November 11, 2015
In the news:
Civilians continue to bear the brunt of war this week. In Douma and Eastern Ghouta, two suburbs of Damascus, the rebels that control the area are reportedly caging Alawite Syrians, mostly former military officers and their families, and placing them in various locations to deter the Syrian forces from attacking. Over 100 cages, each containing around seven people, were reportedly dispersed throughout Douma. Nevertheless, government airstrikes on the suburb continue. Human Rights Watch condemned the rebels’ use of human shields in this manner.
In Somalia, al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel in Mogadishu that is popular with aid workers and journalists, as well as Somali government officials. At least fourteen people have died as a result. In Arsal, a Lebanese town bordering Syria, a bomb detonated in front of the offices of the Qalamoun Cleric’s Association, allegedly killing at least six people. Witnesses claim that the attack was targeted specifically at clerics who were meeting at the offices to discuss the release of several Lebanese security personnel that al Nusra Front and ISIS captured in August 2014.
ISIS seemingly continues to transcend borders. A Russian charter plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula, and the U.K. raised suspicions that a bomb contained in the plane was the cause. Investigations into the crash continue, and to date no evidence conclusively suggests that these suspicions are true. However, ISIS has taken responsibility, and released a video passing out candy to groups of people in celebration. ISIS-affiliated group, the Sinai Province, has also claimed responsibility for an attack against a police club in the Sinai Peninsula that killed four Egyptian police. A similar ISIS-affiliated attack against police reportedly occurred in Bangladesh.
In international criminal law news, victims in the Darfur investigation have withdrawn from the case against President Omar al-Bashir because of frustrations over the court’s inability to secure his arrest. Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of Congo has incorporated the Rome Statute into its national law.
Around the web:
MSF Investigation into Kunduz Hospital Attack: Medecins Sans Frontieres (“MSF”) has released a report summarizing the findings of its initial investigation into the October bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The report alleges that Pentagon officials had contacted the hospital days before the attack to ask them whether members of the Taliban were “holed up” inside, and received assurances that this was not the case.
Chemical and biological weapons under international criminal law: In light of reports that mustard gas is being used in Syria, a series of posts have debated whether the use of chemical and biological weapons is criminalized in the Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court. The debate largely centers on whether it is necessary to look at the drafting history of the Rome Statute to answer the question. Alex Whiting at Just Security, drawing upon earlier posts from Just Security and EJIL: Talk!, finds that the “plain language” in article 8 that prohibits the use of poisonous and asphyxiating gases and other analogous liquids, materials, and devices eliminates the need to examine the drafting history, which he argues is “indeterminate” in any case. Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris disagrees, arguing that states rejected a proposal to explicitly criminalize the use of chemical and biological weapons during the drafting of the statute. He argues in a separate article that article 8 also cannot have a “plain meaning” when there are varying interpretations on its application.
On the blog:
Somalia: Hoping to be on the Road to Recovery. This week’s Situation Update focuses on Somalia’s “grand development plan,” which will allegedly aim to rebuild the country’s social and physical infrastructure. The post reflects on Somalia’s progress since its current government was installed in 2012, noting that while it has taken steps to ensure respect for human rights and accountability, al-Shabaab threatens long-term stability in the region.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss. As part of the American Red Cross’s Humanitarian Education Storytelling Campaign, Prathusha Yerramilli, a member of the IHL Action Campaign, reflects on the importance of humanitarian education, emphasizing that it allows America’s youth to understand what their peers in war-torn countries go through on a daily basis.