October 26, 2015
In the news:
Alliances and state intervention are increasingly changing the dynamics and landscape of existing armed conflicts. In Yemen, Sudan has joined the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels. In Syria and Iraq, Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, stated that Canada will withdraw from the U.S.-led coalition combating ISIS. To support rebel group plans to capture ISIS’s capital Raqqa in the coming weeks, the U.S. sent over 50 tons of ammunition to the Syrian Arab coalition. However, reports suggest that all of the weapons landed in the hands of Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, who are part of the coalition, but whose increased military capacity would make Turkey uneasy because of YPG’s affiliation with the PKK. Russia has also stated that it might aid the Free Syrian Army against ISIS, and hinted that Assad may also be willing to do so, if the U.S. agrees to increase its commitment to coordinate with Russian airstrikes. So far, the U.S. and Russia have only agreed to set up lines of communication to ensure that Russian and U.S. airplanes do not mistakenly clash in Syrian airspace. Jordan, which is a member of the U.S.-led coalition, may have already agreed to a more extensive coordination deal with Russia.
In Iraq, the U.S.-supported Iraqi forces are fighting ISIS on multiple fronts. Debate has centered around the U.S.’s involvement in rescuing 70 ISIS-held prisoners facing “imminent mass execution”, which led to the death of one U.S. soldier, and whether its “train and assist” program has been expanded to permit U.S. forces to fight in the field alongside Iraqi troops.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government’s offensive against Aleppo, with Russian, Iranian, Iraqi Shia, and Hezbollah support, continues. While Iran denies that there is an Iranian “fighting force, as such” in Syria, it has pledged to send more military advisers to aid President Assad’s troops. Reports suggest that Cuba may have also sent members of its forces to support Russia and Syria. The U.S. has reportedly sent anti-tank missiles to the rebels in Aleppo in response to the government’s attack on the city.
The New York Times attempts to unravel the complexity in Syria through a series of charts, maps, and commentary on the various conflicts and alliances that have characterized the instability in the region.
The civilian population continues to feel the impact of the armed conflicts escalating throughout the world. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that 127 of the 370 people that Russian airstrikes killed this month were civilians. Due to the Syrian government’s offensive in Aleppo, thousands of civilians have fled villages south of the city. The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has warned that this will lead to “another wave of refugees.” The U.S. may reportedly reconsider setting up no-fly zones and safe havens to address such threats to civilians. Meanwhile, a Yezidi organization has claimed that ISIS has committed genocide against its people, and has called on the U.N. Security Council to refer the case to the ICC.
In Yemen, the ICRC, and Human Rights Watch, have condemned the allegedly indiscriminate attacks in Taiz this week, noting that dozens have died, hundreds are injured, and thousands have fled the city. The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, has warned that the increased sectarian violence in the Central African Republic may amount to war crimes. In Afghanistan, while the Taliban has left Kunduz, its residents continue to face difficulties, as the city’s infrastructure has collapsed due to the Taliban’s looting and razing.
Objects legally protected under IHL also continue to be threatened. In Nigeria, two suicide bombers attacked another mosque during Friday afternoon prayers, an attack suspected to be the work of Boko Haram. The Syrian-American Medical Society has claimed that Russia’s airstrikes have hit hospitals and field clinics at least nine times since its intervention began. Satellite images also illustrate that ISIS is not the only one looting Syrian archaeological sites. In fact, looting may reportedly be more prevalent in rebel or YPG-held areas.
Around the web:
Aerial view of Syrian government’s offensive in Damascus. Alexander Pushin, a Russian cameraman operating in Syria, published a video of the Syrian government’s operation in Damascus last week. The high-resolution video, shot by a drone, depicts Damascus in a state of almost-complete ruin, and illustrates the impact the war has had on Syria’s historic cities.
Sex Crimes Against Men. Maike Isaac wants more recognition of instances of sexual violence toward men in armed conflicts, a topic that her research suggests is neither highly discussed in the human rights community, nor addressed adequately in international law. She opines that the ICC could play a significant role in raising awareness by prosecuting those who perpetrate sexual crimes against men.
Distinguishing civilians and human shields. Just Security contributors question the motives behind the provisions relating to human shields contained in the newest U.S. Law of War Manual. The writers note that in making a distinction between ordinary civilians and civilians used as human shields, the Manual, and some IHL experts, might be promoting a less stringent proportionality assessment when human shields are used by opposing parties to a conflict.
On the blog:
Humanity in War Live-Stream Series. The blog has updates on the IHL Unit’s monthly live-stream series. On October 29, representatives from the global Red Cross network will discuss the Humanitarian Education Learning Portal (“HELP”), which aims to provide Red Cross youth, volunteers, and educators with access to interactive projects and national society initiatives worldwide. On November 12, the team will broadcast an interview with Ben Ferencz, the last living prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.
My Humanitarian Education Makes a Difference. Red Cross volunteer, Dennis Ahn, recounts his experiences as a participant in the IHL Action Campaign, where he focused on the increasing prevalence of the use of child soldiers during armed conflicts. He reflected that before participating in the campaign, he “was aware of the world around [him], but not awake.”