November 16, 2015
In the news:
While this was not the first ISIS-affiliated attack outside of Syria and Iraq, the bombings and shootings that led to the deaths of at least 129 people in Paris this week has become an impetus for the international community to call for an escalated response to the Syrian armed conflict in general, and ISIS in particular. The grim week began in Baghdad, where two separate attacks against Shias, one at a funeral and the other at a Shia shrine, resulted in at least twenty-six deaths. ISIS claimed responsibility. On the same day as the Paris attack, two suicide bombings in a predominantly Shia residential and commercial neighborhood in Beirut resulted in over forty deaths. ISIS also claimed responsibility. Investigations into the attacks in Beirut and Paris are currently under way. Meanwhile, France has escalated its airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, labeling the Paris attacks as “an act of war,” and Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has stated that his group is committed to fighting ISIS. Members of the G20, who met in Turkey this past weekend, also pledged to increase their efforts to combat the group. The Guardian questions the international law implications for these increased efforts.
ISIS is not the only group that has engaged in violence this week. Boko Haram members continue their cross-border operations in Cameroon, Niger, and Chad, which has declared a state of emergency in the Lake Chad area as a result. In Yemen, a bomb hit a mosque and killed several people in Shibam, an area largely loyal to the Houthi rebels. Kenyan security forces have raided five camps suspected to belong to al Shabaab, although a recent report by Journalists for Justice accuses the forces of colluding with the militant group. In Thailand, a bomb detonated at a village checkpoint in Pattani killed four people. The attack was attributed to Muslim insurgents that have been fighting for greater autonomy in the southern, predominantly Muslim, province.
Daily incidences of violence in Burundi, resulting in at least 200 deaths since April, as well as the recent use of rhetoric that is reminiscent of that used in Rwanda in 1994, has raised fears that the situation will escalate to the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or even genocide. The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution that would increase international presence in the country to prevent potential mass atrocities. The International Criminal Court (“ICC”) prosecutor also condemned the violence and “incendiary rhetoric,” and warned that should the violence escalate, perpetrators may be subject to prosecution at the ICC. Burundi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alain Aime Nyamitwe, however, believes that these fears are unwarranted.
Around the web:
Genocide Against the Yazidi. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has published a report, accusing ISIS of committing genocide against Iraq’s Yazidi population. The report focuses on the 2014 attack in Ninewa province in northern Iraq where more than 1,500 people, mostly men, were killed, and thousands of others, mostly women and children, were kidnapped. It contains interviews of victims and witnesses who recount incidences of murder, torture, kidnapping, and rape. The report also accuses ISIS of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against other minorities in the country.
Mass Atrocities, Collective Memory, and Transitional Justice. The NYU Journal of International Law and Politics, in collaboration with Opinio Juris, conducted an online symposium asking four distinguished scholars, Mark Drumbl, Naomi Roht-Arriaza, Ruti Teitel, and Johan Van Der Vyver, to comment on Rachel Lopez’s article “The (Re)collection of Memory after Mass Atrocity and the Dilemma for Transitional Justice.” Lopez’s response to these scholars can be found here.
IHL and International Terrorism. Just Security has developed “mini-series” of commentary in response to the ICRC’s annual Report on International Humanitarian Law and the Challenges of Contemporary Conflicts. In the first article of the series, Gabor Rona focuses on the circumstances that trigger, and end, an armed conflict, as well an existing armed conflict’s geographical scope. In the second article, Rona discusses the distinct legal frameworks that govern armed conflict and terrorism, and notes that for various reasons, the discourses are often, mistakenly, intermixed.
On the blog:
Conflicts and Conventions: Government Accountability on Torture. Today, renowned experts in the field of human rights and torture, including Stephen Rapp, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman & Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Daniel Jones, Professional Staffer at the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence, and Naureen Shah, Director of Security & Human Rights Program at Amnesty International USA, discussed existing and future government accountability measures to combat torture. The event took place at the American Red Cross National Headquarters from 9:00-11:00am. If you were unable to join in person or online, a video of the event is on the blog.
In Honor of Veteran’s Day: An Interview with Ben Ferencz. Christie Edwards, the Director of the IHL Unit, interviewed Ben Ferencz, Former Chief Prosecutor at the Subsequent Proceedings at Nuremberg, and a World War II veteran. Watch the interview here.
The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission’s Untapped Potential. The IHL Unit’s Legal Intern, Alice Debarre, examines the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission’s (“IHFFC”) unprecedented, although unlikely, involvement in the investigations surrounding the bombing of a Medecins Sans Frontieres (“MSF”) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. She notes that while MSF has called on the IHFFC to conduct its own investigation, the IHFFC needs U.S. and Afghani permission to do so.
Myanmar’s Disenfranchised. This week’s Situation Update focuses on the ethnic Rohingya’s inability to participate in Myanmar’s elections last week, noting that this is only one among many situations in which the Rohingya face persecution in the country. Not only were current Rohingya officials not permitted to run for re-election, but more than 500,000 were also disenfranchised after the previous government stripped them of their citizenship.