September 14, 2015
In the news:
Sources allege that Russia is sending equipment and troops into Syria, and that some of the troops have taken part in combat to support President Assad’s forces. Russia confirmed that it was flying arms and humanitarian aid into the country, and sending military advisors to help Assad’s forces use such arms. Fear of increased Russian military presence prompted neighboring states to blockade Russian planes headed to Syria, although Greece and Iran have granted Russia permission to use their airspace to deliver humanitarian aid.
Moscow-based diplomats suggest that Russia may be using the threat of Russian military engagements in Syria as a bargaining tool against other leading powers to keep Assad in power, and to use his forces to help defeat ISIS. Several European countries recently appeared more willing to accept such a development. Meanwhile, Australia, France, and the UK are considering joining the U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS. The U.S., on the other hand, will overhaul its program to create a moderate rebel force to fight ISIS, after al-Qaeda affiliated rebels killed the previous U.S. trainees in July.
The Security Council adopted a resolution approving a joint U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (“OPCW”) investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria among all parties involved in the conflict. Meanwhile, monitoring organizations in Syria and other analysts observe that this year, government forces have killed thousands more civilians than ISIS.
Reports and videos highlight the conditions refugees/migrants face after fleeing their respective war-torn countries. The Guardian observed that many refugees/migrants in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt might choose to return to Syria rather than struggle to survive in destitute living conditions in these neighboring countries.
The EU has not reached a consensus on how to allocate the influx of refugees/migrants arriving in its member states, while a few European countries, the U.S., and Australia have agreed to take in more in the next few years. In contrast, Hungary and Israel have started building fences to block refugees/migrants, and Macedonia is considering following suit. UNHCR estimates that over 850,000 more will flee to Europe this year and the next.
Yemen’s exiled government and the Houthi rebels have agreed to U.N. mediated talks, scheduled to take place this week. In similar news, South Sudan’s parliament unanimously adopted the peace deal that President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed in August. Libya’s two rival factions also resumed peace negotiations. The U.N. has given them until September 20 to reach an agreement. Meanwhile, Russian, Ukrainian, French, and German leaders will meet in October to discuss an end to the Ukrainian conflict.
Ukraine has agreed to extend ICC jurisdiction over potential war crimes committed in eastern Ukraine since February 20, 2014. Meanwhile, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutors charged eight former-members of the Bosnian Serb special police with participating in the killing of 1,300 people in a warehouse near Srebrenica in 1995. In more international criminal law related news, the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal re-opened Chad’s former president Hissène Habré’s trial after a 45-day adjournment.
Around the web:
Legality of the UK’s Recent Drone Strikes. The U.K. sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council to justify its drone attack on three ISIS fighters, two of whom were British citizens. The letter invokes U.N. Charter Article 51 to justify its actions, arguing that “ISI[S] is engaged in an ongoing armed attack against Iraq, and therefore action against ISI[S] in Syria is lawful in the collective self-defense of Iraq.” The Telegraph, the BBC, Lawfare, the Guardian, Head of Legal, and the Center for the Response to Radicalization and Terrorism have all independently analyzed the legality of the strikes.
Guantanamo Recidivism. U.S.’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence (“ODNI”) reports that of the 653 Guantanamo detainees transferred, 117 have reengaged in terrorist activities. Commentators have expressed skepticism over these numbers. Nevertheless, ODNI’s findings complicate efforts to find a new location for the several detainees that President Obama wants to transfer to U.S. prisons after shutting down Guantanamo.
ISIS and Cyberwarfare. War on the Rocks discusses the need to take ISIS’s cyberwarfare threats more seriously. It observes that while ISIS’s major impact in cyberspace has largely been its increasingly sophisticated propaganda regime, countries should closely monitor its efforts to develop cyberwarfare capabilities through its “Islamic State Hacking Division.”
Joint Blog Symposium. Lawfare, EJIL:Talk!, and Intercross will publish various articles on International Law and Armed Conflict throughout September, as part of its joint blog symposium featuring participants from this summer’s Third Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict hosted at the University of Oxford. Two of the articles have already been published, and focus on direct participation in hostilities, and the interplay between IHL and international human rights law, respectively.
On the blog:
2016 Clara Barton IHL Competition. Applications for the American Red Cross’s annual Clara Barton IHL Competition are now available online. The competition will take place in Seattle, Washington from March 12-15, 2016. Applications are due November 13, 2015.
Situation Update – Myanmar. The blog features a short analysis of the ethnic tensions that are affecting long-term stability in Myanmar, focusing specifically on the government’s conflict with the Kachin rebels, and its persecution of the Rohingya.
Situation Update – South Sudan. The blog provides a similar analysis of the internal conflict in South Sudan, focusing on the violence between tribal groups and the government, and amongst the tribal groups themselves.