A first group of 12 members of FARC-EP received this Friday from the UN Mission the certificate of the individual arms laydown process ending, which allows them to formally begin their reincorporation to civilian life. In turn, the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace presented the respective accreditation by the Government of Colombia.
With this event, a continuous process of certifications begins to the members of the FARC-EP who are giving their transit to the civil life after the laydown of arms.
In addition, the Mission reports that it currently has 41 containers and 52 metal boxes in the FARC-EP camps, with the capacity to store tens of thousands of weapons. The Mission has deployed more than 500 observers, men and women throughout the country to fulfill these tasks.
Similarly, the UN Mission actively pursues the campaign for the extraction of cashes and destruction of unstable weapons and has the logistical and operational capacity to execute the extraction of armament wherever adequate data are available.
In his statement following his visit to Colombia, the President of the UN Security Council emphasized his confidence in the Mission's readiness to fulfill all its responsibilities. The UN Mission in Colombia reiterates to the public opinion its full commitment to an objective and rigorous verification of the Agreement of Bilateral and Definitive Ceasefire and Hostilities and Laydown of Weapons.
Published on ReliefWeb on May 12, 2017.
Amnesty International and civil society organisations in Central African Republic (CAR) are today launching a national campaign urging authorities in CAR to tackle a deeply entrenched culture of impunity which has prevented thousands of victims of human rights abuses and crimes under international law from receiving any form of justice.
The campaign Justice Now! Towards lasting peace in CAR calls on authorities to commit to a tougher stance against impunity by holding those responsible for serious crimes to account and for CAR’s technical and financial partners to support the government’s efforts, including by funding the country’s new Special Criminal Court.
“Civil society organisations are joining together to ensure authorities in CAR do not neglect the vast scale of human suffering and distress that thousands and thousands of victims have faced during this conflict. The perpetrators of heinous crimes, including rape and killings, have roamed free for too long. They must be held to account if the authorities are to move from words to action,” said Olivia Tchamba, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Campaigner.
“Despite positive steps such as the nomination of the Special Prosecutor for the Special Criminal Court and of international and national judges, and the organization of two criminal trial sessions in Bangui, too many barriers to achieving justice for the victims of the conflict remain in place.”
The campaign will be run from today until November 2018, in collaboration with local civil society, including the Réseau des ONG de Promotion et Défense des Droits de l’Homme en République Centrafricaine (RONGDH) and the Coordination des Organisations Musulmanes de Centrafrique (COMUC).
Together they will join forces to undertake advocacy with the CAR authorities, organize conferences to highlight the need for justice, engage with the newly formed Special Criminal Court and be trained in monitoring, documenting and reporting human rights violations.
Since renewed violence broke out in CAR in 2013, Amnesty International has documented crimes under international law committed across the country by all parties to the conflict, mostly the anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka armed groups.
More than 5,000 people have died in the intensified violence since then, which has caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. As of March 2017, over 460,000 people have fled and become refugees in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and some 426,000 have been internally displaced.
Accountability for crimes committed during the armed conflict, including rapes and killings, has been a consistent demand of the country’s population. In May 2015, participants to the Bangui Forum reiterated this by rejecting claims for immunity and amnesties for those allegedly responsible for crimes under international law.
Clarisse, a 57-year-old widow who was raped alongside her 19-year-old daughter Naomi, explained the tragic sequence of events that changed their lives on the night of 23 December 2013 when 11 armed anti-Balaka attacked her house in the capital Bangui:
“They threatened and insulted us. A few minutes later, some of the anti-Balaka threw me on the ground and two of them started to rip my clothes off and rape me. I collapsed. When I woke up, I was told that they [anti-Balaka forces] had raped my daughter Naomi as well.”
A few weeks later, Naomi was diagnosed as HIV-positive and became pregnant as a result of the rape. She gave birth to a baby girl who is also HIV-positive.
Clarisse told Amnesty International:
“I want the perpetrators to be prosecuted for what they have done to my daughter and me. I want to be compensated for all that I have lost.”
Elisée was among 14 men shot dead by armed ex-Séléka fighters in the courtyard of a hospital in Bangui on 5 December 2013. His sister Delphine filed a complaint at the High Court of Bangui but to date there has been no follow-up by the prosecutor or judicial authorities.
She told Amnesty International: “One day they will call me and justice will do its job.”
Amnesty International and its local partners call on authorities in CAR to:
• Ensure that prompt, rigorous, independent and impartial investigations are carried out into serious allegations of crimes under international law and other human rights abuses.
• Ensure that the perpetrators are investigated and prosecuted by the national judicial system, the Special Criminal Court or the International Criminal Court in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.
• Increase the budget of the Ministry of Justice and allocate appropriate resources to ensure its effective functioning and good management.
• In collaboration with CAR’s technical and financial partners, strengthen the capacity of, and provide material support to the police and gendarmes to conduct investigations, including by collecting material evidence.
• Continue and intensify the progress made in the recruitment of national and international judges as well as other Special Criminal Court staff.
The organisations also call on CAR’s international donors to ensure sustainable funding to guarantee the proper functioning of the Special Criminal Court as well as to honour commitments made during the International Donors’ Conference of November 2016 in Brussels. These commitments include providing US$105 million earmarked from the national recovery and peacebuilding plan, to strengthen the judicial system.
Published on Amnesty International on May 10, 2017.
Written by Contributing Author William Pons
With “[m]ore than one billion [or 15% of] people in the world living with some form of disability,” as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), there is little doubt that they are especially affected by armed conflicts. Indeed, it is estimated that the prevalence of disability “is likely to increase to 18-20% in conflict-affected populations.” The international community having recognized the need to enhance the “specific protections afforded . . . [to] persons with disabilities . . . in armed conflict,” has primarily (and correctly) focused on ensuring access/accessibility to vital humanitarian aid for persons with disabilities. Nonetheless, this is only one part of the equation as there also needs to be a renewed emphasis on prosecution of crimes that specifically target persons with disabilities during armed conflict.
One of the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law (IHL) is that all civilians in armed conflicts must be respected and protected from direct targeting and indiscriminate attacks by the warring factions. As part of this protection, there is recognition that there are certain more vulnerable groups within civilian populations who are “entitled to special respect and protection.” These special protections are best illustrated by Article 16 of Geneva Convention IV and Article 8(a) of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, both of which consider the need to care for and protect those civilians who are wounded, sick, disabled, and in need of medical assistance. However, this protection does not simply extend to the providing of humanitarian assistance, but also encompasses the prosecution of acts targeting vulnerable populations as war crimes or crimes against humanity.
Illustrative of the need to protect through the prosecution of crimes was the trial of Nazi doctors and administrators, which laid bare the atrocities perpetrated against vulnerable civilian populations, including persons with disabilities. During the decades of the ad hoc tribunals, jurisprudence emerged from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone recognizing the vulnerabilities faced by certain sub-groups of civilians during armed conflicts and the need to prosecute crimes targeting those sub-groups. These tribunals developed the necessary legal framework to allow for the prosecution of crimes targeting women and children, where no such framework or crime had previously existed.
In turn, this framework—illustrated by the cases of Jean-Paul Akayesu and Kunarac—elevated the crimes targeting vulnerable sub-groups of civilians to ensure full protection through prosecution. Of particular note was the affirmation by the Appeals Chamber in the Kunarac case that the Trial Chamber had “an inherent discretion to consider the victim's age as an aggravating factor," establishing the importance of an identifying aspect (i.e. gender or age) of the victims in the consideration of the seriousness of a crime. The impact this aggravating factor allowed the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) to become the first international court to convict individuals of the crime of recruitment and use of child soldiers. The ruling by the SCSL proved the validity of using an aggravating factor to effectively prosecute those crimes targeting vulnerable sub-groups of civilians.
Persons with disabilities are “often the forgotten victims of conflict” and are more likely—like women and children—to be the targets of violence and abuse. Acknowledging that fact, Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) requires that “State Parties . . . in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, [take] all the necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including armed conflict.” This obligation established by the CRPD—one of the most widely ratified human rights treaty with 173 ratifications—clearly establishes a legal duty during an armed conflict to protect persons with disabilities and can be argued to simply reiterate the requirements of Articles 16 and 8(a) previously mentioned.
Unfortunately, this has not translated into the prosecution of crimes against persons with disabilities by either international tribunals or domestic courts. While the jurisprudence and legal framework for the consideration of aggravating factors exists, there has been no active movement to continue in the tradition of the ad hoc tribunals to create the ability to prosecute those crimes that target persons with disabilities, a recognized vulnerable sub-group of civilians.
Much in the same way that the aggravating factor of a victim’s age or gender can impact the prosecution of a crime, so too should the fact that a victim is a person with a disability. This recognition of disability as an aggravating factor will utilize the already existing international criminal legal framework—established by the ad hoc tribunals—and subsequent prosecutions will follow in the spirit and principles of the CRPD, as well as the Geneva Conventions. Ultimately, for the international community to provide full protection for persons with disabilities during armed conflict there must be—in addition to access to humanitarian aid—prosecutions of those crimes that target persons with disabilities.
Published on Relief Web on May 11, 2017.
By Stephanie Nebehay
Spreading ethnic violence is driving more people from their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the humanitarian situation is "dramatically deteriorating", the United Nations said on Monday.
Some 100,000 people were uprooted last week alone, bringing the ranks of displaced in the central Kasai region to nearly 1.3 million, it said. The total number of displaced throughout Congo has more than doubled to 3.7 million since Aug 2016.
"This very acute crisis in the DRC is not just expanding dramatically in terms of numbers but it's also expanding in terms of geographical scope," said Rein Paulsen, head of the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs office in Congo.
"The fact that we are also now seeing an evolution of the conflict in the Kasais where inter-ethnic violence and conflict is becoming a dominant characteristic should be a deep, deep concern to all of us," he told a news briefing.
The U.N. said last month it had documented 40 mass grave sites and killings of more than 400 people in Kasai, the focus of the fight against the Kamuina Nsapu militia, since August when security forces killed its leader. The militia has been fighting largely to avenge his death.
Paulsen cited fresh reports from U.N. staff of inter-ethnic fighting in the Kasais, including the Penda and Chokwe ethnic groups against the Luba and clashes between the Lunda and Luba.
In Manono, in the eastern province of Tanganyika, more than 140 villages have been reportedly burned down in a separate conflict between the pygmy population and Bantu ethnic groups, causing forced displacement, he said.
Across the vast Central African nation, an estimated 1.9 million children under five are severely acutely malnourished, a condition which could kill them or leave them with lifelong damage, Paulsen said.
The United Nations has received just 19 percent of the $812.5 million sought in the humanitarian appeal for Congo this year, he said.
The world body said last month it was horrified by a video screened by the government that appeared to show the brutal killing of two U.N. investigators.
Congo's government said the film showed members of an anti-government militia carrying out the act although that has not been confirmed by either the U.N. or independent analysts.
Paulsen said that government workers - education inspectors and local transportation staff - had been "killed and beheaded" in the Kasais in the past week despite tighter security.
Published on Reuters' website on May 8, 2017.