October 19, 2015
In the news:
Rights groups, and even the U.S., are concerned about the proportionality of Israel’s response to the Palestinian attacks and protests in East Jerusalem. The government has reportedly established checkpoints in that part of the city, sealed off neighborhoods, and threatened to revoke the residency permits of alleged Palestinian attackers and their families. Rights groups report that the security forces are “too quick to shoot to kill,” and are concerned that Israel’s plea to civilians who legally own guns to carry them will result in armed civilians acting on what they perceive as threats rather than authorities who are trained to make such assessments. They have warned that such conduct may amount to extrajudicial killings. Israel’s use of punitive demolitions of the homes of alleged Palestinian attackers’ families has also been on the rise since the beginning of October. Al Jazeera has an interactive map that shows the number of Israeli and Palestinian deaths this month.
Two suicide bombers attacked a Nigerian mosque while civilians were praying inside. The attack, which killed at least thirty people, is believed to be the work of Boko Haram. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has officially denied that it has deliberately attacked civilians in Yemen, and denounced allegations that it has committed war crimes as a result.
And speaking of potentially unlawful targeting practices, reports have emerged that U.S. special operations analysts had been monitoring the Médecins Sans Frontières (“MSF”) hospital in Kunduz, days before the attack occurred, and, as such, knew it was a hospital. It is unclear whether they shared this information with the commanders who authorized the attack. A U.S. tank reportedly drove through the attack site, raising concerns that it has destroyed crucial evidence for the investigation. The Taliban officially announced that it was withdrawing its troops from Kunduz to protect the civilian population from further attacks, and has moved on to other towns in the south. Reports that the Taliban has used child soldiers in Kunduz, and has blocked a key highway that civilians are using to flee cities in danger of a Taliban siege, hint, however, that the group may not be so innocent. The U.S., meanwhile, will remain in Afghanistan, despite previous plans of complete withdrawal by the end of next year.
Russia’s air strikes in Syria are reportedly having a detrimental impact on civilians in the area. In its joint attack with the Syrian army in Homs and Hama this week, numerous civilian casualties were reported, and residents posted videos online of large amounts of smoke rising out of residential areas in rebel-controlled towns. In northern Syria, the Syrian Kurds are reportedly razing previously ISIS-controlled villages, demolishing homes and forcing citizens to leave, allegedly to retaliate against their perceived-allegiances to ISIS. The war’s effects also continue to spread across borders. The Turkish government has attributed the attack of two suicide bombers in Ankara, which killed at least 128 people, to ISIS. The Nusra Front, meanwhile, has called on its followers to carry out attacks in Russia in response to the state’s airstrikes against Nusra Front rebels in Syria.
Suspicions have emerged that Russia is using new advanced cluster bombs in Syria, although such reports have yet to be confirmed. Russia is, however, definitely using Mi-24 helicopters to conduct its air attacks. Foreign Policy provides an overview of this helicopter’s capabilities. Meanwhile, a U.S. company has developed a rifle that can neutralize drones without destroying them through radio waves. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (“DARPA”), on the other hand, is in the process of developing unmanned air vehicles, named ICARUS, made of materials capable of evaporating into gas. The aim is that once these vehicles deliver aid and supplies during conflicts and disasters, they can self-destruct.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has requested the court’s judges to authorize an investigation into the August 2008 armed conflict between Russia and Georgia. This would be the first formal non-African investigation for the court. This request has not stalled South Africa’s plans to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the court on grounds of African bias. The Guardian explains why the country should not do so. Meanwhile, South Korea, the U.S., Britain, and Japan are drafting a second resolution calling on the U.N. Security Council to refer North Korea to the ICC.
Around the web:
IHFFC Investigation in Kunduz. Two EJIL: Talk! articles assess the potential International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission’s (“IHFFC”) investigations into the attack on MSF’s hospital in Kunduz. MSF has asked the IHFFC, which draws its mandate from Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, to conduct an independent investigation into the attack. However, in order to do so, IHFFC needs both U.S. and Afghan approval. The first article provides an overview of the organization, and calls for increased awareness of its existence. The second questions the jurisdictional basis for initiating at IHFFC investigation.
U.S. Drone Bases in Africa. The U.S. will deploy 300 U.S. troops to Cameroon to combat Boko Haram, and will create a U.S. drone base so that it can use surveillance drones to track the group’s movements. Lawfare notes that such bases are becoming common in the African continent, and assesses the legal basis for this activity under U.S. law. The Washington Post provides a useful map of these drone bases.
The Drone Papers. The Intercept has published once-secret documents that detail U.S. drone strikes and targeted killings in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen. The documents reportedly suggest that within a five-month period, at least 90% of individuals killed in the attacks were not the intended targets. Adam Klein opines in Lawfare, however, that these documents illustrate that the U.S. drone strikes were conducted “only after a deliberate, individualized process,” and with accountability mechanisms in place.
Accountability for the MH17 crash in the Ukraine. The Dutch Safety Board has released its controversial final report on its investigations into the MH17 crash in July 2014, during the height of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. The report concludes that a Russian-made missile brought the plane down, suggesting that it may have been Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine that shot at it. Both the Ukraine and Russia have rejected the report, and Russia has called on the U.N. International Civil Aviation Commission to conduct its own independent investigation into the incident.
On the blog:
Mali’s Peace Deal: Will it Work? The latest situation update describes the 2012 conflict in Mali between the Tuareg rebels, who wished for self-determination in the north of the country, and the more prosperous government in the south. The post assesses the future of the peace deal that came into affect this past June, stressing that its focus on decentralization, continued violence in the country, lack of unity among the parties, and strained infrastructure within the country has put the agreement’s efficacy into question.
The Power of Education. This video was submitted as part of the Humanitarian Education Storytelling Campaign, which aims at promoting youth education that is based on the Seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross. To join the campaign email IHLYouth@redcross.org.
IHL Workshops. The IHL Legal Education team has publicized the dates for its 2015-2016 IHL Workshops, which will take place all over the country. This past weekend, the team conducted one at Arizona State University. The next one will take place at the American Red Cross Chapter in New York City on October 29, 2015. Check back periodically, as more workshops will be added as plans are formalized.