Human Rights Watch: Militia Attacks Destroy Villages, Displace Thousands in Iraq
A new report was published yesterday by OHCHR on the human rights situation in Iraq in the light of abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups. Its conclusions were as follows:-
- - Members of ISIL may have perpetrated genocide against the Yezidi community by killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm and forcibly transferring members of the group, including children, in the context of a manifest pattern of conduct aimed at the destruction of the group.
- - Members of ISIL may have committed crimes against humanity by perpetrating: murder, enslavement, deportation or forcible transfer of population, severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape, sexual slavery, sexual violence and persecution, committed as part of widespread or systematic attacks directed against civilian populations pursuant to or in furtherance of an organisational policy to commit such attacks.
- - Members of ISIL may have committed war crimes by perpetrating: murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity, taking of hostages, the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, directing attacks against the civilian population, directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, historic monuments, pillaging a town or place, committing rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years or using them to participate actively in hostilities, ordering the displacement of the civilian population, destroying or seizing the property of an adversary.
- - ISIL is perpetrating serious human rights violations in areas which are under its de facto control; including torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, and extrajudicial killings.
- - While more information is needed on the link between the militia and the Government, some incidents addressed in the report point, at the very least, to a failure on part of the Government to exercise due diligence as regards its obligation to protect persons under its jurisdiction. Member of ISF and affiliated armed groups may have committed war crimes by perpetrating: murder, cruel treatment and torture, taking of hostages, directing attacks against the civilian population, pillaging a town or place, ordering the displacement of the civilian population, destroying or seizing the property of an adversary.
Many thanks to my SIM colleagues Dr Brianne McGonigle Leyh, Co-Director PILPG-NL, and Julie Fraser, Legal Adviser PILPG-NL for allowing me to reproduce their blog post below on the Appeals Decision on reparations in the Lubanga case. The post was first posted on the Public International Law and Policy Group blog.
The Public International Law & Policy Group is a non-profit organization that operates as a global pro bono law firm to provide free legal assistance to states and governments involved in peace negotiations, advise states on drafting post-conflict constitutions and assist in prosecuting alleged war criminals.
On 3 March 2015, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) handed down their highly-anticipated Judgment on the appeal against the 7 August 2012 Trial Chamber ‘Decision establishing the principles and procedures to be applied to reparations’ in the Lubanga case. As the first decision issued by the ICC on reparations, this was the first exercise of its innovative and vital, yet ambiguous mandate.
The Lubanga case before the ICC is the first to deliver a guilty verdict at trial and on appeal, and all related decisions (conviction, sentencing and reparations) are now final. As such, it is a milestone for the ICC and sets important precedents for the Court and international criminal justice. The Order for Reparations in the Judgment itself notes that reparations are a key feature of the Rome Statute system, and that the success of the Court is, to an extent, dependent on the success of the reparations scheme. While some are critical of the Judgment, it should be seen as a welcome development in the field of victims’ rights and reparations before the ICC, as the Court restrains itself from adopting too broad a mandate.
New Report: The Impact of Gendered Misconceptions of Militarized Identities on DDR and Humanitarian Assistance in the DRC
The Advanced Training Programme on Humanitarian Action has released an interesting new report on the gender dynamics at play in the conflict in the DRC. According to the report, the armed conflict in the DRC is often spoken about in a manner which ignores the fact that women often play an active role in the fighting. The dominant narrative of the conflict all too often paints women as the victims and the men as the rebel perpetrators of sexual violence. The report argues that the fact that women’s role as ‘fighters’ in the conflict has not been given attention means that it has not been taken account of the design of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programs in the DRC. For example, there has been little attention given to the question of how women, who have abandoned their traditional gender role to play a combatant function in the conflict, can return to their communities
Many thanks to Nicolás Carrillo-Santarelli (PhD, Colombian lawyer and professor of international law at the Autónoma de Madrid University) for this guest post on the recent agreement between the Colombian government and FARC on mine clearance.
As revealed by a joint communiqué dated 7th March 2015, available (in Spanish) here, the Government of Colombia and the insurgent group FARC have reached a landmark agreement dealing with the gradual demining of zones with the presence of anti-personnel mines and other devices that pose a risk to human integrity. The agreement is noteworthy for several features. In this post, I will outline the main aspects of the agreement and comment on its implicit considerations and potential implications.
Purpose of agreement
The agreement, which is just over two pages, is based on a gradual approach, in the sense that its parties commit to finding out the locations with anti-personnel mines and other devices which pose the greatest risk to individuals and populations. According to the agreement, those places must be prioritized for demining purposes. Interestingly, this implies that once these locations are demined, other locations will follow suit. This seems to be confirmed by the title of the agreement on the “clearance and decontamination, in the territory, of the presence of anti-personnel mines” and other devices (emphasis added). To my mind, the ordinary meaning of territory in the context of the agreement most likely referring to the whole Colombian territory, in which no mines must remain in the future if the purposes of the deal are to be fully realized. In fact, progress in different mine clearance stages is envisaged in the agreement.
Consultation with local communities
Moreover, it is important to note that teams acting under the guidance of the Norwegian People’s Aid (hereinafter, NPA), comprised of representatives of the FARC and the Government, will consult communities in order to identify “contaminated” zones (see here). This seems designed to ensure that prioritized territories are those that most affect the aforementioned communities; and acknowledges that it is important that their opinion is considered as crucial. This is a welcome approach that corresponds to developments in human rights law regarding consultation and taking into account the opinion of individuals concerning how they are affected by threats to their rights.
Human rights protection
The effects of the agreement will have a positive impact on the protection of the integrity of individuals and their safety, which is an express goal of the agreement. This purpose of protecting human rights in light of the international framework of their protection is confirmed by further references within the agreement, such as the respect of national and international standards, and the mention of the importance of ensuring the non-repetition of exposure to anti-personnel mines and other devices.
Accountability of non-State actors
Importantly, this can be construed as a tacit recognition of the unlawfulness of their use by the FARC and responds to international requirements and developments on the accountability of non-state actors. For instance, as Theo van Boven comments when discussing the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, it is felt that non-state actors must respond for their abuses, and non-repetition is included as a component of human rights responsibility.
Collaboration and trust-building
Additionally, the way in which such consultations and information gathering are to take place serves to promote the collaboration of members of the guerrilla and the Government and may foster greater understanding and cooperation, which is another of the purposes of the agreement. After all, the agreement begins by expressing that, in the context of de-escalation, promoting trust is important. Furthermore, the Colombian Government and the FARC will set up a technical body to determine where and how the agreement will be implemented. While the actual removal and clearance of mines will be carried out by multi-task teams composed of Norwegian People’s Aid coordinators and Government agents, such operations will be verified by and watched by members of the Government, FARC representatives, NPA and representatives of affected communities; civilian teams may participate in the tasks; and the NPA will have a constant contact with communities and will exchange information with them. This reveals an important aspect of the agreement that may prove crucial to the peace talks: not only the Government and the guerrillas, but also affected communities and individuals, who have suffered in the decades-long armed conflict, must participate and be involved, and the trust of all of them is important for the agreement and the peace process at large to have prospects of being successful.
It is also pertinent to note how the agreement constitutes a form of engaging non-state armed groups that does not rely on a direct shaming or confrontation, which sometimes may generate negative attitudes, as Olivier Bangerter explains here but rather seeks to bring them onboard processes of protection of rights (in any case, non-state abuses cannot be ignored, and condemning them is important to both change attitudes in non-state agents and to employ legal strategies to protect from those abuses).
To conclude, it can be said that agreements as the one being discussed and mechanisms and operations contemplated in it are truly ways in which States may seek to promote the observation and effectiveness of international norms. In this regard, articles 1 and 9 of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, to which Colombia consented on 6 September 2000, indicate that State parties must take appropriate measures “to prevent and suppress any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention undertaken by persons or on territory under its jurisdiction or control.”