October 5, 2015
In the news:
At a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all states to “work together” to bring peace to Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. At another meeting, the U.S. and several U.N. member states pledged do more to combat the challenges U.N. peacekeepers face, which include poor equipment and training, the realities of modern armed conflicts, terrorism, and refugees. Meanwhile, at least 78 states, including the Ukraine, have signed on to a French proposal to ban members of the Security Council from using their veto power when dealing with mass atrocities. The four other Security Council members, China, Russia, US, and the UK, have not yet supported the proposal.
France and Russia have officially joined the fight against ISIS, although reports strongly suggest that Russian air strikes are mostly targeting other rebel forces fighting President Assad, including the ones trained by the U.S. President Obama condemned Russia’s actions against these rebels, stating that doing so is “only strengthening” ISIS. Russia is also facing criticism over the number of civilian casualties allegedly caused by its use of indiscriminate weapons. Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly sent hundreds of troops into Syria to join a major ground offensive, which will include Assad’s forces, and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters.
Saudi Arabia is facing criticism for the increasing civilian death toll in Yemen, which the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights states has passed the 2,300 mark. Recently, the Saudi-led coalition conducted air strikes that killed over thirty people, mostly women and children, who were attending a wedding in the village of Wahija. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has stalled a Netherlands-backed draft resolution calling on the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate war crimes in Yemen. Instead, the U.N. Human Rights Council has adopted a Saudi-backed resolution that supports a national commission of inquiry that would be led by the exiled Yemeni government.
Palestinians shot and killed an Israeli couple this week, further escalating tensions between Israel and Palestine. During his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, President Abbas declared that Palestine is no longer bound by the Oslo Peace Accords, which set out a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because of Israel’s alleged systematic violation of these agreements.
Afghan troops, with NATO’s aid, reportedly regained major parts of the city of Kunduz, which the Taliban seized earlier in the week in what its leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor labeled a “victory” for his forces. Civilians and human rights groups have reported that Taliban members murdered, raped, and looted throughout the city. U.S.-led NATO air strikes aimed at helping Afghan forces regain the city reportedly struck a hospital and killed at least sixteen civilians, nine of them staff members of the Médecins Sans Frontières, and three children.
Somalia has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, leaving the U.S. as the only country in the world that has yet to do so. Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Boko Haram continues to use child-bombers in its attacks.
The ICC’s first case dealing with cultural war crimes has kicked off after Niger surrendered to the court Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, an Islamist Tuareg rebel, who is charged with participating in the 2012 destruction of Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mali. Opinio Juris discusses the impact this case may have on the development of the laws against the destruction of cultural property during armed conflict. In similar news, as ISIS continues its destruction of Palmyra, Asia Society conducted a forum to discuss how to legally combat its involvement in antiquities trafficking, suggesting that this should include an ICC investigation. France, meanwhile, has initiated investigations into war crimes that Assad’s forces have allegedly committed in Syria.
Around the web:
Turkey on the Brink of Civil War? Director of the Turkey Project at the Brookings Institution assesses the increasing tensions between Turks and Kurds in Turkey. He focuses on the various clashes between the government and the PKK that have left hundreds of military and security personnel, rebels, and civilians dead since July, and also on the political tensions promulgated by the ruling AKP party’s increasing suspicion of the Kurdish the Peoples’ Democratic Party (“HDP”) and the Kurdish population as a whole.
Defending U.S.-trained Syrian Rebels with Force. In response to recent controversial statements by U.S. government officials arguing that U.S. military forces could use Article II of the U.S. Constitution to defend U.S.-trained Syrian rebels against attack from Assad’s forces, Lawfare writes that the same argument could be used to justify any potential use of force against Russian troops in Syria. Opinio Juris further emphasizes that such a basis for the use of force would still be a violation under jus ad bellum.
Life in the “Islamic State.” The Washington Post has published a five-part series describing what life is like in ISIS-controlled territories. The first piece introduces the series. The second, third, fourth, and fifth parts of the series respectively describe the lives of women, the brutal justice system, the duality between the economic situation of ISIS members and the people living in the cities and towns they control, and its unequal public education system aimed at indoctrinating children of ISIS fighters.
On the blog:
U Thant: The Man U.S. Historians Underappreciate. In light of the recent increase in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, this week’s situation update focuses on former U.N. Secretary General U Thant’s crucial role in diffusing the devastating outcome that would have emerged out of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The post recounts how he initiated negotiations between U.S. President Kennedy and USSR President Khrushchev to reach a peaceful solution to the growing tensions between the two states through preventative democracy.
Absolutely True: “Once a Red Crosser, always a Red Crosser.” The IHL Unit’s Youth Education Intern, Lindsey Spanner, reflects on her time at the American Red Cross. She discusses her work on the Youth Education Team’s IHL Action Campaign, Raid Cross, and the Humanitarian Education Initiative, and observes that her involvement in these programs provided her with the opportunity to become a part of a group striving to “make the world a better place.”