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Ex-ULIMO commander arrested for crimes against humanity during Liberian civil war in France

September 10, 2018

Kunti K. was arrested in France on Tuesday 4th September 2018  for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity committed during the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996) while acting as a commander for the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO). The ULIMO rebel faction fought against Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) during the First Liberian Civil War and was responsible for over 11,500 documented violations, according to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report.  This breakthrough arrest marks the first time a ULIMO member has been charged in France with international crimes committed during Liberia’s civil wars.

For the full press release from Civitas Maxima see here. For further coverage of the case, see here and here.


‘”IS Widows” and “Boko Haram Wives”: Overlooked Abuses in Iraq and Nigeria’

August 27, 2018

This post ‘“ISIS Widows” and “Boko Haram Wives”: Overlooked Abuses in Iraq and Nigeria’ by Lauren Aarons and Nicolette Waldman was first posted on Just Security on 23 August 2018. I am cross posting it here with the kind permission of Just Security and the authors, because I suspect it will be of interest to many readers. The post highlights the authors’ fascinating research into women with alleged or suspected ties to IS and Boko Haram. The full research findings are published in reports by Amnesty International here and here.


International news media and research institutes have brought important attention to the hundreds of foreign women (primarily Western) and their children who have been rounded up in territory recaptured from the self-styled Islamic State (IS). Reports have outlined the complex legal issues involved and convictions of women in grossly unfair trials. The situation for these women has been grim: In May of this year, for example, the Guardian reported that 40 foreign women had been sentenced to death in a Baghdad court after 10-minute hearings for crimes including membership of IS.

At the same time, little attention has been brought to the situation of local women with alleged or suspected ties to IS or to longer-standing groups such as Boko Haram. Our investigations in Iraq and Nigeria, including almost 400 in-depth interviews across the two countries, have found that authorities and armed militia members working with the governments have branded thousands of displaced Iraqi and Nigerian women as affiliated with IS or Boko Haram, respectively, and subjected them to mistreatment and abuse as a result.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled or were forced from their homes during military operations against IS in Iraq, carried out between 2014 and 2017, and against Boko Haram in Nigeria, which intensified in 2015 and continue until now. While thousands of men and boys have been detained and forcibly disappeared in both countries, the abuse of women and girls perceived to be tied to the armed groups has primarily occurred in places where they have sought refuge, including camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). (Hundreds of women and girls also were arbitrarily rounded up and held in military detention facilities in Nigeria, though most of them have been released).

Women who were forced from their homes in the violence often have been confined in camps because of perceived IS or Boko Haram ties. In one camp in Iraq used exclusively for families perceived to be affiliated with IS, security forces have prohibited them from leaving the camp, creating a situation of de facto detention. In Nigeria, residents of certain remote camps holding families alleged to be sympathetic with Boko Haram have likewise faced severe movement restrictions, even as hundreds of people starved to death inside. Where living in camps alongside other displaced people, women with suspected affiliations often have faced tighter movement restrictions than neighbors and discrimination in accessing humanitarian distributions, basic services, and opportunities to earn a livelihood.

In determining who is an alleged affiliate, the net of accusation and suspicion has been cast wide. In both Iraq and Nigeria, ties have often been presumed just because the family fled a stronghold of the armed group late in the hostilities; security officials demand to know why they hadn’t fled earlier. These suspicions arose despite the fact that many civilians were trapped in areas controlled by IS and Boko Haram and risked execution if they fled.

`Deeply Flawed’ Security Screenings

The risk of a woman being branded an affiliate was heightened if one of her family members was detained by the authorities, even though “security screenings” of people fleeing these areas in Iraq and Nigeria were deeply flawed and the number of men and boys who were arbitrarily detained and then forcibly disappeared had reached into the thousands. As a result, many of the women accused or treated with suspicion turned out to have no connections with the armed groups at all.

Indeed, a number of the women we met who experienced abuse for their alleged affiliations appeared to be victims of the armed group who had suffered greatly under their control. In Nigeria in particular, where tens of thousands of women have been viewed with suspicion, several showed us scars of punishment inflicted by Boko Haram, and told us they had been desperate to escape. Others told us that they had been abducted and forcibly married to members.

Confined in the camps, women told us they have been specifically targeted for rape to punish and humiliate them for their alleged affiliations. For example, 20-year-old “Dana” in Iraq told us: “Because they consider me the same as an IS fighter, they will rape me and return me back [to my tent]. They want to show everyone what they can do to me – to take away my honor.” In Nigeria, women suspected of possible Boko Haram ties also told us they were easy targets for rape because if they complained, soldiers, militia members, and camp officials would dismiss them as “Boko Haram wives” and subject them to further reprisals.

The confinement and discrimination these women face also renders them at increased risk of sexual exploitation, even compared to other displaced women. Many told us they have been pressured and coerced to have “special relationships” with or to be the “girlfriends” of men in positions of authority in the camps, to access basic goods needed for survival. The enforced disappearance of their surviving adult male relatives exacerbated their material and physical vulnerability. In some contexts, the sexual relations occurred in such coercive circumstances as to have amounted to rape.

Beatings as the Price of Water

Women also reported being beaten and harassed at distribution points, with taunts and accusations of being connected to IS or Boko Haram. In Nigeria, 35-year-old Fatima told us, “It was very terrible treatment by [the] army and militia in the camp. When you go to fetch water, before they open the gate, you see them beating people … If you talk or complain, they will say we are wives of Boko Haram. We don’t have any rights.” Another woman showed us her scarred legs and told us that beatings were the price for water.

The nature of the taunts and abuse faced by women perceived to have IS or Boko Haram ties highlights another complexity in who the authorities are branding as affiliates. While we must avoid stereotypical assumptions that women affiliated with IS or Boko Haram have been tricked or forced to join by their husbands, or had domestic roles where they wielded no power, the reality is complex: Displaced women are in fact being demonized purely on the basis that they had or may have had marital or other family relations with IS or Boko Haram suspects, without any attempt to distinguish whether they themselves had actually committed unlawful acts or even had any form of personal commitment to the armed group. When they were questioned by the authorities in both Iraq and Nigeria, for example, women in these situations often were interrogated about their husband’s ties to the armed group, not their own.

Certainly, Iraqi and Nigerian women who committed crimes under international law should be brought to justice in trials that meet international human rights standards. But the ongoing mass “trials” in Iraq and Nigeria of alleged IS and Boko Haram suspects by those countries’ national authorities are gravely flawed and will not deliver justice to victims. At the same time, regardless of their level of affiliation, if any, to IS or Boko Haram, the abuse of women with perceived affiliations in IDP camps is a violation of their rights that must be addressed.

In April, we called on the Iraqi authorities to end the collective punishment of families with perceived ties to IS, and in May, we called on the Nigerian authorities to investigate and address the ill-treatment and abuse of women who had fled from areas under Boko Haram control. The Iraqi authorities announced soon after the report’s release that they would look into the situation of IS families in camps for displaced people; but since April, it is not clear what measures, if any, have been taken to address the concerns. In Nigeria, while our findings were dismissed by the military and the presidency, the Senate has established an ad-hoc committee to investigate further.

The outcomes of these efforts will be crucial. To avoid future cycles of mistreatment, marginalization, and extremism, the governments of both countries, with requisite pressure and assistance from international organizations, must uphold the rights of all citizens by delivering genuine justice rather than abuse that could spur resentment and a new round of violence.

About the Author(s)

Lauren Aarons

Lauren Aarons is a Legal Adviser at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International. Follow her on Twitter (@LaurenAarons1)

Nicolette Waldman

Middle East Researcher for Amnesty International, Former Harvard Law Fellow at Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Lead Author and Researcher of the Report “The People’s Perspectives: Civilian Involvement in Armed Conflict.” Follow her on Twitter (@Nicolette_AI)



Solidarity, Justice and Reparations in Times of “Terror”, Lecture by Agnes Callamard, Utrecht University, 14 September, 4pm

August 23, 2018

Agnes_CallamardOn Friday 14th September, Dr. Agnes Callamard will deliver the SIM Peter Baehr lecture 2018 on the occasion of The Netherland Institute of Human Rights’ 37th anniversary.

The title of her lecture is:

Solidarity, Justice and Reparations in Times of “Terror”

The lecture will explore the implications for accountability and protection of the emerging international counter-terrorism legal regime. Contrary to what many governments argue, this legal framework has significant and unacceptable gaps. It fails to provide adequately both for the accountability of “terrorist” groups and for justice, remedy and reparation for victims themselves. The counter-terrorism legal regime has even criminalized humanitarian actors who provide life-saving services to populations under the control of “terrorist” groups, resulting in further deprivation of life.  Concrete recommendations will be presented to address and respond to violations committed by armed groups, to protect the affected populations under their control, and to safeguard humanitarian action.

Dr. Agnes Callamard is the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial summary or arbitrary Executions. Dr. Callamard is the Director of Columbia University Global Freedom of Expression. Previously, she spent nine years as the Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, the international human rights organization promoting freedom of expression globally. She was Chef de Cabinet for the Secretary General of Amnesty International (AI) and AI’s Research-Policy Coordinator, leading AI’s policy work and research on women’s human rights. Prior to this, she taught and conducted research on international refugee movements for the Center for Refugee Studies at York University in Toronto. She has advised multilateral organizations and governments around the world on human rights, including most recently the Special Advisor to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide.

Venue:         Utrecht Law School, Janskerkhof 2-3, Utrecht, Lecture Hall 0.13

16:00               Opening and welcome by Antoine Buyse, SIM (lecture hall 0.13)

16:10               Lecture by Agnes Callamard

16:45               Discussion and Q&A

17:30              Drinks

Registration: Do you wish to attend the SIM Peter Baehr lecture? Please send an e-mail to:, with reference to ‘SIM Peter Baehr Lecture 2018’.


Geneva Call vacancy – thematic legal advisor

August 13, 2018

Geneva Call has issued a vacancy announcement for the position of Thematic Legal Advisor. Application deadline is 20th August.

See below for the details of this very interesting opening:-

The Thematic Legal Adviser contributes to the implementation of Geneva Call’s operational strategy by providing thematic and legal expertise on issues related to international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). She/he also contributes to the development of Geneva Call’s policies and tools related to operations, supports internal capacity-building, research and knowledge management and represents Geneva Call in relevant expert meetings.   The Thematic Legal Adviser will work with the Policy and Legal Unit of Geneva Call and report to its Head.


Support field operations:

  • Provide expertise and advice to Geneva Call’s staff on legal/thematic issues and community-based protection work;
  • Build the capacity of Geneva Call’s staff and partners on legal/thematic issues and community-based protection work;
  • Support operational activities (community protection activities, training activities, workshops, meetings, etc.) as required.

Internal development and research:

  • Contribute to the development of Geneva Call’s community-based protection work;
  • Contribute to policy development and support knowledge management and learning within Geneva Call;
  • Further adapt and support the development of Geneva Call’s training and dissemination material;
  • Conduct research on thematic/legal issues, as required;
  • Prepare project proposals, budgets and donor reports:
  • Contribute to fundraising efforts;
  • Perform administrative tasks, as required.

External representation and communication:

  • Organize expert meetings/events and write articles in relevant journals;
  • Follow up on legal/thematic issues and processes and represent Geneva Call, where appropriate, in relevant expert meetings, seminars and conferences;
  • Maintain and develop contacts with experts on thematic/legal issues and liaise with relevant stakeholders and partners;
  • Develop and implement communication activities, such as campaigns, events and other initiatives on different thematic areas.


Main Qualifications

  • Advanced university degree in a relevant field (international public law, political science, international relations, or related field); a specialization in IHL and IHRL;
  • At least 5 years of work experience in protection issues, including relevant field experience in conflict areas; such field experience is a significant asset;
  • Good knowledge of community-based protection approaches and design;
  • Proven experience in legal analysis, research and training in the humanitarian field;
  • Excellent writing and reporting skills;
  • Excellent command of English and French (both oral and written);
  • Willingness to work independently and with minimum supervision, and as a part of a multicultural team;
  • Ability to work under pressure and to handle multiple tasks simultaneously;
  • Willingness to travel frequently to high-risk locations, including conflict areas;
  • Demonstrable computer literacy, including the MS package;
  • Entrepreneurial spirit.

Conflict of Interest

Any candidate affiliated to, or openly supporting, one or more interest groups opposed to the Foundation’s principles and values, or whose previous position could engender safety issues for co-workers at Appel de Genève / Geneva Call, will be excluded from this selection process.


  • Position: Thematic Legal Adviser
  • CDI contract, based in Geneva
  • 100%
  • Preferred start date: 09.2018
  • Swiss citizen or a candidate with a work permit or who may be eligible for a Swiss work permit according to current Swiss legislation


To apply, please send your cover letter, CV, work certificate/recommendation letter, diploma  in PDF format to, Ref: “Thematiclegal” no later than 20.08.2018. All applications will be kept confidential.  Please note that only shortlisted candidate will be contacted for the next steps of the recruitment process.



Consolidated news roundup – 6 June – 10th July 2018

July 13, 2018

4 July – 10 July

Syrian rebels say army besieging their enclave in southern city Deraa

Syria truce deal ‘breached’ as western Deraa clashes intensify

Rebels in southern Syria reach deal to end violence

Rebels discuss with Russia a deal to end fighting in southern Syria

Taliban brands religious scholar conference as ‘an absolute anti-Islamic US process’

Armed group in Libya kidnaps three Filipinos and one Korean: official says

The new frontlines are in the slums

Squandered opportunity? – Despite new agreement, South Sudan’s civil war continues

South Sudan’s Machar set to be ‘reinstated as vice president’

Why do youth in the Sahel join armed groups? It’s complicated

Thailand: Insurgents use landmines in South

Colombia’s ‘silent complicity’ in mass killings of social leaders


27 June – 3 July

Yes, we can end the military use of schools

Wars of None: AI, Big Data, and the Future of Insurgency

How rape is weaponized in civil wars

New types of weapons need new forms of governance

Syria’s war: Rebel-held Bosra al-Sham surrenders in Deraa battle

Rebel-held south Syrian town Busra to accept Assad’s rule as Jordan mediates

Talks with Russia over Deraa peace deal collapse: Syrian rebels

UN warms of ‘catastrophe’ as 160,000 flee southern Syria push

French cement giant Lafarge indicted on terror financing charge in Syria

When did the war in Yemen begin?

Residence of Libyan deputy PM attacked amid oil port stand-off

Iraqi PM says armed groups in Iraq should be disarmed, including PKK

Mali: Car bombing targeting French troops kills civilians

Ethiopia removes OLF, ONLF and Ginbot 7 from terror list

Mali: G5 force headquarters targeted in deadly attack

‘The war goes on’: one tribe caught up in Colombia’s armed conflict


20 June – 26 June

Who’s in charge in today’s wars?

Syria pounds rebel areas in south, thousands flee to border zone

Syrian rebel warns of ‘volcanoes of fire’ if Assad attacks south

What you need to know: The battle for Hodeidah

IGAD bloc says South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar not welcome

Ethiopian armed opposition group Ginbot 7 suspends attacks

South Sudan rules out rebel leader Riek Machar re-joining government

Still time to stop clashes among armed groups from eroding state-building gains in Central African Republic, top official tells Security Council

South Sudan’s president and rebel leader meet for peace talks

Colombia: Indigenous community ‘threatened by El Guacho’

All set for demobilization of Colombia’s largest paramilitary group

Nicaragua: Violence and state repression intensify despite numerous efforts at dialogue

Record coca, record murders: the flipside of “peace” in southern Colombia

Days after election, future of Colombia’s war crimes tribunal already uncertain


13 June – 19 June

Syria’s Assad says still pursuing political solution for rebel-held south

Syria: Turkey-Backed Groups Seizing Property

Second fire shrinks storage capacity amid fighting at Libyan oil ports

India welcomes Afghanistan’s decision to extend ceasefire with armed groups

Jordan armed groups strike again in the oil crescent

How to bring peace in Kashmir?

Armed Islamist leaders in Libya claim al-Qaeda’s Belmokhtar is still alive

Yemen: Attack on Hodeidah threatens civilian lives and lifesaving humanitarian aid

Mozambique: Armed groups burn villages

There’s been a global increase in armed groups. Can they be restrained?

Congo-Brazzaville’s hidden war

South Sudan rebel leader to attend talks with president in Addis Ababa

What South Sudan’s increasingly fragmented war means for aid delivery

The girls forced to fight in the DRC are told they are ‘immune to bullets’

Myanmar’s Ethnic Armed Conflict: Emerging Trends in Violence

Colombia: FARC willing to meet with Duque to maintain peace

Inside Colombia’s rebel region as the country votes on its future

Peace talks between Nicaragua govt, civil society groups hindered after armed assailants kill eight people in Managua

Colombia: Authorities must guarantee the safety of threatened communities


6 June – 12 June

Drone Blowback: Much Ado about Nothing?

Making a case for humanitarian norms in a populist world

U.N. fears for 2.5 million in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib as fighting escalates

YPG confirms withdrawl from Syria’s Manbij after Turkey-US deal

Spate of deadly attacks hit Afghanistan amid Eid ceasefire

Are Palestinian armed factions forming a joint army?

Yemen rebel fire kills three civilians in Saudi, coalition says

Taliban announces three-day ceasefire over Eid

Afghanistan’s ceasefire with Taliban: ‘Are we safe now?’

Afghan president announces temporary ceasefire with Taliban

Yemen peace plan sees ceasefire, Houthis abandoning missiles

UN humanitarian coordinator condemns Central African Republic hospital attack as ‘inhuman and unworthy’

Somalia: Al-Shabab shuts down football pitches in Mogadishu

Mozambique: End brutal killing spree by armed group

The impact of Boko Haram’s insurgency on girl’s education in Northeast Nigeria

Armed groups in Somalia

‘Slipping into darkness’: How Nicaragua’s crisis unfolded








New issue of Journal of Human Rights and International Legal Discourse on relationship between IHL and IHRL

July 10, 2018

This week, the new issue of the Journal of Human Rights and International Legal Discourse that I edited together with Steven Dewulf from Antwerp University was published. The issue is devoted to exploring new developments regarding the relationship between human rights law and international humanitarian law.

With two headline articles by Professor Andrew Clapham and Jean-Marie Henckaerts & Ellen Nohle, the articles (which include articles by fellow blog editors Rogier Bartels and Annyssa Bellal) explore themes such as conflict-driven displacment, international criminal law, armed groups, soft law and jurisdiction.

Here is the table of contents:-

Steven Dewulf and Katharine Fortin – Introduction

 Andrew Clapham – Human Rights in Armed Conflict: Metaphors, Maxims, and the Move to Interoperability

 Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Ellen Nohle – Concurrent Application of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law Revisited

 Rogier Bartels – The Interplay between International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law during International Criminal Trials

 Deborah Casalin – A Green Light Turning Red? The Potential Influence of Human Rights on Developing Customary Legal Protection Against Conflict-Driven Displacement

Peter Vedel Kessing – Soft Law Instruments Regulating Armed Confl ict. Are International Human Rights Standards Reflected?

Ka Lok Yip – What does the Jurisdictional Hurdle under International Human RightLaw mean for the Relationship between International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law?

Annyssa Bellal and Ezequiel Heffes – ‘Yes, I do’: Binding Armed Non-State Actors to IHL and Human Rights Norms through their Cons

Report on ANSAs by Special Repporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, June 2018

July 10, 2018

Agnes_CallamardKeen observers of the law relating to non-international armed conflicts will already have seen the report on armed non state actors (ANSAs) that was issued by Dr Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings in June 2018 (UN Doc A/HRC/38/44). The report is important because it addresses the topic of armed groups and human rights law more comprehensively than any report ever issued by a UN special rapporteur.

In the report, the Special Rapporteur starts by surveying the factual and legal landscape relating to ANSAs and the right to life. Factually, she explains how ANSAs (e.g. armed opposition groups, insurgents, rebels, terrorists, militias, criminal cartels or gangs) have become a pervasive challenge to human rights protection. Legally, she maps the way in which ANSAs have been dealt with by the Security Council and Human Rights Council. She shows that over the last 20 years, States have regularly addressed ANSAs both as perpetrators of human rights violations and as duty bearers.

In the body of the report, the Special Rapporteur explains what she sees as the ‘rationale’ for binding ANSAs to human rights norms. She reviews the limitations of the duty to protect under human rights law vis-a-vis ANSAs, the conceptual constaints of IHL and the drawbacks of criminal law and the counter terrorism framework. After reviewing the main theories to explain how ANSAs may be bound by human rights law, the Special Rapporteur goes on to set out how human rights law could be applied to ANSAs, in a graduated manner. This is the most interesting part of the report, as the Special Rapporteur not only delves into how the right to life might be implemented by ANSAs at the level of the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil but also sets out possible methods of implementation.

In short, this is a bold report – with important recommendations – and readers are encouraged to take a look at it, as it will surely stir important debate on the topic.