The Global Citizen: Civilian Protection
In what has become an unfortunate habit since being indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has left home to travel to an ICC member country. On August 7th, he attended the presidential inauguration in neighboring Chad. As a party to the Rome Statute, Chad had an obligation to arrest Bashir as soon as he set foot on their soil; but they did not do so.
This marks the second time Bashir has traveled to Chad and not been turned over to the ICC by the Chadian government. Bashir has continued to flout his ICC indictment by traveling to Kenya and Djibouti, both of which are also ICC members, without facing arrest.
It is undoubtedly true that the Court's indictment has limited Bashir's movements over the past several years, and largely kept him isolated in Sudan. However, the failure of Chad, once again, to arrest Bashir indicates that compliance with the ICC's arrest warrants by member states remains a serious problem. Justice cannot be served when international pariahs still find safe havens to which they can travel with impunity. All ICC member states should honor their obligation to help bring war criminals like Bashir to justice.
On Wednesday the Security Council released a presidential statement concerning Syria by Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri of India, who is the acting President of the Council this month. The statement calls upon Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to implement democratic reforms, demanding a peaceful Syrian-led transformation of government from one that perpetrates crimes against humanity to one that respects and protects fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression and assembly.
The statement is the first formal UN document to condemn the violence and gross human rights violations that have occurred in Syria since March. The statement calls for:
- The full respect and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms;
- Humanitarian workers to have access to the Syrian people;
- The full cooperation of the Assad regime with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights;
- Calls upon the UN Secretary General to provide a report to the Council in seven days with an update on government actions in Syria.
This is an important first step towards substantive UN action in Syria and comes after months of pressure from the international community.
Anticipating more protest activity, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government forces engaged in its most violent assault against civilians before the dawn of the holy month of Ramadan on Sunday July 31st. Remarks from UN representatives and renewed media attention have followed since the resurgence of government-directed violence in Syria has led to the deaths of many civilians during one of the holiest times on the Islamic calendar.
The crackdown led to an unknown number of dead and wounded civilians, adding to the ever increasing death-toll since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in mid-March. International journalists, independent human rights organizations and representatives connected to the mandated UN fact-finding mission in Syria are all banned from entering the country. In light of these restrictions, the number of dead and wounded in Syria since March is estimated to be just under 2,000 people, but cannot be confirmed.
"We who did not go their way owe them this. We must make sure that their deaths have posthumous meaning. We must make sure that from now until the end of days all humankind stares this evil in the face...and only then can we be sure it will never arise again." -Former President Ronald Reagan, 1988 Holocaust Memorial Museum
As the above quote from President Reagan illustrates, the United States has felt a moral responsibility for decades to prevent genocide. Our words, however, have not done enough. Just six years after President Reagan's remarks the Rwandan genocide occurred. The world has struggled in its efforts to prevent genocide since the end of World War II, but President Obama is now making an impressive attempt at turning those struggles into an effective effort. President Obama today issued a Presidential Directive on genocide and mass atrocities. The White House released a statement about this directive and specified exactly why preventing mass atrocities benefits American national security:
A recently leaked report from the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) human rights points to the Khartoum government aligned Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and its allies as the major culprits of human rights abuses and war crimes in Sudan's South Kordofan state. The peacekeeping force compiled the report prior to the expiration of UNMIS's mandate earlier this month. In particular, the report states: "The acts described in this report, allegedly perpetrated by the SAF, PDF (Popular Defence Force), Central Reserve Police Forces and the Government Police in Southern Kordofan... if proven, may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity..."
Born out of war; that has been the headline from so many journalists concerning South Sudan. The dire circumstances which led to South Sudan's independence, are now causing the international community to work diligently with the South Sudanese to prevent continued violence and tension in the region.
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing titled "Two New Sudans: A Roadmap Forward." Princeton Lyman, the United States Special Envoy for Sudan, was the sole witness. Lyman began by announcing how successful the independence celebration was in Juba on the July 9th weekend. The celebration is of course now followed by an abundance of issues that must still be addressed.
On Monday, July 11, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1997 that officially closes the United Nations Mission in the Sudan(UNMIS) that has been Sudan since 2005. According to UNMIS' official website, the birth of South Sudan this past Saturday represents the culmination of the six year peace process of the United Nations mission.
A request by the Government of Sudan for the mission to leave necessitated the unanimous vote by the fifteen- member Security Council. Established by the Security Council in March 2005, UNMIS's central goal was to help support the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army signed on January 9, 2005. The CPA and UNMIS's mandate expired on July 9 but the Khartoum government remained adamant that the U.N. peacekeeping operation withdraw from the country despite continued violence.
On July 8, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed the implications of removing troops in the north when he explained, "I have urged the Government of Sudan for technical and practical reasons for an extension of the mandate of the United Nations in Sudan, at least until the situation (in Southern Kordofan) calms down. We can not afford to have any gaps."
Last week, I attended a hearing by the House Foreign Affairs committee (HFAC) entitled “Time to Pause the Reset?: Defending U.S. Interests in the Face of Russian Aggression.” The hearing title alone makes it pretty obvious how many HFAC members feel about the state of human rights, or lack thereof, in present-day Russia and how successful they feel President Obama’s “reset” policy with Russia has been. But as I listened to the panel of witnesses, two very different stories of the reset emerged, which speak to a broader debate in U.S. foreign policy circles: is engagement is a helpful tool for reaching out to potential allies, or just another word for appeasement?
Though the citizens of the U.S. have just finished packing up their fireworks, the people of South Sudan are just getting theirs out. Tomorrow, July 9, marks the independence of this country and its secession from North Sudan. Unfortunately, the newly minted nation may face independence fireworks of a more violent sort.
The independence negotiations ended a 21 year civil war between the northern and southern regions, and in the past few weeks, the north has recognized the south as a sovereign state. However, the battle for complete freedom is far from won. In the recently demilitarized regions of South Kordofan and Abyei, the threat of war still lingers on, and the brokered peace is fragile at best. Boundaries and borders are still in dispute, as different ethnic groups and oil barons continue to face off. For now, the UN peacekeeping mission (deployed in 2005 to oversee the secession negotiations) is stationed in these regions, hoping to maintain order. The UN troops, along with some sent from neighboring Ethiopia, are hoping to facilitate a successful transition to independence.
Last week, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright called for the UN Security Council to refer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the ICC. Now, the human rights group Amnesty International is echoing Albright's recommendation and calling for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC because crimes committed in certain parts of Syria fall under ICC jurisdiction. Amnesty International's recommendation follows its extensive report, which documents mass arrests, torture, and deaths initiated by the Syrian government.
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