March 23, 2015
In the news:
Following recent progress in the Iraqi offensive to reclaim the town of Tikrit, ISIS is still holding its own, and the battle seems to have reached a stalemate. Despite weapons provided by Iran, including advanced rockets and missiles, which may be allowing Iran to gain leverage with the Iraqi government, some have been calling for the support of U.S. or coalition airstrikes. U.S. officials continue to express concern about possible sectarian violence in Tikrit, a concern supported by examples of increasing animosity in other parts of the country between the Shiite and the Sunnis.
In what has been described as a “perilous yet unspoken military alliance”, U.S. airstrikes are supporting Iran’s forces fighting ISIS in other parts of Iraq. Watch a video of a coalition airstrike released by the U.S. government here. In Syria, the U.S. has also started targeting an Al Qaeda cell, the Khorasan group, alongside ISIS, as reports surfaced detailing the the loss of a surveillance drone over Syria. Further drone strikes in Somalia have led to the confirmed death of a senior al-Shabaab leader, believed to have been one of the key organizers of the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi.
In other ISIS-related news, the militant group kidnapped twenty medical workers in Libya, whose army launched the first military effort against the group in the city of Surt. Pakistan claims that it will soon deploy its own armed drones to be used in the fight against ISIS, and the first American vet was charged with trying to join the extremist group. Although there has been no independent confirmation, the Kurdish forces have made worrying claims concerning ISIS’s use of chemical weapons. Lastly, twenty-one people were killed in an attack in a Museum in Tunis for which ISIS has claimed responsibility.
Amidst the general devastation in Syria and continued government bombings, U.N. investigators are releasing the names of suspected war criminals in an effort to pave the way for accountability. Take a look at these maps and photographs showing the consequences of the war in the country. Although the U.N. Commission of Inquiry has expressed its desire that the U.N. Security Council refer the case to the ICC, Russian and Chinese opposition has led the Commission to consider other means of bringing justice. Another call for U.N. Security Council referral was made by the U.N. Human Rights Office for the ICC to investigate a claim of genocide by ISIS against the Yazidi minority in Iraq.
Finally, as the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan appears to be slowing, sporadic violence continues in Ukraine with one Ukrainian serviceman reported dead, and Prime Minister Netanyahu was reelected in Israel in a not-so-close election.
Around the web:
Progress in Guantanamo. Another Guantanamo detainee has been cleared for release from the detention center. Initially profiled as one of Osama bin Laden’s body guards, the parole board is now describing the individual as a low-level fighter. Furthermore, following recent statements by Obama concerning the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan, one Guantanamo detainee’s lawyers are trying out a new defense claiming that the end of hostilities should entail their client’s release.
New evidence in former U.N. Secretary-General’s death. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has appointed an independent panel of experts to examine new evidence in the death of Dag Hammarskjöld in a 1961 plane crash in what is now Zambia. Certain elements concerning the circumstances of his death have always begged the question of whether it was an accident or a conspiracy.
On the blog:
Spreading the word about refugees and IHL. A high school American Red Cross Club shares how much it has learned about IHL through the IHL Action Campaign and expresses its excitement at teaching others about the topic of refugees.
Situation update: Boko Haram. Read about the progress of the Nigerian military and its allies in its fight against the Islamist group that recently pled allegiance to ISIS.
Journalists and the Law of War. In times of armed conflict, factual and objective reporting is important – to protect the vulnerable but also to bear witness and document. A panel convened by Human Rights Education Associates identified amongst other things the necessity of dealing with issues of journalist safety but also the need for journalists to understand IHL.
From Binghamton to Ithaca: IHL is alive and well. Binghampton University has recognized the importance of educating people on IHL and is pursuing that objective through its first participation in the IHL Action Campaign. In Ithaca, students are participating in the Campaign for the third time and continue in their endeavor of educating the community with unabated enthusiasm.