules which have negative impact on fundamental freedoms. The access given to my Office by the Government is a positive signal that the authorities are open to discussion, and I am hopeful that we will be able to assist the Government to embark on institutional and legislative reform.
In Thailand, the authorities have scheduled a referendum in August so that the public can determine whether or not to support the draft constitution. Paradoxically, they have also limited dialogue on the topic. People who have posted critical comments on the draft constitution have been detained and charged with “sedition”. The people of Thailand have a right to discuss – and to criticise – decisions about their country, and free, fair and dynamic public debate on the draft constitution is vital if the country is to return to sustainable democracy. I remain concerned about the increasing use of military courts to try civilians. I welcome the decision last month to enact the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act and to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. I trust these commitments will be put into effect as a matter of priority.
I remind the incoming President of the Philippines that international law, which is binding on his administration, requires him to protect the rights of all his people, including journalists, civil society activists and human rights defenders who expose malfeasance. Criticism of people in power is not a crime. However, incitement to violence, and extra-judicial assassination, are crimes and are prohibited under multiple conventions to which the Philippines has acceeded. The people of his country have a right to the rule of law. The offer of bounties and other rewards for murder by vigilantes, and his encouragement of extrajudicial killings by security forces, are massive and damaging steps backwards which could lead to widespread violence and chaos. I urge the Government to reconsider such initiatives, and to refrain from its plans to reintroduce the death penalty, in a country which has been a leading force in the campaign to end the practise.
In Papua New Guinea, longstanding protests escalated last week when police used excessive force, including live ammunition, against demonstrators. I welcome announcements by the Prime Minister and police that investigations will be set up, and I trust these will be independent and result in appropriate accountability. Police and security forces must embody the rule of law – or tarnish the reputation and legitimacy of the State among its people.
In Sri Lanka, the government’s efforts to implement its commitments in Resolution 30/1 will require a comprehensive strategy on transitional justice that enables it to pursue different processes in a coordinated, integrated and appropriately sequenced manner. This will require the inclusive and meaningful engagement of all Sri Lankans. I will present an oral update later in the session.
In Myanmar, the formation of a civilian Government in March represents a watershed moment in the continuing transition to democracy. The President and State Counsellor have set a reformist agenda focused on national reconciliation, peace, democratic reforms and development. Complex and wide-ranging human rights challenges remain, but they are not intractable. My Office stands ready to support the Government in addressing these challenges, which will be key to Myanmar's transformation,. As requested by this Council, on 29 June I will present my report on the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an important strategic partner and inspiration for the United Nations system, and a vital human rights actor within the region. The financial crisis that it faces is alarming. I call on Member States from the Americas, who so constructively engage with the Human Rights Council, to also come out in defence of their regional human rights system through regular financial contributions.
I share the concern of many partners across the Americas regarding the very high incidence of gun violence and gun-related deaths. According to UNODC, the Americas have by far the highest rate of intentional homicide of any region in the world. Many of these crimes can be linked to organised criminal gangs, which also drive corruption of the judiciary and other institutions.
In El Salvador, violence has risen steadily and, last year it had by far the highest murder rate of any country in the world not at war. Pervasive violence has forced thousands of people to migrate, mainly to the US, including unaccompanied children who fear they will be killed if they refuse to enrol in gangs. While the Government has launched a comprehensive “Plan for a Safe El Salvador” that included accountability and work to rehabilitate former gang members following prison sentences, more recently much harder-line security measures have been put forward. Recent allegations of extra-judicial killings by death squads are intolerable and are likely to fuel even greater violence.
I urge firm action to increase public security in all the affected countries, with a focus on the respect of human rights and on strengthening the capacity of rule of law institutions.
Regarding the situation in Venezuela, my Office shares many of the concerns of the Organization of American States, as well as its conviction that a solution to the current critical situation cannot be imposed from outside but must come from Venezuelans. We urge the Government and opposition to work towards this end, refraining from violence and hate speech, and in full respect of all international human rights norms. I am encouraged to see that the region is now engaging in support of Venezuela, and I offer the experience of my Office in ensuring independent and objective human rights monitoring and reporting, as well as support for the implementation of all human rights recommendations.
In Guatemala, I welcome the launch of a national dialogue on justice reform in response to numerous recommendations by my Office regarding judicial independence, access to justice and institutional strengthening. I hope this will be a decisive turning point in the fight against impunity and corruption, and that it will result in comprehensive reform to guarantee a fully independent and effective judiciary. As part of the Technical Secretariat of this dialogue, my Office has been closely involved in many aspects of its work, and in the context of discussion about recognising indigenous jurisdiction over legal matters, our staff have held meetings throughout the country with indigenous communities to foster their participation.
Haiti still does not have a constitutional President, and this lack of stable governance structures is impeding action on a wide range of crucial human rights issues. I take note of the Verification and Evaluation Commission’s recent report and invite all actors to work together to ensure a swift return to constitutional order. Six years after the 2010 earthquake, more than 60,000 people remain displaced and are urgently in need of sustainable solutions. The fate of Haitians and people of Haitian descent deported from the Dominican Republic is also of concern. Other vital human rights issues include the cruel and degrading conditions in detention centres and prisons, and the exploitation of children as domestic workers. Cholera remains a serious issue with the authorities recording more than 9000 deaths since 2010. Member States and, especially, members of the Security Council need to consider what can or should be done to deal with the tragic consequences of the cholera epidemic for Haitians.
I welcome the historic ruling two weeks ago in Argentina regarding Operation Condor, a covert pact in the 1970s between military dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to hunt down and murder political activists. Fourteen former military officials from Argentina and Uruguay were found guilty of crimes and human rights violations, including torture. This landmark of accountability will, I hope, bring a measure of peace to the families of the countless victims.
The greatest threat to the dividends of peace in Colombia is the risk that violence and human rights violations will be generated by struggles for control of illicit coca growing and illegal mining, following demobilisation. This is a trend that my office in Colombia is already observing. I urge the international community to invest with Colombia to transform these areas into productive economies that will improve the human rights situation and sustain peace.
In the United States of America, although federal civil rights legislation has had undeniable positive impact, many African Americans in particular struggle to achieve their rights to full equality. Especially when they are poor – as they disproportionately are – African Americans are more likely to be exposed to violence and crime, less likely to achieve a decent education and will have fewer employment opportunities, receive less adequate health care and face more violent interactions with the police. There is a need for much more action to address structural racial discrimination in the country. Accountability and justice must be upheld in cases of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials. I am also concerned about the findings by the Working Group on People of African Descent that voter ID laws have discriminatory impact on minorities.
As the coordinator of the International Decade for People of African Descent, I am concerned about the continuing low political representation of Afro-descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean. There are around 150 million people of African descent in the region, amounting to about 30 percent of the population. They make up more than half the population of Brazil and well over ten percent of the population of Cuba, to take two examples. But their representation in high levels of government, including Ministerial Cabinets, is far lower.
Representation matters. This deficit of representation at the summit of power affects all of society: parliaments, workplaces in the public and the private sectors, schools, law courts, the media – all of them places in which the voices of Afro-descendants are given too little weight. The voices, the choices, the experiences and the faces of Afro-descendants need to be better reflected in government. I urge these and other States to take action to reflect the diversity of their population in decision making bodies, including consideration of affirmative action policies.
The state of implementation of resolution 68/268 on treaty body strengthening is globally positive. The treaty body system is already making strides towards greater efficiency and effectiveness, as attested by the notable increase in State party reviews, examinations of individual communications and field visits. The capacity-building programme which the resolution called for has been established by my Office, and I encourage States to make use of it. Looking ahead, the Secretary General will soon submit to the General Assembly a first report under resolution 68/268. It remains clear that the ever-growing treaty body system still requires sustained support and attention in the process leading towards the 2020 review.
As the world learned very recently from Ebola, major health emergencies are also human rights crises. The Zika epidemic continues to grow, with 60 countries worldwide now reporting cases – and there is an urgent need for a strong preventive and human rights-based approach in every one of those countries, as well as regionally and globally. Zika appears to disproportionately affect poor people, who live in areas with inadequate sanitation and whose homes and workplaces are less likely to be air-conditioned and mosquito-free. That must not mean that decision-makers downplay this epidemic. I urge adequate preventive measures, include the allocation of funds, as well as full respect for the human rights of all those affected. Disease is inevitable, but it is within our capability to prevent and reverse epidemics and pandemics. Indeed, it is our urgent duty.
Today is International Albinism Awareness Day, and I would like to stress my appreciation for this Council's work to address the terrible problems faced by people with albinism – including the appointment of the first Independent Expert. I am glad to note that Malawi has adopted a plan of action to address attacks against persons with albinism. Tanzania has recently appointed, for the first time, a person with albinism as a Deputy Minister. In Malawi and South Africa, organisations of traditional healers have publicly dismissed the myths that body parts of persons with albinism can be used to make traditional medicine. These are significant steps, but the gruesome suffering that is inflicted on people with albinism will require much greater focus and support from many actors.
I have listed many preventable calamities, which inflict unnecessary suffering on many people. I have also suggested many of the tools which can roll back those forces and revive the resilience and unity of societies around the world. Equality. Dignity. Participation. Respect. Conflict can be prevented, and peace, security and development can be strengthened or rebuilt, brick by brick. Respect for human rights offers States a path towards greater stability, not less. And assistance in establishing that path is what my Office, in all humility, offers. We shed light on protection gaps in order to help States repair them. I urge you to assist our work, and to avail yourselves of the help we offer. Despite the often terrible trends that I have outlined in this discussion, I firmly believe that it is not yet too late to act.
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Global Overview – Trends and Outlook
While an upsurge of crises continued to test the international order, amid growing mass displacement and the spread of transnational terrorism, the UK's divisive vote on 23 June in favour of leaving the European Union brought a new dimension to global political and economic uncertainty. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President & CEO of the International Crisis Group, said: “the Brexit crisis increases the risk of an inward-looking EU consumed with sorting out its own problems at a time when the world needs a Europe that is globally engaged".
The month saw security deteriorate in several countries in Africa. In South Sudan fighting escalated and the peace deal threatened to unravel, while Boko Haram increased deadly attacks in Niger. Insecurity also rose in Nigeria’s Niger Delta where militants fighting for a greater share of the region’s oil revenues stepped up attacks on oil and gas facilities, and communal and criminal violence spiked in the Central African Republic. In Turkey, a terrorist attack believed to be the work of Islamic State killed more than 40 people on 28 June. In a significant step forward, Colombia’s government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed agreements bringing the 52-year armed conflict closer to an end.
In South Sudan, fighting erupted in several places and conflict parties failed to make progress in implementing the peace deal signed in August 2015, instead appearing to prepare for a return to war. Forces allied to the former rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition led by Vice President Riek Machar, launched attacks mid-month to demand places in the planned army integration or disarmament processes. Crisis Group has called on the peace guarantors to act urgently, ahead of the African Union summit on 10-18 July, to salvage the agreement and prevent the country from returning to full-scale war.
Meanwhile, in West Africa, armed violence in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta worsened and threatened to spread, while Boko Haram insurgents in the north east continued to attack security forces and civilians. These crises, alongside the killing of about 59 people by Fulani herdsmen on 18-19 June, painted a picture of deepening insecurity across the country. As Crisis Group argued in a new report “The Challenge of Military Reform”, if the government is to defend its citizens it needs to take action including an overhaul of the defence sector, drastically improving leadership, oversight and administration.
Niger also suffered deadly attacks by Boko Haram in south-eastern Diffa region on the border with Nigeria. On 3 June insurgents overran Bosso town on Lake Chad, killing 26 soldiers. Similar attacks were reported on 9 and 16 June against an army-held town and barracks. In the Central African Republic, violence spiked in several parts of the country in the first major deterioration in security since a newly elected government took office in April. In the capital, Bangui, clashes between Muslims and Christians on 11 June left four dead, and fighting hit the north west.
In Turkey a gun and suicide bomb attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on 28 June killed 44 people and injured over 200. The government said it believed Islamic State (IS) was responsible, with official sources reporting that the three attackers were from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia’s North Caucasus. The attack comes as the government continued its clampdown against domestic IS networks and stepped up measures to prevent IS rocket attacks from Syria and seal off a 70km stretch of the border. Meanwhile clashes between the Kurdish PKK insurgency and Turkey’s security forces continued in the south east, with fighting increasingly moving from urban to rural areas.
On a positive note, the Colombian government and FARC signed agreements on the “end of conflict” on 23 June, providing the strongest assurance yet that the 52-year conflict is finally coming to a close. The agreements spell out how the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities will work, as well as how FARC guerillas will put down their arms and transition to civilian life. The parties also agreed on how to hold a referendum to approve the final peace deal. Crisis Group commended the work of both delegations and those involved in the negotiations, and applauded the inclusion of victims in the talks.
Alert 2016! Report on conflicts, human rights and peacebuilding is a yearbook providing an analysis of the state of the world in terms of conflict and peacebuilding from four perspectives: armed conflicts, socio-political crises, peace processes and gender, peace and security.
By analysing the most significant events in 2015 and the nature, causes, dynamics, actors and consequences of the main flashpoints of armed conflict and sociopolitical crisis throughout the world, we are able to offer a regional comparison and identify global trends, making it possible to highlight areas of risk and provide early warnings for the future. Similarly, the report also identifies opportunities for peacebuilding and for reducing, preventing and resolving conflicts. In both cases, one of the main aims of this report is to place data, analyses and the identified warning signs and opportunities for peace in the hands of those actors responsible for making policy decisions or those who participate in peacefully resolving conflicts or in raising political, media and academic awareness of the many situations of political and social violence taking place around the world.
As regards methodology, the report is largely produced on the basis of the qualitative analysis of studies and data provided by numerous sources –the United Nations, international bodies, research centres, media outlets and NGOs, among others– as well as experience drawn from research on the ground.
Some of the most important conclusions and information contained in the report include:
CrisisWatch is a monthly early warning bulletin designed to provide a regular update on the state of the most significant situations of conflict around the world.
Global Overview, August 2016
The month saw Yemen’s peace talks collapse with violence there intensifying, and the Syrian conflict escalate following Ankara’s launch of a cross-border ground offensive against Islamic State (IS) and Kurdish forces, days after a major terror attack in Turkey’s south east. Troop deployments in Western Sahara threatened to bring about clashes, and violence flared in the Central African Republic. In Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, security forces brutally suppressed anti-government protests, while in Gabon, the president’s disputed re-election triggered violent clashes. In Asia, a suicide bombing killed over 70 people in Pakistan, while suspected militants in Thailand’s southern insurgency launched attacks on targets outside the traditional conflict zone. In positive news, peace talks between the Philippines government and communist rebel groups resumed after a four-year hiatus. On 24 August, Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) declared that they had reached a final peace accord, paving the way for an end to 52 years of armed conflict.
I am honoured to address this first session of the Council's second decade.
After two years as High Commissioner, I believe it is important for me to share with you in this oral update our concern over an emerging pattern: the growing refusal on the part of an increasing number of Member States to grant OHCHR, or the human rights mechanisms, access – either to countries generally, or to specific regions, when that access is requested explicitly, or in other instances to engage with us.
Why and for what reason, do those who deny access place their shield before us? I intend to devote this statement mainly to this single issue. Before I do, I wish to first draw on some general observations of our present circumstances.
In my statement before the 32nd Session of the Human Rights Council, I questioned the extent to which we did indeed have an international community. It is easy to take for granted we are committed to working together, because we have no choice. The organization we belong to was not created by humanity for trivial reasons, but was exhaled by a world broken and devastated by two immense wars. The entire human rights framework was likewise the product of catastrophe – enlightened yes, but given the scale of wartime savagery, it was created out of the sharpest and most profound necessity. Indeed, even today, the climate change and SDG agenda are anchored, layers deep, in that most strongly-held belief: only by working together can we solve our common problems. There is no alternative. No other choice offering any hope. We must remain committed to collective action.
Yet for some in power today, and others labouring to attain it, it would seem there are alternatives, and they claim to know better. Only dreamers, fools, they seemingly believe, think in terms of ‘we the people’, or in we ‘nations united together’, or in we as individuals who all hold equal rights. What is this United Nations? Outdated, laughable nonsense – bureaucrats and gilded elites! And those who believe this, think little of dividing humans into categories, and frightening or abusing the vulnerable; battering the truth; attacking regional or even international organizations – threatening to withdraw from them, abandon them, and jettisoning international law. And some are on the cusp of attaining political power. Others are already exercising it.
In the next several months, the centrifugal forces tearing away at us will remain strong: terrorism and its main exponent Da’esh, hateful and despicable as it is, will likely continue to mark its presence on us; while the alienation and frustration of many throughout the world who feel short-changed by poor governance and corruption will fuel the work of the deceivers. A number of elections will be held in well-established democracies, with dangerous xenophobes and bigots running for office, and what falls to us then could begin to determine, as never before, the future course of “we the peoples” of this earth. I will address this further next week in New York, at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants.
Ten years ago, when the Human Rights Council was created, it was designed to be more relevant than its predecessor; more credible; more impartial; and more focused on the rights and voices of victims.
On each of those points, the Council has achieved important successes. And yet I am concerned about a growing polarisation within this body, as well as by increasing and clear attempts by States to block or evade human rights scrutiny –as I stated at the outset of this update.
I am told repeatedly by members of Government and Permanent Missions that human rights are being misused as a pretext for interference in the affairs of sovereign nations. It is suggested the struggle against discrimination violates cultural values. Officials have protested that human rights officers observing a public street demonstration are "interfering" in the State's internal affairs. Statements by my Office regarding credible allegations of violations – including excessively broad and violent security sweeps; prosecutions that appear politically motivated; and the massive use of capital punishment for crimes not consistent with the norms laid out by the ICCPR – are deemed "biased", "irresponsible", "misleading" or based on "false" premises. Monitoring activities, and advocacy intended to help better protect the people of your countries, are refuted as somehow violating the principle of State sovereignty – or even the UN Charter.
It may be useful to recall the many attempts made by the apartheid régime of South Africa to claim that the General Assembly’s resolutions opposing apartheid constituted a prohibited "intervention" in its domestic jurisdiction. These efforts to shield serious human rights violations from outside scrutiny were conclusively and repeatedly rejected by the General Assembly.
Under international law, wrongful "intervention" – as prohibited in Article 2(7) of the UN Charter – is by nature coercive. And it should be obvious that my Office has no coercive power. No activity that we undertake can possibly be considered constitutive of a prohibited "intervention". We seek to strengthen national protection systems, not violate them. We do not threaten invasion, nor do we finance or organize sedition; we request access, in order to establish a neutral clarity about the facts on the ground. And access only becomes possible when the State extends an invitation to us; it cannot be forced open by OHCHR.
We request access so we can better work to help bring your laws and practices in line with international agreements which you, the States drafted and ratified – and to assist you to comply with recommendations which you have publicly, and often fulsomely, accepted.
Are human rights exclusively a national issue? Governments have the responsibility to uphold their human rights obligations and to respect the standards. But the human rights of all people, in all countries, also require – unquestionably – our collective attention. The Vienna Declaration, adopted unanimously 23 years ago, confirmed this: "the promotion and protection of all human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community." This language was also echoed by GA Resolution 48/141, which calls on the High Commissioner to "play an active role in removing current obstacles... to the full realization of all human rights and in preventing the continuation of human rights violations throughout the world".
Human rights violations will not disappear if a government blocks access to international observers and then invests in a public relations campaign to offset any unwanted publicity. On the contrary, efforts to duck or refuse legitimate scrutiny raise an obvious question: what, precisely, are you hiding from us?
I classify as refusals of access all unreasonable delays, elaborately ritualised and unreasonably prolonged negotiations, and responses to specific requests which seem to seek to fob us off with inadequate alternatives to real, fact-based assessment. Access delayed is access denied: two weeks is surely amply sufficient to secure a decision from all relevant officials. Claims that insecure conditions make it impossible to give my staff access are also less than acceptable. My staff work with great courage in some of the world's most severely threatened communities, and will continue to do so when called upon – or at least, we could be the judge of that.
States may shut my Office out – but they will not shut us up; neither will they blind us. If access is refused, we will assume the worst, and yet do our utmost to nonetheless report as accurately as we can on serious allegations. Our remote monitoring is likely to involve witness testimony, credible third-party reports and use of satellite imagery, among other techniques. Certainly, remote monitoring is a poor substitute for in-person observation by expert analysts. It makes it more difficult to verify and confirm the competing allegations of any party – including the Government. I regret that imprecision, and encourage all States to assist us to correct it, by permitting my teams unhindered access to events on the ground when requested.
I want to emphasise that some States do continue to cooperate fully. This was recently the case of the Republic of Congo, despite the severity of the violations alleged. The report of that mission is being finalised, and the prompt access granted by the authorities is appreciated.
In contrast, Syria, despite repeated requests, has granted no access to OHCHR or to the Commission of Inquiry since the crisis began in 2011. This is a State led by a medical doctor and yet is believed to have gassed its own people; has attacked hospitals and bombed civilian neighbourhoods with indiscriminate explosive weapons; and maintains tens of thousands of detainees in inhuman conditions. Words cannot convey how profoundly I condemn this situation. The Government, which is responsible for some of the gravest violations on record in the history of this Council, has regularly sent notes verbales to my Office reporting abuses by armed groups. But it offers no possibility whatsoever for independent scrutiny.
For the past two and a half years, Venezuela has refused even to issue a visa to my Regional Representative. Its comprehensive denial of access to my staff is particularly shocking in the light of our acute concerns regarding allegations of repression of opposition voices and civil society groups; arbitrary arrests; excessive use of force against peaceful protests; the erosion of independence of rule of law institutions; and a dramatic decline in enjoyment of economic and social rights, with increasingly widespread hunger and sharply deteriorating health-care. My Office will continue to follow the situation in the country very closely, and we will state our concerns for the human rights of Venezuela's people at every opportunity. Respect for international human rights norms can create a narrow path upon which the Government and the opposition can both tread, to address and resolve peacefully the country’s current challenges – particularly through meaningful dialogue, respecting the rule of the law and the Constitution. My Office stands ready to assist in addressing the current human rights challenges, and I thank the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States for recommending that Venezuela work with my Office on a Truth Commission, which could indeed offer the people an important voice.
My concerns regarding the rights of people living in south-east Turkey remain acute. We have received repeated and serious allegations of on-going violations of international law as well as human rights concerns, including civilian deaths, extrajudicial killings and massive displacement. We continue to receive reports of destruction and demolition of towns and villages in the south-east. Due consideration must be given to the humanitarian and protection needs of thousands of displaced and otherwise affected people. I have requested access to this area for a comprehensive independent assessment by my staff. But despite our on-going cooperation with the Turkish authorities across a number of other topics, that access has not been granted. We have therefore set up a temporary monitoring capacity based in Geneva, and we will continue to inform this Council of our concerns. While I thank the Government of Turkey for its personal invitation for me to visit the country, this does not replace our request for effective and unfettered access to the south-east by a team from OHCHR, which is so urgently needed.
While Ethiopia has made impressive gains in terms of economic development, we are deeply concerned about repeated allegations of excessive and lethal use of force against protestors, enforced disappearances, and mass detentions, including of children, as well as by worrying restrictions on civil society, the media and opposition. I have requested my Office be given access in order for it to conduct a human rights assessment, particularly to the Oromia and Amhara regions. In response, the Government has claimed the recent violence was inspired by outlaw and terrorist groups, and argued it will conduct its own national investigation into the killings of protestors. I welcome a national effort, but believe the Government should also consider the need for an independent, impartial and international effort to affirm or revise the allegations.
May I add that given our privileged relationship with Ethiopia, which hosts one of our regional offices, and our promising draft agreement with Turkey to set up a regional office there, I find it mystifying we are not being given access to areas where the expertise of my Office can so clearly be of immediate and sustained assistance.
Two months ago, I requested the agreement of the Governments of India and Pakistan to invite teams from my Office to visit both sides of the line of control: in other words the India-Administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir. We had previously received reports, and still continue to do so, claiming the Indian authorities had used force excessively against the civilian population under its administration. We furthermore received conflicting narratives from the two sides as to the cause for the confrontations and the reported large numbers of people killed and wounded. I believe an independent, impartial and international mission is now needed crucially and that it should be given free and complete access to establish an objective assessment of the claims made by the two sides. I received last Friday a letter from the Government of Pakistan formally inviting an OHCHR team to the Pakistani side of the line of control, butin tandem with a mission tothe Indian side. I have yet to receive a formal letter from the Government of India. I therefore request here and publicly, from the two Governments, access that is unconditional to both sides of the line of control.
In July I also requested from the government of Mozambique access for an assessment mission to the country, and was hoping for a swift response. Continued armed confrontation between RENAMO and the national army, beginning almost a year ago, has heightened the levels of violence, and we have received reports of mass graves, summary executions, destruction of property, displacement and attacks against civilians. Tensions are exacerbated by economic deterioration across the country, and an increasingly severe humanitarian situation resulting from drought. I trust the Government's response will be received soon.
Similarly, in the Gambia the UN has requested clearance to field a joint mission and we await a positive response. As I outlined at the June session of this Council, we have been alarmed by instances of inflammatory speech, as well as alleged violence against protestors in the context of the electoral campaign, and more recently, death in detention, and reported torture and ill-treatment of detainees. Given the potentially serious repercussions of any further decline in the situation, I believe it is urgent to assist the authorities to maintain respect for all human rights.
In Crimea, the de facto authorities have not granted my Office’s request to open a sub-office of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine on the same conditions as the five other HRMMU sub-offices. We will therefore continue to monitor the situation in Crimea remotely, and we will continue to issue impartial, independent and trenchant information, as is evident from the 14 quarterly reports already distributed, and the 15th which will be presented at this session.
Human rights protection is crucial in the context of protracted conflicts and legally unrecognized or disputed territories, where millions of people live in profound uncertainty. I am deeply concerned over the repeated refusals to permit access for my staff to both Abkhazia and South Ossetia by those in effective control – despite the Secretary-General's emphasis on the importance of that access in the context of the Geneva International Discussions. We continue to receive allegations of violations, including killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment and restricted freedom of movement. Other serious concerns include unresolved queries regarding missing persons and persistent difficulties regarding access to livelihood, education, property rights and administrative documentation, as well as the need to ensure the space for civil society and independent media.
My Office has had no access to the conflict situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, including since the events of April 2016. Consequently, conflicting claims of human rights violations cannot be verified, and the plight of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees has not received the kind of human rights scrutiny that it deserves, for the past decades – either from my Office or from the international community.
Discussions with China over the past 11 years regarding an official mission by successive High Commissioners have so far failed to produce an actual commitment to move ahead with a visit. Since 2011, our proposals for joint projects and workshops have also not led to action – despite our strong impression we could bring useful support, including on development, environmental and business topics related to human rights. The highly relevant observations made by the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, who recently visited the country, provide a good example of the specific and useful recommendations which my staff could further build on. I welcome the recent passage of a national law against domestic violence and some progress regarding the country's high number of executions, and I hope my Office can assist China in this effort. I remain deeply concerned, however, over reports of continued harassment of human rights lawyers, human rights defenders and their family members, as well as allegations of discrimination, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and deaths in custody of members of ethnic and religious communities. First-hand access would allow my Office to better assess the situation, and to see the remarkable achievements of China, particularly in terms of poverty alleviation. I would like to embark on a genuine working relationship with China in a constructive and committed manner.
In 2011, the Government of Nepalchose to close OHCHR's field offices throughout the country, and since then we have encountered great difficulty in engaging on human rights. The Government has explained it has sufficient domestic human rights capacity, and requires no outside assistance. Yet the country continues to face serious and chronic human rights challenges. A decade after the civil war, accountability for gross human rights violations is still not pursued. Nepal remains amongst the poorest of the world’s nations and corruption is high. Despite a huge influx of aid following the earthquake last year, many victims have yet to receive adequate support. There are also severe and long-standing issues of discrimination based on gender, caste, religion and ethnicity, which as the past has demonstrated, could swiftly lead to violence.
Uzbekistan has refused to recognize my regional office for Central Asia in Bishkek for the past ten years, and has given none of its staff access to the country. Despite lack of access, we continue to document very severe human rights violations in Uzbekistan that deserve far greater attention. I hope we will soon be able to overcome these long-standing difficulties, and begin engaging with the authorities in line with their legal human rights obligations and the commitments made by the Government in the UPR.
I also regret also that Armenia has so far not accorded full access to our presence in Tbilisi, which supports countries in the South Caucasus. We have therefore been unable to cooperate and engage fully with the Government, its state entities and civil society organizations.
I regret the** Dominican Republic**'s failure to respond to my offer of support and monitoring capacity in regard to forcible movements of people to Haiti. Among them is a sizeable population of people descended from Haitian immigrants who were stripped of Dominican citizenship following the passage of legislation in 2013. My Office remains concerned about the deportations, which officially commenced a year ago, and is keen to ensure that any movements of people fully comply with international legal norms. I am aware the Government has worked closely with concerned UN agencies in the country, including the Human Rights Advisor, and I commend the establishment of mechanisms to redress wrongful or unlawful deportations. However, I must reiterate my request for unhindered access to border crossing points for a specialised team from OHCHR, and I look forward to closer cooperation on this with the authorities.
Regarding Burundi, while I note the continued cooperation of the authorities with my Office, I am very concerned at the failure of the Burundi delegation to appear or present replies during the Special Session of the Committee against Torture in July – an unprecedented course of action by any State. Deplorably, a number of civil society groups, media and lawyers who cooperated with CAT continue to face the threat of official reprisals. I am also disturbed by the Government’s refusal to comply with the Security Council’s request for a police component to monitor the security situation. You will receive a more detailed briefing on Burundi in the course of this session.
Turning to the United States, I have repeatedly expressed my dismay at the failure of the Government to accept the Special Rapporteur on Torture's request to enter the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and conduct confidential interviews, as is the agreed practice for all the Council’s experts. Guantanamo has long been a space of reported serious violations. The evasive tactics of the US authorities with respect to requests by international human rights mandates are deeply regrettable.
On this and other failures by States to permit appropriate access to Special Procedures mandate-holders, I will report at greater length at a future session of this Council.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea extended an invitation to me to visit the country, yet has refused to engage on the modalities of the trip or to engage with our Seoul presence. This approach deprives my Office of further understanding the point of view of the DPRK authorities. Our remote monitoring indicates that grave human rights concerns persist throughout the country, including pervasive restrictions on all public freedoms, a vast and brutal prison system, torture, and violations of the right to food and other economic and social rights.
Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran, my Office has been given no access since 2013 – despite several years of good technical cooperation prior to that date.Our offers to begin a technical dialogue on the death penalty have been systematically overlooked, as have all other proposals of engagement. This is particularly regrettable given the reports we continue to receive of fundamental problems with the administration of criminal justice; continued execution of large numbers of people,including juveniles; allegations ofdiscrimination and prosecution of religious and ethnic minorities; harsh restrictions on human rights defenders,lawyersand journalists; anddiscrimination against women both in law and practice.
I seize this occasion to share with you some broader thoughts regarding States' cooperation – or non-cooperation – with country-specific mandates, including Commissions of Inquiry, Council-mandated fact-finding missions and the specific country mandates of the Special Procedures. Currently, Belarus, Eritrea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria refuse to cooperate in any way with these mechanisms. Israel has had a long record of refusing to cooperate with most of them, in terms of allowing access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
A number of States have argued that unless the Human Rights Council can secure the approval of the concerned State, it should avoid looking into situations in which governments are alleged to be massively violating their people's human rights. I am wholly unpersuaded by this argument, a position buttressed by the fact that States espousing it use it inconsistently. Country-specific mandates ensure an expert, impartial and intensive monitoring process that keeps information flowing to this Council and to the world. This Council’s clear and universal mandate to address human rights violations is not conditional on the approval of specific governments.
The plural and sometimes overlapping voices of the Council, its mechanisms and my Office are frequently raised in support of each others' work. Where country-specific mandates are not forthcoming or when the Council is unable to express itself, for whatever reason, it is all the more important that the High Commissioner exercise his or her independent mandate to shine a spotlight on human rights violations.
In Bahrain, I am concerned by harrassment and arrests of human rights defenders and political activists, and legislation which enables revocation of citizenship without due process. I urge greater attention to this situation. The past decade has demonstrated repeatedly and with punishing clarity exactly how disastrous the outcomes can be when a Government attempts to smash the voices of its people, instead of serving them.he authorities of Bahrain would be well advised to comply with the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms and UPR, and engage more productively with my Office, as well as with this Council's Special Procedures.
The President of the Philippines's statements of scorn for international human rights law display a striking lack of understanding of our human rights institutions and the principles which keep societies safe. Fair and impartial rule of law is the foundation of public confidence and security. Empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to suspect of drug crimes, with or without evidence, undermines justice. The people of the Philippines have a right to judicial institutions that are impartial, and operate under due process guarantees; and they have a right to a police force that serves justice. I strongly encourage the Philippines to extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. My Office is ready to assist, including with respect to rule of law institutions and the prevention and treatment of drug use in accordance with international norms.
My Office continues to enjoy broad access in Yemen. But as my recent report has highlighted, the national investigation effort has not been able to provide the impartial and wide-ranging inquiry that is required by serious allegations of violations and abuse. I recommend a comprehensive inquiry by an international independent body. There will be further discussion of this situation later in this session.
Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent; if States pick and choose which rights they will uphold, the entire structure is undermined. Yet I am frequently surprised by assertions my Office is insufficiently concerned with economic and social rights. This is a statement often made by representatives of States which have few or no national accountability mechanisms to ensure that economic and social rights are effectively protected – and have adopted no legislative framework to give domestic legal effect to the CESCR.
I am convinced civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development, can only be effective when they are viewed as mutually supportive. And although there is no one correct model, applying human rights in practice requires that they be addressed as rights– not as neutral commodities or optional policy outcomes. I urge all Member States of this Council to move swiftly to establish the legal frameworks which can ensure implementation and accountability for economic and social rights.
I hope I have made clear this morning that even where the powerful might seek to deflect our work and evade our scrutiny, we and other human rights actors will always continue to seek the truth and stand up for the rights of all people. At a coming session of the Council, I will continue and expand this focus on countries which maintain minimal engagement with the human rights mechanisms, as well as my Office.
This Council is the torchbearer for the consistent and equitable protection of human rights around the world. It stands for principles which endorse the freedom of people – everywhere. Our human rights norms empower people to demand governments which serve them, instead of exploiting them; economic systems that enable them to live in dignity; the right to participate in every decision that impacts their lives. These are the essential steps which will lead to greater mutual respect and more sustainable development and justice, within a world of greater safety.
I am confident that in the coming decade, the Council will maintain its credibility, and further develop its reputation for consistent action, by clearly upholding the equal value of all human rights, and their equal validity across all geographies, all political systems, and all societies.
13 septembre 2016 – A l'ouverture de la 33e session du Conseil des droits de l'homme mardi à Genève, le Haut-Commissaire des Nations Unies aux droits de l'homme, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, a exprimé sa préoccupation face au refus d'un nombre croissant d'États membres d'accorder au Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies aux droits de l'Homme (HCDH) ou aux mécanismes des droits de l'homme, l'accès aux pays ou aux régions spécifiques qu'ils demandent.
« Pourquoi et pour quelle raison, ceux qui nous refusent l'accès, placent-ils un bouclier devant nous ? », a demandé le Haut-Commissaire, qui qualifie de refus d'accès tous les retards déraisonnables, les négociations excessivement longues et minutieusement ritualisées, ainsi que les réponses aux demandes spécifiques qui offrent des alternatives inadéquates à la réelle évaluation fondée sur les faits. « Un accès retardé est un accès refusé », a-t-il ajouté.
« Je suis préoccupé par une polarisation croissante au sein (du Conseil), ainsi que par les tentatives claires et croissantes d'États de bloquer ou d'échapper à l'examen des droits de l'homme », a souligné M. Zeid. « Nous demandons un accès afin que nous puissions mieux travailler à aider à mettre vos lois et pratiques en conformité avec les accords internationaux que vous, les Etats avez rédigés et ratifiés - et pour vous aider à être en conformité avec les recommandations que vous avez acceptées publiquement, et souvent à part entière », a-t-il rappelé aux Etats membres
« Les droits de l'homme sont-ils exclusivement une question nationale ? » a également demandé M. Zeid, indiquant que des membres de gouvernement et de missions permanentes lui ont dit à plusieurs reprises que les droits de l'homme sont utilisés comme prétexte d'ingérence dans les affaires de nations souveraines.
« Les gouvernements ont la responsabilité de respecter leurs obligations en matière de droits et de respecter les normes. Mais les droits humains de toutes les personnes, dans tous les pays, exigent aussi - sans aucun doute - notre attention collective », a précisé le Haut-Commissaire. « Les Etats peuvent fermer mon bureau - mais ils ne peuvent ni nous faire taire, ni nous rendre aveugles ».
Si le Haut-Commissaire a salué la récente coopération de la République du Congo, il a énuméré les refus, fins de non-recevoir ou demandes incomplètement satisfaites pour des demandes d'accès du HCDH concernant la Syrie, le Venezuela, la Turquie, l'Ethiopie, le Pakistan et l'Inde, le Mozambique, la Gambie, la Crimée, l'Abkhazie et l'Ossétie du Sud, le Nagorno-Karabakh, la Chine, le Népal, l'Ouzbékistan, l'Arménie, la République dominicaine, le Burundi, les Etats-Unis, la Corée du nord et l'Iran.
M. Zeid a également indiqué le refus du Belarus, de l'Erythrée, de la Corée du Nord, de l'Iran, de la Syrie et d'Israël de coopérer avec les différents mécanismes des droits de l'homme.
« Les droits de l'homme sont universels, indivisibles et interdépendants », a déclaré le Haut-Commissaire. « Si les États choisissent à leur guise quels droits ils soutiendront, c'est toute la structure qui est minée ».
Global Overview OCTOBER 2016
October saw Venezuela’s tense political standoff at new heights amid economic stress and popular unrest, and Haiti’s weak political and security equilibrium struck by a major natural disaster and humanitarian crisis. In Africa, violence worsened in the Central African Republic (CAR), north-eastern Kenya, Mozambique and western Niger, while in Ethiopia the government hardened its response to continued protests. In Myanmar, unprecedented attacks on police in the north triggered deadly clashes and displacement threatening to exacerbate intercommunal tensions across the country, while Russia’s North Caucasus saw an increase in conflict-related casualties, detentions and counter-terrorism operations. In the Middle East, the election of Michel Aoun as president of Lebanon signals a long-awaited breakthrough ending two years of political deadlock.
Global Overview NOVEMBER 2016
November saw violence escalate again in Syria, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Cameroon. Attacks by pro-regime forces on rebel strongholds in Syria resumed, causing significant civilian casualties. In Myanmar’s Rakhine state intensifying violence displaced tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, while a major attack by armed groups near the Chinese border threatened to undermine the country’s fragile ethnic peace process. In DRC, violence rose in the east and the regime continued to repress dissent, underscoring the risk that renewed protests, likely in December when President Kabila’s second term officially ends, could turn violent. In Cameroon, Boko Haram stepped up its attacks in the Far North and minority English-speakers clashed with security forces in the North West region. The victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election on 8 November created uncertainty about possible shifts in future U.S. foreign policy priorities and positions, including on a number of conflicts and prominent geostrategic arenas – among them the future of the historic multilateral nuclear accord with Iran.
The map below shows asylum applications by under age 18 year olds and gender. Darker colours mean more people have applied in a certain country. Use the slider to select a year or the drop down menus below to display data for different age groups or different home countries.
On Monday 16 October 2017 the Council adopted the EU Annual Report on Human Rights And Democracy in the World in 2016.
2016 was a challenging year for human rights and democracy, with a shrinking space for civil society and complex humanitarian and political crises emerging. In this context, the European Union showed leadership and remained strongly committed to promote and protect human rights and democracy across the world.
This report gives a broad picture of the EU's human rights efforts towards third countries in 2016, and encompasses two parts: The first part is thematic, and pays particular attention to the human rights approach to conflicts and crises, main human rights challenges and human rights throughout EU external policies. The second part is geographical and covers EU actions in third countries, thus mapping in detail the human rights situation across the globe.
Global Overview DECEMBER 2017
Huthi rebels in Yemen killed their erstwhile ally, former President Saleh, and cracked down on his party, while both the Huthis and the Saudi-led coalition looked set to increase hostilities in January. In Syria, the regime and its allies ramped up their campaign to take territory from jihadist and other rebel groups in the north west, and the de facto leader in Libya’s east disavowed the 2015 political deal, which could lead to more fighting in coming weeks. In Egypt, the military intensified operations in North Sinai against jihadists, who in turn launched more attacks. President Trump’s declaration that the U.S. recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital triggered deadly clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli security forces, and in Iran over a dozen were reported killed as tens of thousands protested against the regime. In Africa, Cameroon and Ethiopia experienced heightened instability, new fighting in South Sudan could escalate in January, and a ban on unrestricted grazing in Nigeria’s Taraba state could lead to more violence between herders and farmers. In Central America, the political crisis in Honduras saw deadly clashes between opposition supporters and police.
Human Rights Council AFTERNOON
27 February 2018
The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard statements from dignitaries of 11 countries and two organizations and closed the second day of its high-level segment.
Edward Nalbandian, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said Armenia continued to implement the national plan of action for human rights protection, had a good record of submission of national and follow-up reports to the treaty bodies, and would submit the Universal Periodic Review second mid-term report on a voluntary basis.
Sameh Hassan Shokry Selim, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that Egypt would present during the current session a voluntary report on the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Egypt positively engaged with international human rights mechanisms, and it had one of the highest response rates to treaty bodies.
Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said that the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights presented an opportunity to recall binding obligations, especially as many leaders questioned the validity and universality of human rights. Sweden called from stronger ties between the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to better consider the links between human rights and security.
Marie Ange Mushobekwa, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thanked all Member States for supporting the Democratic Republic of the Congo in their membership to the Human Rights Council for the first time. In December 2017, the Catholic Church and activists had called for demonstrations in Kinshasa which had unfortunately ended with the death of civil society activists and political party members.
Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said that Nigeria remained fully committed to ensuring the full and efficient implementation of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
Seyyed Alireza Avaei, Minister of Justice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said expansionist policies and overambitious domineering measures of certain States and their proxies in the region had resulted in mischievous attempts through supporting terrorists and extremist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, aimed at sowing discord and creating divisions among nation States in the Middle East region.
Noureddine Ayadi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said legislative reforms, including constitutional amendments had been pursued to guarantee the freedoms of expression, association and belief, participatory democracy and local governance. He called upon the Council to look into the occupied territory of Western Sahara and to undertake measures to this effect.
Barbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, said that with the Human Rights Council, a comprehensive system to monitor State compliance with human rights obligations was in place and was helping people around the world realize their fundamental rights. The Council acted as a forum to highlight violations with a view to ending them.
Maria Luisa Navarro, Vice-Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of Panama, said the Council was experiencing political manipulation by some States. Panama regretted the decision taken by High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein not to stand for another mandate. His voice had been unique, unflawed and impartial, and he had stood up to States.
Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, said a distinction had to be made between the truly universal human rights principles and principles that were favouring certain countries. Foreign values should not be imposed on other countries. The Arab-Israeli conflict, as the longest world conflict, included numerous violations of rights of Palestinian people to self-determination and the international community.
Stavros Lambrinidis, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, said that in 2018, no policy to ensure tolerance would succeed without human rights at its core. He affirmed that the promotion and protection of human rights was at the centre of multilateralism and at the very core of the European Union. The European Union reaffirmed support for reforms that would make the Human Rights Council as effective as possible.
Manabu Horii, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said Japan was committed to establishing the rule of law and human rights in its region. Japan and the European Union would draft a resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said the Council’s increased focus on national implementation and involvement of national processes was welcomed. The involvement of parliaments had increased during all stages of the Universal Periodic Review and the recent Council resolution 35/29 additionally strengthened the relationship of the Council and parliaments.
The Human Rights Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 February, to conclude its high-level segment.
EDWARD NALBANDIAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said that 2018 marked the anniversary of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In February 1988, anti-Armenian pogroms had broken out, leaving numerous Armenians killed and deported. Crimes had been perpetrated by the Azerbaijan authorities to punish the people of Nagorno-Karabakh for their right to self-determination. The Sumgait massacre had been widely condemned by the international community, including by a resolution of the European Parliament. Impunity had opened the door for ethnic cleansing in Baku, Kirovabad, Maragha and many other places. Azerbaijan had tried to conceal such atrocities but the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as well as the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance had expressed concern at continuous hate speech in Azerbaijan. In 2015, upon the initiative of Armenia, the Human Rights Council had passed a unanimous resolution on genocide prevention. In December, the Third International Global Forum against the crime of genocide would be hosted in Yerevan. Armenia continued to implement the national plan of action for human rights protection, had a good record of submission of national and follow-up reports to the treaty bodies, and would submit the Universal Periodic Review second mid-term report on a voluntary basis.
SAMEH HASSAN SHOKRY SELIM, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that Egypt had played a great role in instituting the Council and the promotion and protection of human rights was a priority for the Government. Egypt would present during the current session a voluntary report on the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. The National Electoral Commission had assumed its mandate, the right to peaceful assembly had become more accommodating, and the national human rights institution had received further guarantees of effectiveness and independence. Major achievements had been made on the right to freedom of belief. It was regretful, however, to notice occasional lack of professionalism of some media outlets in the search of scoops, such as last week’s report of BBC on Egypt, showing alleged torture of an Egyptian girl. On the contrary, women and girls were protected from all forms of violence and had been empowered. Egypt positively engaged with international human rights mechanisms, and it had one of the highest response rates to treaty bodies. Mr. Selim regretted wide scale conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia, as well as the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and of the Palestinians.
MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said that while some progress had been made since the last Human Rights Council session, lack of respect for human rights, democratic values, and the rule of law persisted. The situation in Myanmar stood as a clear case of this lack of respect as actions taking place in that country could be termed as crimes against humanity. This situation was unacceptable and the international community must bring those responsible for atrocities to justice. Meanwhile, the situation in Syria remained one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, she said, calling for implementation of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights presented an opportunity to recall binding obligations, especially as many leaders questioned the validity and universality of human rights. When rights were challenged, human rights defenders could help States live up to obligations. Yet impunity for crimes against rights defenders was on the rise. Sweden called for stronger ties between the Security Council in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva to better consider the links between human rights and security. The Human Rights Council must play an important role in preventing conflict. Turning to women’s rights, she assured that Sweden would pursue a feminist foreign policy. To reflect this focus, Sweden was now the largest core donor to UN Women.
MARIE ANGE MUSHOBEKWA, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thanked all Member States for placing their trust and supporting the Democratic Republic of the Congo in their membership to the Human Rights Council for the first time. The membership had been a sign of the confidence that the authorities had been investing significant efforts to improve the human rights situation in the country. The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo personally supported the work of the Council. It was stressed that 2018 was an election year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and provincial elections would take place in December. The Council was informed that in December 2017, the Catholic Church and activists had called for demonstrations in Kinshasa with 167 starting points and without itinerary. The protests had unfortunately ended with the death of some civil society activists and opposition political party members. A joint inquiry commission with representatives of relevant line ministries and United Nations representatives had been established in January 2018 to investigate further into events which had led to the deaths. It was reiterated that the Church should not stir up clashes and conflicts but should serve to call for the unity of the people.
GEOFFREY ONYEAMA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said that the promotion and protection of human rights remained one of the most important remedies for the attainment of international peace and security. Nigeria remained fully committed to ensuring the full and efficient implementation of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the fight against terrorism, Nigeria appreciated and fully recognized the imperative of respect for human rights and adherence to its international human rights obligations. With the establishment of a human rights desk in the Nigerian Defence Headquarters, its security agencies were continually sensitized about respect for human rights while countering terrorism. Another priority for the Government was the fight against corruption, which hampered the right to development. Mr. Onyeama called on States to respect the rights of migrants and to accord them humane and dignified treatment. Transit and destination countries should give priority to saving the lives of vulnerable migrants, regardless of their immigration status. Mr. Onyeama stressed that the imperative of genuine and sustainable international cooperation was based on the principle of universality, transparency and non-discrimination in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
SEYYED ALIREZA AVAEI, Minister of Justice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said the huge losses of life and gross abuses of human rights that took place during the world wars had been a driving force behind the development of modern human rights machinery. Growing global yearning of individuals and nations for peace, equality and human dignity had played as a propulsive force acted on the United Nations and its Member States to develop much of the discourse and the bodies of law that were required to make up international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Effectively, the cold war competition during years had polarized the human rights players into two camps and built a negative international political system, which had left some defects in human rights standards and appalling deficiencies in the mechanisms, in particular, the United Nations human rights mechanisms and means for implementing them. In the new era, the noble concept of human rights predominantly fell within the monopoly of some certain States, reduced to an instrument to advance their political agenda. Arrogating to themselves a leading global role in human rights advocacy, these States had exploited human rights for their political ends. This disturbing trend, stemmed from a deep-rooted old-fashioned mind-set and had been abusing human rights machinery for years. Expansionist policies and overambitious domineering measures of certain States and their proxies in the region had resulted in mischievous attempts through supporting terrorists and extremist groups, among others, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Daesh in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, aimed at sowing discord and creating divisions among nation States in the Middle East region.
NOUREDDINE AYADI, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, commended the work of the Council aimed at promoting and protecting human rights. Progress achieved in the past 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been noted in numerous areas. Algeria had presented its third report to the Universal Periodic Review, fulling its commitments from the previous cycle of recommendations. Legislative reforms, including constitutional amendments had been pursued to guarantee the freedoms of expression, association and belief, participatory democracy and local governance. All reforms had been conducted through broad-based consultations with different stakeholders, including civil society actors. Tamazight language had been recognized as a national language in the Constitution. Policies of de-radicalization and prevention of violent extremism had been put in place and training of religious authorities and teachers had been organized. These measures had reduced the susceptibility of young people toward jihadist ideologies. Efforts had been conducted towards reconciliation and two elections had taken place after the end of the last session, resulting in the election of 121 women to Parliament. The bureau of the Council needed to look into the occupied territory of Western Sahara and take measures, seeing how human rights defenders had been imprisoned or prevented from accessing the territory.
BÄRBEL KOFLER, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, said a comprehensive system to monitor State compliance with human rights obligations was in place and was helping people around the world realize their fundamental rights. All individuals, regardless of any distinction, were entitled to human rights. All rights were universal and universality began at home, Ms. Kofler stressed. Challenges such as racism, migration flows and gender equity required dedicated action. To effectively tackle those challenges, civil society organizations must play an important role in human rights dialogue. Discussions on human rights matters must take place at all levels of government. Upholding universal human rights encompassed standing up for human rights defenders. Still, rights defenders and civil society organizations were unable to work freely in many countries. Discrimination of any kind could provoke radicalization, leading to the possibility of conflict. The Human Rights Council had through its work developed tools to alert world leaders of rights violations and allow for crisis prevention. Effective protection of human rights was a powerful element of conflict prevention. The Council acted as a forum to highlight violations with a view to ending them.
MARIA LUISA NAVARRO, Vice-Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of Panama, said that this year the Council would have to face delicate operational and financial issues. This was not the first, and it would not be the last time this body would go through a similar period, but on this occasion the damage that could be caused to the Council and other organs of the United Nations could have serious repercussions. The Council was experiencing political manipulation by some States. These were a result of a misunderstanding of the noble mission entrusted upon the Council. That was why the international community had to fight and face up to the many violations of human rights and the humanitarian crises. If the Human Rights Council did not take steps against extremism, violence and political selectivity, it would only be time before it would fall in front of international public opinion. The Council had to bring a halt to the barbarism which was shattering so many parts of the world, and not draft proposals that could not be followed up in the field. The Council and its Member States had to be guided by consistency and resolve, and must be based on universality, indivisibility and the interdependence of human rights. Panama regretted the decision taken by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein not to stand for another mandate. His voice had been unique, unflawed and impartial. Panama applauded his courage to stand up in front of States as a true proponent of human rights. Conflicts were seriously undermining the credibility of the Council, and all knew that proxy wars were being led and masterminded in New York. This could not continue.
ADEL AHMED AL-JUBEIR, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, stated that since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, States had undergone different paths in advancing human rights at the national level. However, a distinction had to be made between the truly universal human rights principles and principles that had been favoured by certain countries. Saudi Arabia reaffirmed that foreign values should not be imposed on other countries. International instruments provided legitimate restrictions on freedom of expression such as the interest of national security or the public morals of the community. The Arab-Israeli conflict, as the longest world conflict, had included numerous violations of the rights of Palestinian people to self-determination and the international community had been urged to react. Gross violations of human rights against the Rohingya minority was condemned and necessary humanitarian assistance was warranted. Saudi Arabia was investing efforts to combat terrorism internationally, including a donation of 100 million euros to fight terrorism and extremism in African countries. Saudi Arabia continued to support the legitimate Yemeni Government against the Iran-backed militia and 1.5 billion euros had been pledged with participation from the Coalition countries supporting the legitimate Government in Yemen for humanitarian assistance. Total assistance would go up to $ 10 billion.
STAVROS LAMBRINIDIS, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, said that in 2018 no policy to ensure tolerance would succeed without human rights at its core. Mr. Lambrinidis affirmed that the promotion and protection of human rights was at the centre of multilateralism and at the very core of the European Union. The European Union reaffirmed its support for reforms that would make the Human Rights Council as effective as possible. During the current session, the European Union, along with Japan, would pursue initiatives to address systematic rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Bloc would also present a resolution on Myanmar recalling major concerns about actions being taken against minority groups in that country. The Syrian conflict remained a clear priority and the European Union would advocate for increased action to find a solution. People across the world relied on the Council to protect their dignity and rights, and as such, rights must not be politicized. The promotion and protection of rights required an accountability framework and the European Union continued to support the International Criminal Court. European Union Member States assured support for civil society organizations and those individuals standing up in defense of human rights. The Bloc would continue to support United Nations Member States enacting laws to defend rights defenders. The repression of minority groups was condemned.
MANABU HORII, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said the world was besieged by the challenge of fundamental rights through protracted conflicts, massive flows of refugees and other major challenges. Significant efforts were required to maintain efforts against these plagues. Japan was undertaking its role in this direction, including through participation in many United Nations and international fora, as well as through technical cooperation. Despite its efforts, issues continued to persist. Japan would work with relevant countries where democracy was unstable. Regarding Rakhine state in Myanmar, Japan had conveyed to the Government the importance of cooperating with the international community. In addition to humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, in order to improve the situation and in view of the complex situation, Japan was implementing development assistance and other initiatives that helped realize harmony among the communities. These included the return of the displaced in Rakhine state. Japan was committed to establishing the rule of law and human rights in the region. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was urged to end gross human rights violations, which included abductions of Japanese citizens. This issue had to be resolved. Mr. Horii informed that Japan and the European Union would draft a resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and would ask for the support of all Member States to this effect. Finally, Mr. Horii announced that the Government of Japan had dealt with the comfort women issue via diplomatic efforts in 2015, by which it had been confirmed that this issue had been resolved finally and irreversibly.
MARTIN CHUNGONG, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, stated that the Inter-Parliamentary Union had been accompanying the development of the Human Rights Council since its inception. The Council’s increased focus on national implementation and involvement of national processes was welcomed. Since the adoption of the Council’s first resolution on the contribution of parliaments to its work in 2014, the Inter-Parliamentary Union had pursued sensitization campaigns to encourage member parliaments to be part of the process. The involvement of parliaments had increased during all stages of the Universal Periodic Review and the recent Council resolution 35/29 additionally strengthened the relationship of the Council and parliaments. The Inter-Parliamentary Union worked to bolster parliaments as the guardians of human rights and was helping equip parliaments to effectively institutionalize the 2030 Agenda and mainstream various goals into legislative process. Every year the world was making progress, with the percentage of women parliamentarians slightly above 23 per cent. The Inter-Parliamentary Union stood ready to contribute from a parliamentary perspective to the implementation of the Council’s recommendation on women and youth. In closing, it was noted that an increasing number of parliaments had been under assault, their powers had been usurped by the Executive and their authority undermined. __________
For use of the information media; not an official record
Global Overview FEBRUARY 2018
February saw a twofold deterioration in the Syrian conflict – the Assad regime stepped up its brutal bombardment of rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, and regional and global powers increased their direct interventions in Syria, raising the risk of worse fighting in coming weeks. Elsewhere political polarisation between governments and opposition movements was rife. In Bangladesh, the conviction of opposition leader Khaleda Zia sparked protests, which could worsen if she is barred from participating in elections, while in the Maldives the government launched a crackdown on the judiciary and declared a state of emergency. In Venezuela, formal talks between the government and the opposition broke down, deepening the political impasse. In Guinea, alleged electoral fraud in local elections sparked opposition-led protests and violent clashes with security forces, while in Tanzania the killing of two opposition politicians highlighted shrinking political space. In Cameroon, deadly clashes between security forces and Anglophone separatists continued and could well worsen around senatorial elections planned for 25 March.
Global Overview MARCH 2018
March saw Israeli forces respond with deadly force to the largest Palestinian marches in years at the Gaza-Israel border fence, killing fifteen protesters in one day. Violent confrontations risk increasing in the coming weeks, as protests continue in the lead-up to Palestinians’ commemoration of their expulsion from Israel. Sri Lanka faced its worst outbreak of anti-Muslim violence since 2014, while tensions flared between Kosovo and Serbia, and Turkmenistan saw protests over food shortages. In West Africa, jihadists launched their best organised and most sustained attacks yet on Burkina Faso’s capital, and central Mali, on top of ongoing jihadist violence, witnessed a rise in attacks between Fulani and Dogon communities. In Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgency, herder-farmer killings and rural banditry together pushed the monthly death toll to at least 300. On a positive note, surprise talks between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga created an opening for dialogue and political reform. In North East Asia, tensions increased between Taiwan and China, while on the Korean peninsula an inter-Korean summit in late April and planned talks between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in May offer an opportunity to make progress on security issues.
Global Overview APRIL 2018
April saw the conflict in Yemen intensify, with both the Saudi-led coalition and Huthi forces increasing attacks – fuelling risks of further escalation in May. At the Gaza-Israel border, Israeli forces continued to push back Palestinian protesters with deadly force; with larger protests expected in May, casualties could rise. Eastern Libya's strongman fell ill, prompting fears of further political and military splits. In Afghanistan, the Taliban stepped up attacks, while Kashmir saw deadly clashes and protests. Dozens were killed amid anti-government protests in Nicaragua. In Nigeria, rising violence – especially between herders and farmers – left nearly 500 dead. Burundi could see more political violence around its 17 May constitutional referendum, and a flare-up in attacks by armed groups in the Central African Republic could provoke worse bloodshed in coming weeks. The United Arab Emirates’ withdrawal from Somalia led to clashes between army factions there. On a positive note, Ethiopia’s new prime minister took steps to mitigate ethnic tensions. In North East Asia, tensions escalated across the Taiwan Strait, while China-Japan relations continued to improve, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon pledged to seek “complete denuclearisation” of the peninsula.
Global Overview MAY 2018
May saw Cameroon’s Anglophone conflict escalate and new clashes between Somaliland and Somalia’s Puntland over disputed territory – in both cases, fighting could increase in June. Intercommunal violence rose in the Central African Republic and on both sides of the Mali-Niger border. In Burundi, President Nkurunziza pushed through changes to the constitution, entrenching his increasingly authoritarian rule. In Yemen, both sides intensified their campaigns and the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive on Hodeida could mean more bloodshed in coming weeks. Israel killed over 60 Palestinian protesters in one day, and Israel-Iran tensions climbed in Syria. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal could ramp up confrontation between the U.S. and Iran or their respective allies. Fighting intensified in Afghanistan, while Indonesia faced ISIS-linked terror attacks. In North East Asia, China and Japan established a crisis management hotline, tensions flared over the Taiwan Strait, and a planned summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un in June could advance denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Global Overview JULY 2018
In July, fighting rose between Israel and Hamas and could quickly escalate into a new Gaza war, while in Yemen, as violence intensified on several fronts, a UN plan offered hope that a battle for Hodeida city could still be averted. Al-Shabaab stepped up attacks in Somalia, Cameroon’s Anglophone conflict spread to new areas, and tensions rose within Côte d’Ivoire’s ruling coalition. Violence marred elections in Pakistan and disrupted voting in Mali. Zimbabwe’s first general election since former President Mugabe’s ouster went largely peacefully; wide endorsement of the results could pave the way for the country’s recovery, but their rejection could spark turmoil. Violent protests erupted in southern Iraq over poor services and unemployment, and in Haiti over a proposed hike in fuel prices. Deadly clashes between protesters and pro-government forces in Nicaragua continued with hundreds now reported killed. On a brighter note, Ethiopia and Eritrea took further steps to cement peace, South Sudan’s warring leaders agreed to share power, and in the Philippines, the Bangsamoro Organic Law, a long-awaited step to implement peace in Mindanao, was finally signed into law.
In August, the Syrian regime and its allies upped attacks in the north west, pointing to an imminent offensive on rebel-held Idlib province, home to nearly three million people. Fierce militia fighting erupted in Libya’s capital and could escalate in the coming weeks. The UN’s consultations with Yemen’s belligerents in September could re-energise peace talks; but failure could trigger more violence. In DR Congo, the government’s determination to bar the main opposition contenders from December’s presidential poll could provoke more protests, while Zimbabwe’s elections left the country even more divided. Uganda’s detention of a popular challenger sparked protests, which the authorities put down with force. Mob violence rose in eastern Ethiopia, and Chad responded with force to a rebel attack. In Chechnya, boys reportedly carried out attacks on police after pledging allegiance to Islamic State. The exodus of Venezuelans to neighbouring countries presented a growing regional threat, with the government’s new economic reform package making things worse. A forthcoming referendum in Macedonia could bring the country another step closer to resolution of its longstanding name dispute with Greece.
In September, Cameroon’s Anglophone separatists and security forces stepped up attacks and violence could rise around the 7 October presidential vote, while Afghanistan’s parliamentary polls are likely to be marred by violence and their results contested. Yemen missed an opportunity as Huthi rebels refused to take part in UN-led consultations and fighting resumed outside Hodeida, boding ill for October. Militia fighting worsened in Libya’s capital, militant attacks rose in eastern Burkina Faso, and Ethiopia’s capital saw a spate of ethnic violence. Al-Shabaab carried out ambitious attacks in Somalia’s capital and regional states cut ties with the federal government, risking worse political divisions and violence in coming weeks. In Syria, a Turkey-Russia deal seems to have averted a major offensive on rebel-held Idlib, but it needs to take root in October. Djibouti and Eritrea agreed to work toward normalising relations, and a surprise electoral result in the Maldives gave hope for a peaceful political transition. In Guatemala, the president’s attempt to dismantle a UN-backed anti-corruption body prompted a political crisis, while a significant confidence-building measure in Georgia’s conflicts with its breakaway republics broke down. In East Asia, a summit between the leaders of North and South Korea opened up prospects for denuclearisation.