Tag Archives: war crimes

UN Peacekeepers as Lackeys of Governments

image from wikipedia

Peace-keeping mission of United Nations is need the consent of the host governments to operate; the UN cannot invade. But too often agencies and blue helmets (as in the headgear worn by peacekeepers) are lackeys of autocrats, forming “abusive” relationships with those in power, according to Richard Gowan of Columbia University. This undermines the UN’s claim to moral authority.

The operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a case in point. The UN has deployed peacekeepers there since 1999, and MONUSCO, the French acronym by which the mission is known, now has about 16,000 troops, and costs more than $1bn a year.  Since 2016, the UN has failed to prevent violence that has forced over 1m people to flee their homes. Troops get away with defining their operating boundaries conservatively. Perversely, they are rewarded for not using their kit, as they are reimbursed for equipment returned in good condition. Meanwhile MONUSCO cannot easily get rid of underperforming civilian staff, partly because of pressure from trade unions but also because of the complex way in which UN headquarters imposes its choice of recruits on the mission.

Another $1bn-per-year mission, UNMISS, has done almost nothing to prevent the descent into civil war and famine since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011. The 12,500 peacekeepers have a mandate to protect civilians, but have failed to do so. In August 2016 aid workers were raped, beaten and robbed by South Sudanese government troops just minutes away from the main UN compound in Juba, the capital. Despite desperate phone and text messages from the victims, the 2,000 or so troops never stirred. “[The blue helmets] are supposed to protect civilians,” admits a UN official in South Sudan. “But they don’t. Something is upside down. It’s not working.”  One reason for the failure is that the mission asks permission from the government before it sends out troops…But since it is often the government carrying out the massacres, permission is often refused or delayed…

Excerpt from The UN in Conflict Areas: Looking the Other Way, Economist, Oct. 28, 2017

From Pariah to Responsible: Sudan

Sudan Airways regularly ranks among the worst airlines in the world. The national carrier has only one working plane..The troubled airline, or rather, airplane, epitomizes some of the effects that two decades of American sanctions have had on Sudan…Most Western countries have shunned Sudan, making it hard for companies like Sudan Airways to procure parts or buy new planes from Boeing or Airbus. The airline’s general manager once described the sanctions as “hell.”The country’s economic isolation is about to end.

The Trump administration announced on October 6, 2017 that it would formally lift a host of sanctions, including a trade embargo, saying the Sudanese government had made progress on a number of issues, like cooperating on counterterrorism efforts and making modest improvements…

The United States is still keeping Sudan on its list of terrorism sponsors, which means it will not be granted debt relief, a major drag on the economy.

The Trump administration decision has provoked a backlash from some human rights groups…Amnesty International accused Sudanese government forces of using chemical weapons against civilians in Darfur in 2016, and there are ongoing skirmishes in the region. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who came to power 27 years ago, is sought by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur…

Sudan is now expected to become at least moderately more attractive to Western investors, particularly companies eager to enter a region where countries like China, Malaysia and India are already present.

State Department officials say the removal of sanctions would unfreeze government assets and benefit aviation and energy businesses.  Sudan’s economy is mired in debt — foreign creditors are owed $51 billion, or 60 percent of its gross domestic product — and it suffers from high inflation and low productivity. The economy was dealt a severe blow after the oil-rich south tore itself away.

The sanctions placed restrictions on international financial transactions, making it difficult to acquire technology and equipment. Hundreds of factories were shut down because of a lack of parts and trade barriers.Remittances from abroad will be transferred more easily, which will help lift domestic consumption and the economy.

Excerpts from In Long-Isolated Sudan, ‘Lot of Excitement’ as U.S. Sanctions End, NY Times, Oct. 7, 2017

The NATO and Anti-Qadhafi Forces War Violations, UN Human Rights Council Report

Here is the summary of the report.  (Full document 220 pages)

“The Commission concluded that the thuwar (anti-Qadhafi forces) committed serious violations, including war crimes and breaches of international human rights law, the latter continuing at the time of the present report. The Commission found these violations to include unlawful killing, arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, indiscriminate attacks, and pillage. It found in particular that the thuwar are targeting the Tawergha and other communities.

The Commission concluded that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conducted a highly precise campaign with a demonstrable determination to avoid civilian casualties. On limited occasions, the Commission confirmed civilian casualties and found targets that showed no evidence of military utility. The Commission was unable to draw conclusions in such instances on the basis of the information provided by NATO and recommends further investigations.

The Commission conducted its investigations applying the international legal regimes dictated by the situation. It concluded that international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes, were committed by Qadhafi forces in Libya. Acts of murder, enforced disappearance, and torture were perpetrated within the context of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population. The Commission found additional violations including unlawful killing, individual acts of torture and ill-treatment, attacks on civilians, and rape.

The interim Government faces many challenges in overcoming a legacy of more than 40 years of serious human rights violations and deterioration of the legislative framework, judicial and national institutions. It has nevertheless expressed a commitment to human rights and has taken positive steps to establish mechanisms for accountability. The government is gradually restoring the judiciary by reopening courts and recalling judges, and there has been some progress in the transfer of detainees to central government control.

The Commission is nevertheless concerned by the failure to hold accountable thuwar committing serious violations. Libyan authorities can break with the Qadhafi legacy by enforcing the law equally, investigating all abuses – irrespective of the perpetrator – and ensuring that amnesty processes comport with Libya’s obligations under international law.

To give effect to its commitment to improve the human rights situation in Libya, the interim Government will need considerable support from the United Nations and the international community.

No Democracy: the Revenge Killings of Libyan Rebels

Tawergha, Libya, was once home to thousands of mostly black non-Arab residents. Now, the only man-made sound is a generator that powers a small militia checkpoint, where rebels say the town is a “closed military area.”  What happened to the residents of Tawergha appears to be another sign that despite the rebel leadership’s pledges that it will exact no revenge on supporters of deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s new rulers often are dealing harshly with the country’s black residents.

According to Tawergha residents, rebel soldiers from Misrata forced them from their homes on Aug. 15 when they took control of the town. The residents were then apparently driven out of a pair of refugee camps in Tripoli over this past weekend.  The Misrata people are still looking for black people,” said Hassan, a Tawergha resident who is now sheltering in a third camp in Janzour, six miles east of Tripoli. “One of the men who came to this camp told me my brother was killed yesterday by the revolutionaries.”  Amnesty International issued a report on human rights issues in Libya that included claims hat the rebels had abused prisoners, conducted revenge killings and removed pro-Gadhafi fighters from hospitals.  Dalia Eltahawy, an Amnesty researcher, said the Tawerghis “are certainly a very vulnerable group and need to be protected.” She called on the rebel leadership to “investigate and bring people to justice” for those abuses “to avoid a culture of impunity.”

But rebel leaders, in their response, made no mention of Tawergha, though they promised to “move quickly … to make sure similar abuses are avoided in areas of continued conflict such as Bani Walid and Sirte.”  There’s no doubt that until last month, Tawergha was used by Gadhafi forces as a base from which to fire artillery into Misrata, which lies about 25 miles north.  Misratans say, however, that Tawergha’s involvement on Gadhafi’s side went deeper: Many of the village’s residents openly participated in an offensive against Misrata that left more than 1,000 dead and as many missing, they say. “Look on YouTube and you will see hundreds of Tawerghi men saying, ‘We’re coming to get you, Misrata,’ ” said Ahmed Sawehli, a psychiatrist in Misrata. “They shot the videos themselves with their cellphones.”

The Tawerghis do not deny that some from the town fought for Gadhafi, but they say they are victims of a pre-existing racism that manifested itself during the revolution.  The evidence that the rebels’ pursuit of the Tawerghis did not end with the collapse of the Gadhafi regime is visible, both in the emptiness of this village and that of the camps to which the residents fled.  At one, in a Turkish-owned industrial complex in the Salah al Deen neighborhood of southern Tripoli, a man looting metal from the complex simply said that the Tawerghis had “gone to Niger,” the country that borders Libya on the south.

Empty town raises concerns about fate of black Libyas, The Sacramento Bee, Sep. 14, 2011

More War Crimes in Sudan: Abyei

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed through the analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery collected on 27 May the intentional destruction of approximately one-third of all civilian structures in Abyei town by the Government of Sudan and northern-aligned militia forces. SSP has documented multiple violations of international humanitarian law in Abyei town. These abuses can constitute war crimes, including violations of the Geneva Conventions, and in some cases they may represent crimes against humanity.

The imagery captures at least ten SAF main battle tanks consistent with T-55s or T-64s, three mobile artillery pieces, heavy equipment transports, heavy trucks and infantry fighting vehicles in Abyei town. Widespread looting, debris, and destruction of property is visible, including the ransacking of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) storage facility. Additionally, SSP confirms the destruction of Banton Bridge on the Kiir River south of Abyei town. This is consistent with reports that Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) detonated the bridge.

Satellite imagery analyzed by Harvard Humanitarian Initiative with support from DigitalGlobe provides new evidence of SAF forces carrying out extensive and wanton destruction and appropriation of property without the justification of military necessity. The attacks on civilian objects under the SAF’s occupation of Abyei town constitute violations of international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and its First and Second Additional Protocols of 1977 to which Sudan is party.

May 28, 2011, Satellite Images

UN Was Looking the other Way? war crimes, Sri Lanka

The UN report on Sri Lankan war crimes has accused the UN itself of failing to take action that could have saved civilian lives.  The independent report estimates “tens of thousands” of civilians died in the final bloody months of the three-decade conflict., contradicting the UN’s own strongly contested estimate of 7000 civilian deaths from January to May 2009, and the Sri Lankan government’s initial claim that no civilian blood was spilled in its military campaign.  The three-member panel, commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, found “credible allegations” that the government committed war crimes, including shelling its own no-fire zones and hospitals, as about 330,000 people became trapped on a strip of land between the two forces.  It accused the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam of gross human rights violations, including forced conscription of child soldiers and the use of human shields…The UN did not escape criticism. “During the final stages of the war the UN political organs and bodies failed to take action that might have protected civilians,” the panel found.

“Although senior international officials advocated in public and private with the government that it protect civilians and stop the shelling of hospitals in UN or ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) locations, in the panel’s view the public use of casualty figures would have strengthened the call for the protection of civilians while those events in the Vanni were unfolding.” It added: “The conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity.”…  It also recommended the UN’s Human Rights Council reconsider its controversial May 2009 resolution commending the Sri Lankan government for ending the war, but which failed to address allegations of misconduct by government forces…The UN at the time was criticised for bowing to government pressure not to make stronger statements on abuses and civilian casualties, in order to stay in the country.

UN called to account on war in Sri Lanka , The Australian, April 20, 2011