May 11, 2015
In the news:
Promoting fear that ISIS has expanded its reach into the United States, the group claimed to be linked to last Sunday’s attack in Garland, Texas in which two armed men opened fire at a controversial art exhibit and cartoon contest to draw the Prophet Muhammad. ISIS has offered no evidence that the gunmen were affiliated with the organization, but announced this week on Twitter that it has 71 fighters in 15 U.S. states. The White House stated that it is still too early to say whether the group was responsible for the attack. However, U.S. officials stated that the gunmen were likely inspired by the Islamic State. One of the gunmen, Elton Simpson was indicted in 2010 on charges of international terrorism. The Daily Beast provides a first-hand account of the attack. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State is moving to stop ISIS leadership abroad by adding four members of ISIS to the list of high-value targets wanted by the “Rewards for Justice Program” this week.
Reports by both British and Syrian human rights organizations stated that as many as 52 civilians, including 7 children, were killed in Syria by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on May 1. The U.S. military denied the report, with a U.S. military spokesman stating that the airstrikes killed more than 50 ISIS fighters and there is “no indication that any civilians were killed in these strikes.” However, U.S. military officials have acknowledged a U.S. internal military investigation’s determination that two civilians were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike – this is the first admission of any civilian casualties since the airstrikes began nine months ago. During this time more that 3,500 airstrikes have been conducted and more than 6,000 targets have been destroyed or damaged.
Last Sunday “reconnaissance” troops landed in the Yemeni port city of Aden, marking the first deployment of ground troops by Saudi-led coalition forces since their airstrike campaign began six weeks ago. Human Rights Watch reported that the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels has been using cluster munitions from the United States in Yemen. These weapons have been banned by much of the world for being indiscriminate as they spread over a wide area and may pose a long-term threat to civilians due to unexploded bomblets being left behind. A U.S. State Department spokesperson stated that the use of cluster bombs is appropriate so long as they are used “against clearly defined military targets.” On Tuesday, Yemeni rebels fired rockets into Saudi Arabia, prompting more than 30 airstrikes on the northwestern Yemeni provinces of Saada and Hajja near the states’ border, allegedly killing 43 civilians and wounding at least 100. On Thursday, following an appeal by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Arabia offered to extend a 5 day “humanitarian pause” in which it would cease attacks to allow for the provision of aid to the Yemeni people. On Sunday, Yemeni Houthi rebels accepted the 5 day ceasefire. It will begin Tuesday. For more on Yemen, check out the Situation Update.
Ongoing unofficial talks among representatives of the Afghan government, the Afghan Taliban, and the United Nations led to an agreement to reopen a Taliban political office for negotiations. However, there is still little progress on a ceasefire due to disagreement about the presence of foreign troops, and last weekend the Taliban reportedly refused to stop fighting until all foreign forces were removed from Afghanistan. Meanwhile in Nigeria, the 275 women and children rescued from Boko Haram by the Nigerian military have been arriving in refugee camps and 25 more have been rescued this week as soldiers destroyed seven more of the extremist group’s camps. This is in stark contrast to accusations that Nigerian troops killed dozens of civilians and burned villages throughout central Nigeria.
Around the web:
Why do we let genocide keep happening? In April we observed Holocaust Remembrance Day, but the month also marked the twenty-first anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and the fortieth anniversary of the mass slaughter of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge. As an international community we have seen many instances of genocide and the events preceding it. Why does it keep happening, and how can we prevent it?
Judicial Review for POWs During Armed Conflict? The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued a document explaining the meaning of the prohibition on arbitrary detention to guide States on the judicial review of the lawfulness of detention. The document will have an impact on both POWs and civilians detained for the duration of hostilities in non-international armed conflicts.
The Insane Improvised Weapons of Syria and Iraq. Fighters in Iraq and Syria are using homemade weapons that are unreliable and have severe costs to civilians. Some of the weapons include chlorine bombs and tunnel bombs. Read more about these weapons here.
On the blog:
On Keeping the Promise of “Never Again”. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 16, 2015, the IHL Unit hosted a discussion with Juan Méndez, the former Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General for the Prevention of Genocide and the current UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The conversation centered around genocide and the need for better monitoring and prevention strategies. You can watch the event and read about it here.
Congratulations 2015 Youth Leadership Summit Teams! Five IHL Action Campaign teams were selected to attend the 3rd Annual IHL Youth Leadership Summit in June. 41 teams from across the country participated in the program this year. These exceptional teams used a variety of creative methods to teach their peers about IHL, gender, and refugees, and the IHL Team is very excited to host them in DC in June!
From Central Africa to the Pacific Northwest. The IHL Action Campaign team from the Cascades Region held an art gallery event in Portland, Oregon to educate their community about the rights of refugees. The team invited local refugees to speak at the event and discovered that one of the refugees was from a village displayed in the gallery. Read about how this connection impacted the team’s understanding of what it means to be a refugee.
Special Opportunity: IHL Course in New York City. On May 28, the International Humanitarian Law Team will be hosting a one day training course on international humanitarian law for lawyers, journalists, professionals in international relations, and law students in New York City. If you would like to register, contact the International Humanitarian Law Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.