- Germany: A 100-Year Old Former NS Guard to Stand Trial Over Charges on the Operation of Concentration Camps
- IACHR: Precautionary Measures Adopted in Favour of Flor de María Ramírez in Nicaragua
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: Prosecutor Drops Investigations into Wartime Destruction of Mosques
- ICC: Arrest Warrant Against Simone Gbagbo Vacated
- Germany: Police Arrest Syrian Man in Berlin Over War Crimes Committed in Damascus
- Sudan: Cabinet Votes to Ratify Rome Statute
- Liberia: Massaquoi War Crimes Trial Set to Return to Liberia in August For Witness Hearings
- USA: DOJ Files Criminal Charges Against Pipeline Company for Largest Inland Spill
- IMTFE: Newly Declassified US Military Documents Reveal that Ashes of Japanese War Criminals Were Ordered to be Scattered at Sea
- USA & UK: Accusations of War Crimes Being Committed by the Taliban in Kandahar Province
- UNAMID: UNSC Adopts Presidential Statement Recognising the Advancement of Peace and Security in Darfur
- UN: Creation of the New Permanent Forum of People of African Descent
- Lebanon: One Year After Beirut Blast, 98 per cent of Families are Still in Need
- WHO: The First Verified and Reliable Evidence on Attacks on Healthcare
- Iraq: UN Urges Iraqi Authorities to Swiftly Implement the Yazidi Survivors Law and the Legal Framework Against Torture
- Afghanistan: UNAMA Demands Ends to Fighting
- UN: ‘Heartbreaking’ Devastation in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region
- UNSC: Yemenis Pushed to the Brink Due to Heavy Rains and Flooding
- UN: Urgent Action Needed Following a Rise in Sexual Violence in Somalia
- WFP: The Third Wave of COVID-19 and Increased Hunger Hamper WFP’s Lifesaving Operations in Myanmar
- Mali: Security Situation at a Critical Threshold
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE SECTION
Germany: A 100-Year Old Former NS Guard to Stand Trial Over Charges on the Operation of Concentration Camps
On 2 August, it was reported that a 100-year-old man will stand trial before the Neuruppin Regional Court in October. He is charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder, on allegations that he served as an SS guard at a concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin during the Third Reich. He is alleged to have worked at Sachsenhausen camp between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the NS Party’s paramilitary wing. Despite the defendant’s advanced age, he is considered fit enough to stand trial. The Neuruppin Regional Court was handed the case in 2019 by the special federal prosecutor’s office in Ludwigsburg, which is tasked with investigating NS-era war crimes. Sachsenhausen was established north of Berlin in 1936, as the first new camp after Adolf Hitler gave the SS full control over the Nazi concentration camp system. It was intended to be a model facility and training camp for the concentration camp network. Similarly, a 96-year-old woman will appear before the Itzehoe Regional Court in Schleswig-Holstein for similar charges.
Following these announcements it was also reported that public prosecutors in several German states have announced that they are investigating more than a dozen other suspects. Most of the cases involve concentration camp guards who may be charged as accessories to murder following the precedent of a Munich court, which convicted Ivan Demjanjuk in Munich as an accessory in the murders of nearly 30,000 Jews in the Sobibor death camp in NS-occupied Poland.
IACHR: Precautionary Measures Adopted in Favour of Flor de María Ramírez in Nicaragua
On 3 August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted Resolution 59/21, in which it granted precautionary measures in favour of Flor de María Ramírez, a woman who was in a situation of serious and urgent risk of irreparable damage to her rights in Nicaragua. According to her request, Ms Ramírez found herself at risk as she is a victim of threats, harassment, detentions and acts of violence by state and parastatal authorities because of her political opposition to the current government in Nicaragua. Nicaragua denied all of Ms Ramírez’s allegations, however, the State did not provide further evidence to disprove the events alleged by the petitioner based on the applicable prima facie standard. The IACHR analysed that on a prima facie basis Ms Ramírez finds herself in a serious and urgent situation since her rights to life and personal integrity are at risk of irreparable harm. As a consequence, the IACHR requests that Nicaragua: a) adopt the necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of Ms. Ramírez, i.e. ensure that its agents respect the life and personal integrity of the beneficiary, as well as, protect her rights in relation to acts of risk that are attributable to third parties by international human rights standards; b) consult and agree upon the measures to be adopted with the beneficiary and her representatives; and, c) report on the actions taken to investigate the alleged events that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure, to prevent such events for reoccurring
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Prosecutor Drops Investigations into Wartime Destruction of Mosques
On 3 August, it was reported that the public prosecution office in the town of Banja Luka has dropped the investigation into the destruction of six mosques during the 1992-95 war. The public prosecutor cited the statute of limitations as the grounds for discontinuing the investigations, which prosecutors announced had already ended in February when they closed five cases concerning the destruction of six mosques between March and July 1993. The cases under investigation concerned the Zulfikarpasina and Mehdi-begova mosques in Banja Luka, and four others in the Gradiska municipality to the north. Banja Luka was a Bosnian Serb stronghold during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The investigations were commenced by the district public prosecution in Banja Luka before being transferred to the state propsecution in 2014, which was eventually sent back to district prosecutors. The Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, have criticised the district public prosecutor in Banja Luka for not investigating these crimes as war crimes. The Islamic Community had previously filed complaints to the prosecutor’s office, which were rejected as unfounded.
ICC: Arrest Warrant Against Simone Gbagbo Vacated
On 4 August, it was made public that the issued arrest warrant for Ms Simone Gbagbo of 29 February 2012 was vacated on 19 July 2021. Ms Gbagbo was the First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire from 2000 to 2011 and is the President of the Parliamentary Group of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and FPI’s Vice President. She was charged with four counts of crimes against humanity: murder, rape and other sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts, allegedly committed during the 2010-2011 post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire. The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision to vacate the arrest warrant against Ms Gbagbo followed a request filed by the Office of the Prosecutor on former Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s last day in office, 15 June 2021. The Prosecutor indicated that “there is no reasonable prospect” to prove the case against Ms Gbagbo. The Pre-Trial Chamber granted the Prosecutor’s request because both the case theory and the supporting material underpinning the allegations against Ms Gbagbo have been largely tested in the trial against Laurent Gbagbo, the President of the Côte d’Ivoire from 2000 to 2011, who was acquitted by the Trial Chamber in 2019. This decision was upheld by the Appeals Chamber in March 2021. Based on this, the Pre-Trial Chamber held that the evidence on which the arrest warrant for Simone Gbagbo was grounded does not satisfy the evidentiary requirement under Article 58(1)(a) of the Rome Statute.
Germany: Police Arrest Syrian Man in Berlin Over War Crimes Committed in Damascus
On 4 August, German police arrested a Syrian man, allegedly Mouafak Al D., for war crimes. He is accused of having fired a grenade into a crowd of civilians waiting for food and water from UN relief workers in Damascus on 23 March 2014, which killed seven people. Prosecutors have charged him with seven counts of murder and three counts of grievous bodily harm. At the time of the assault, he is believed to have been a member of the “Free Palestine Movement” which laid siege to the southern Damascus neighbourhood of Yarmuk, on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Yarmuk was founded in 1957 as a place of refuge for Palestinians forced to leave their homes by the establishment of the State of Israel, and was once the Palestinian diaspora’s largest urban settlement. After the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 around 140,000 residents fled Yarmuk, leaving the rest to face severe food shortages while under government siege. The UN’s relief agency for Palestine refugees UNRWA had access to Yarmuk and was able to conduct food distribution there until the Islamic State jihadists entered the area in April 2015.
Sudan: Cabinet Votes to Ratify Rome Statute
On 4 August, it was reported that the Sudanese cabinet has voted unanimously to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The transitional civilian-military administration that has been in power since the overthrow of al-Bashir in 2019, has pledged to bring justice to victims of the former regime. The decision to ratify the Rome Statute is now pending before Sudan’s highest authority, the sovereign council, a joint military-civilian body. The Prime Minister of Sudan stressed the importance of ratifying the Rome Statute stating that “justice and accountability are a solid foundation of the new, rule of law-based Sudan we’re striving to build.”
The ICC had previously indicted and issued an arrest warrant against Sudan’s former head of state and former military officer, Omar Al-Bashir, on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in connection with the conflict in Darfur. Al-Bashir was the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC. On 11 February 2020, the Sudanese government announced that it would hand over al-Bashir to the ICC to stand trial and has been in talks with the ICC in regards to trials against other former aids of al-Bashir. The United Nations has said that 300,000 people were killed and a further 2.5 million were displaced in the war in Darfur from 2003. In Sudan, Al-Bashir has been accused of using a policy of raping, killing, looting, and burning villages. He is currently being held in a prison in Khartoum. In 2019, he was convicted for corruption and is still on trial for the 1989 coup from which he gained power.
Liberia: Massaquoi War Crimes Trial Set to Return to Liberia in August For Witness Hearings
The trial of Gibril Massaquoi, the Sierra Leonean former Revolutionary United Front commander accused of committing war crimes in Liberia’s civil wars, will return to Liberia as early as August. Previously, he was detained and standing trial in the Pirkanmaa District Court in Tampere, Finland, where they announced surprisingly, that they would hand down a judgement early next year. The trial, however, was upended in late May when defence counsel presented new evidence that they said brought into question the trustworthiness of dozens of civilians and former combatants who testified that they had witnessed Massaquoi’s atrocities. To this end, the Finnish courts ordered parts of the trial to take place in Liberia, to hear from witnesses.
Massaquoi faces charges on dozens of murders, eight rapes, as well as, aggravated war crimes and aggravated human rights violations dating back to the early 2000s. The main question in the current trial against Massaquoi is whether he escaped the safe house where he was being held in Freetown in July 2003 to command a battalion that committed atrocities in Waterside in Monrovia in the final days of Liberia’s civil conflict. He had previously been under UN protection in Freetown for his role as a key informant to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. His testimony was instrumental in the convictions of key RUF commanders and former Liberian president Charles Taylor. If the court rules that Massaquoi did escape the safehouse to commit war crimes on behalf of Taylor, the man, on whom he, in turn, was informing, this would leave a damning mark on the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
USA: DOJ Files Criminal Charges Against Pipeline Company for Largest Inland Spill
On 5 August 2021, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had filed criminal charges under the Clean Water Act against Summit Midstream Partners LLC, a North Dakota pipeline company that discharged 29 million gallons of produced water from its pipeline near Williston, North Dakota, over the course of nearly five months in 2014-2015. The pipeline‘s rupture caused a 29 million gallon spillover 143 days before discovery. The DOJ believes this to be the largest ever inland spill of “produced water” from oil drilling in history citing photographs taken by satellites orbiting the earth. Produced water is a waste product of hydraulic fracturing which contaminates land and groundwater, and in the case at hand, over 30 miles of tributaries of the Missouri River.
In addition to the criminal charges, the United States and the State of North Dakota filed a civil complaint against Summit and a related company, Meadowlark Midstream Company LLC, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act and North Dakota’s water pollution control laws. Under parallel settlements resolving the criminal and civil cases, the company has agreed to pay a total of $35 million in criminal fines and civil penalties. These charges by the DOJ can be considered a positive development in light of the international law community’s efforts to push towards environmental justice in making ecocide a punishable crime.
IMTFE: Newly Classified US Military Documents Reveal that Ashes of Japanese War Criminals Were Ordered to be Scattered at Sea
As reported on 6 August, newly discovered declassified documents reveal that the U.S. military ordered the remains of executed Japanese war criminals, including those of Class B and C, to be cremated and the ashes scattered at sea. These declassified documents hint at the U.S. military’s determination to make sure the ashes of war criminals would not be returned to Japan and used in the future to glorify the war. This is an aspect of war crimes legacy on which light has rarely been shed. The documents were titled “Final Disposition and Policies Governing Burial and Graves Registration of Executed War Criminals,” and was discovered recently by Hiroaki Takazawa, a full-time lecturer of law with Nihon University. It was found declassified and kept at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. It is believed that 920 Japanese service members and civilian employees of the Japanese military were tried and executed as Class-B and C war criminals, who were executed after being tried in the Yokohama War Crimes Trials. The documents were signed “by command of” General Douglas MacArthur and stressed that “the bodies of executed war criminals will under no circumstances be returned to Japanese control.” The Yokohama Trials were held before the military commission of the US 8th Army, at Yokohama after WWII. Class-B and C war criminals were a class defined by the charter of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE). The more widely known as the Tokyo Trials, before the IMTFE tried “Class A” war criminals, who were tried for “crimes against peace,” including the planning and initiation of a war of aggression, i.e. leaders of the Empire of Japan for joint conspiracy to start and wage war.
International peace and security section
USA & UK: Accusations of War Crimes Being Committed by the Taliban in Kandahar Province
On 2 August, both the United States and the United Kingdom accused the Taliban of committing war crimes by massacring dozens of civilians in the southern town of Spin Boldak in Kandahar province of Afghanistan. The Afghan army has said that the three provinces in southern and western Afghanistan are facing ‘critical’ security situations. Clashes between Afghan and Taliban forces have recently surged as US and NATO troops plan to complete their final withdrawal by the end of August, this year. US and UK representatives call for the alleged atrocities to be investigated and for the responsible Taliban fighters to be held accountable.
UNAMID: UNSC Adopts Presidential Statement Recognising the Advancement of Peace and Security in Darfur
On 2 August, following the complete drawdown of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operations in Darfur (UNAMID), the UN Security Council (UNSC) recognised the progress made in Darfur since 2007 to advance peace and security. In a presidential statement presented by the representative of India, Council president for August, Mr. Tirumurti, reiterated its call on Sudan’s government, as well as, the Juba Peace Agreement signatories and non-signatory armed opposition movements, to cooperate fully with the UN and the African Union during UNAMID’s liquidation phase. The statement also welcomed the 4 March signing of the framework Agreement between the UN and Sudan and urges the government to ensure that handed-over UNAMID team sites are used exclusively for civilian end-user purposes. “The Security Council commends the people of Darfur for their resilience and cooperation with UNAMID to contribute to peace efforts,” members said through the statement, likewise commending the “unique partnership” between the United Nations and the African Union, and the contribution of troops and police from countries and donors in support of UNAMID’s mandate. Although improvements in security conditions in some areas of Darfur have been made, the UNSC stressed the need for continued progress to consolidate peace and security and urged Sudan to swiftly implement its National Plan for Civilian Protection. Also on 2 August, the UN Security Council’s President for the month announced the Council’s programme of work for August, including other peacekeeping operations and related concerns, such as the UNAMI (Iraq), the UNIFIL (Lebanon), and the UNSOM (Somalia). The UNSC will focus on three major areas this month, i.e. maritime security, peacekeeping and terrorism, alongside briefings on developing situations in the Middle East and other regions.
UN: Creation of the New Permanent Forum of People of African Descent
On 2 August, capping years of deliberation, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) established a new platform to improve the lives of Afro-descendants, who have for centuries suffered the ills of racism, racial discrimination and the legacy of enslavement around the globe. The resolution establishing the UN Permanent Forum of People of African Descent has been unanimously adopted. It will consist of a 10-members advisory body that will serve as an advisory body of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The new Forum will serve as a consultation mechanism for people of African descent and other stakeholders, who will also contribute to the full political, economic and social inclusion, as equal citizens without discrimination of any kind. According to the Assembly, the Permanent Forum is mandated to contribute to the elaboration of a UN declaration as a “first step towards a legally binding instrument” on the promotion and full respect of the rights of people of African descent. Its drafting mission will consist of the identification of analysis of best practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives to address the issues highlighted in the provisions of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Country representatives who spoke during the UNGA session commend the adoption of the resolution. As a sample, Guyana’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), welcomed the “momentous” resolution, highlighting the fact that its adoption took place on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery across much of the Caribbean region. In the same vein, the representative of Slovenia, speaking after the adoption on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc joined the consensus on the resolution in light of the urgent need to eliminate all forms of racism and discrimination against people of African descent. The first session of the Permanent Forum will be held in 2022, with subsequent annual sessions rotating between Geneva and New York.
Lebanon: One Year After Beirut Blast, 98 per cent of Families are Still in Need
On 3 August, a survey published by UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that a year after the devastating explosions in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, a staggering 98 per cent of families are still in need. The blasts on 4 August 2020 destroyed large swathes of Beirut, killing more than 200 people, six of whom were children and injuring more than 6.500 people, including 1.000 children. The UNICEF’s rapid assessment highlights the severity of the trauma children suffered, and the dire needs families have experienced. In addition to the persistent need of support – mainly cash and food assistance –, to psychological distress – of both children and adults –, to the number of damaged homes that still need to be repaired, and to the disruption of water supply system, “[s]ince the blast, Lebanon has been in free fall struggling with a triple crisis” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF regional director in the Middle East and North Africa. As explained by the UNICEF Representative in Lebanon, Yukie Mokuo, “[o]ne year after the tragic events, […] families have been struggling to recover from the aftermath of the explosions at the worst possible time – in the middle of a devastating economic crisis and a major pandemic.” The economic, political and pandemic crises the country is facing, has seriously weakened Lebanon’s resilience capacity. Meanwhile, Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, began an on-site visit on 3 August to strengthen ongoing efforts to support the recovery of the educational system which has been severely affected by the explosions. Finally, adding to existing worrying trends affecting the country, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Spokesperson, Tomson Phiri, further emphasised that “[i]n the year since the explosions in Beirut port, the currency has plunged to a fifteenth of its former value and inflation has put food out of reach for much of the population.”
WHO: The First Verified and Reliable Evidence on Attacks on Healthcare
On 3 August, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released its three-year analysis according to which more than 700 healthcare workers and patients have died, and more than 2,000 have been injured in attacks on health facilities since December 2017. The WHO’s Attack on Health Care (AHC) initiative has three main pillars of work: the systematic collection of evidence of attacks, advocacy for the end of such attacks, and the promotion of good practices for protecting healthcare. The need for systematic collection of data on attacks on healthcare was further supported by the UN Security Council Resolution 2286 (2016). From 2018 to 2020, the Surveillance System for AHC recorded data on attacks on health workers, patients, supplies, ambulances and facilities in 17 emergency-affected countries and fragile settings. Countries at risk include, among others, Yemen, Syria, Mozambique, Nigeria, Occupied Palestinian territories, Central African Republic and Somalia. Mr Altaf Musani, Director of the Health Emergencies Interventions, WHO, expressed his concern over the number of health facilities destroyed and the consequent denial of healthcare for millions of people. The WHO further stressed that in a pandemic context, more than ever, parties to an armed conflict must comply with the international humanitarian law principle of distinction, and accordingly, shall not use health facilities for military purposes. According to the findings – which is the first report of verified and reliable evidence on attacks on healthcare – health workers are the most affected resource, representing two-thirds of all attacks in 2018 and 2019, with fifty per cent of all recorded incidents in 2020. The report further warned on the reverberating impacts of such attacks. Mr Musani called on “all parties in conflicts to ensure safe working spaces for the delivery of healthcare services and safe access to health care, free from violence, threat or fear.”
Iraq: UN Urges Iraqi Authorities to Swiftly Implement the Yazidi Survivors Law and the Legal Framework Against Torture
On 3 August, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the Iraqi authorities to swiftly implement a new law to assist Yazidi survivors of ISIL atrocities, in a statement marking seven years since the extremist group brutally targeted the religious minority and other communities. Adopted in March of this year, the Yazidi Survivors Law recognised ISIL’s violations against women and girls and requires the government to compensate them. Stéphane Dujarric, the Spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General said that “[o]n this sombre anniversary, the UN remains fully committed to supporting all efforts to achieve accountability and justice.” Mr Dujarric solemnly recognised “the pain and courage of the Yazidis,” thousands of which have been subjected to unimaginable violence on account of their identity, including sexual violence, mass executions, forced conversions and other crimes as part of a genocidal campaign. Mr Dujarric further stated, “[t]hese heinous acts committed by ISIL may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide” and that accordingly, “[f]ull accountability of their perpetrators remains essential.” In line with the collective responsibility to protect communities from the most serious crimes under international law, supporting the Iraqi government’s efforts to ensure accountability and protect human rights remains a UN priority. The same day, the report of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Human Rights Office, entitled “Human Rights in the Administration of Justice in Iraq: legal conditions and procedural safeguards to prevent torture” was published. The report covers the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 April 2021 and describes how although the Iraqi legal framework explicitly criminalises torture and sets out procedural safeguards to prevent it, the practice continues throughout the country. Based on interviews conducted with 235 people deprived of their liberty, as well as, with prison staff, judges, lawyers and families of detainees, the report draws on its findings to provide an analysis of the main risk factors leading to ill-treatment. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that while she “acknowledges some advances achieved by the Iraqi authorities on the legal front to prevent torture […], the authorities need to effectively implement the provisions written in the law in each and every detention centre. If not, they remain a dead letter.”
Afghanistan: UNAMA Demands Ends to Fighting
On 3 August, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) called for an immediate end to fighting in urban areas, as the Taliban continues a ground assault in the south of the country. Afghan forces have been intensifying operations against the Taliban, which has launched a major nationwide offensive in the wake of the withdrawal of NATO troops over the past few months. Taliban fighters are advancing on provincial capitals, after making gains in rural areas and smaller cities. As the fighting worsens and enters Afghanistan’s cities, civilians are bearing the brunt, with some 40 civilians killed and 118 wounded over the past 24 hours – as of 3 August – in Lashkagah, capital of Helmand Province. The UNAMA reported that the Taliban ground offensive and Afghan National Army airstrikes are causing the most harm, and added it is deeply concerned about indiscriminate shooting and damage to health facilities and civilians’ homes. Stéphane Dujarric, the Spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General, said that “[a]ll parties must do more to protect civilians or the impact will be catastrophic.” Escalation of violence also led nearly 360,000 Afghans to flee their homes this year alone. Along with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) which has deployed Mobile Health Teams on the ground, the UNHCR is continuing to provide emergency life-saving assistance to displaced persons. On 3 August, the UN Security Council (UNSC) “condemned in the strongest terms the deplorable attack against the UN compound in Herat, on 30 July 2021, which resulted in the death of an Afghan security forces guard and several injured.” In addition to the worryingly high levels of violence following the Taliban’s military offensive, members of the UNSC expressed their “deep concern about the number of reported serious human rights abuses and violations in communities affected by the ongoing armed conflict across the country.” They further “recognised that a sustainable peace can be achieved only through a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process that aims at a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, as well as an inclusive, just and realistic political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan.”
UN: ‘Heartbreaking’ Devastation in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region
On 4 August, Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief stated that there is a need for changing circumstances that have led to the slow movement of aid. According to the OCHA, more than 5.2 million people across Tigray, amounting to more than 90 per cent of the region’s population, now require life-saving assistance and this is inclusive of nearly 400,000 people already facing famine-like conditions. Amhara is experiencing ongoing regional and ethnic conflicts, flash floods and food insecurity, which is increasing the number of internally displaced persons in the Central Gondar and Awi zones, and across the Amhara-Tigray regional border, there are an estimated 100,000 internally displaced people in various pockets. As hundreds of thousands suffer from famine, the UN humanitarian chief also called for desperately needed aid to be allowed into the mountainous region, further stating that 100 trucks a day are needed in Tigray to meet the humanitarian needs and that the number was a “calculated need” and not “over-estimated.” Meanwhile, as response efforts are being scaled up in Amhara and Afar, humanitarian organizations are also assisting millions facing conflict, displacement and drought throughout Ethiopia. At the same time, UN agencies are supporting OCHA partners and government counterparts throughout Amhara, but OCHA warned that the limited humanitarian presence in the region has rendered the response insufficient and that emergency shelter, food and non-food items remain key priorities along with the pre-positioning of health, nutrition, shelter, and supplies.
UNSC: Yemenis Pushed to the Brink Due to Heavy Rains and Flooding
On 4 August, in its daily briefing, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that humanitarian partners on the ground are conducting assessments and providing assistance, which included food, shelter and healthcare. Meanwhile, more than half of Yemenis are facing crisis levels of food insecurity and five million people are just one step away from famine and as the value of the Yemeni rial continues to plummet which is trading at over 1000 rials to the dollar in some areas. Against the backdrop of the conflict, dire humanitarian needs and the threat of famine, COVID-19 has increased over recent days with many concerned that the country is entering a third wave. So far only 310,000 vaccines have been administered, which means that only one per cent of the population has gotten their first dose, according to the UN body. While the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan has been stepped up, it is currently only 47 per cent funded, which means that the $3.85 billion required, only $1.82 billion has been received. As “most of this money will run out by September,” the UN humanitarian body stressed that “additional and predictable funding” is urgently needed so that people can continue receiving the life-saving assistance they need.
UN: Urgent Action Needed Following a Rise in Sexual Violence in Somalia
On 5 August, Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and Pramila Patten, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, urged all parties to the conflict in Somalia to immediately cease sexual violence. The reports (the Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict and the Report of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict) documented that in 2020, 400 civilians, primarily girls were victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence which represented an almost 80 per cent increase as compared to 2019. Perpetrators often exploited the vulnerability of displaced girls targeting them when they leave camp to perform domestic chores. The Special Representatives have urged the government of Somalia to take concrete measures to prevent sexual violence against women and children, and highlighted the importance of the 2012 action plan on ending the recruitment of children as soldiers and the 2019 road map, which establishes mechanisms for the prevention of sexual violence against children. They further urged the government to swiftly adopt a new national action plan on ending sexual violence in conflict, which will reinforce the policy of zero-tolerance within the security sector and help to strengthen institutional capacity to effectively prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence. Somali lawmakers were also called on to strengthen laws to better protect the rights of women and children. They highlighted the weak legislation that allows perpetrators to walk free, and survivors to receive little or no support.
WFP: The Third Wave of COVID-19 and Increased Hunger Hamper WFP’s Lifesaving Operations in Myanmar
On 6 August, Stephen Anderson, WFP Myanmar Country Director stated that the “impacts of poverty, the current political unrest and economic crisis,” coupled with the rapidly spreading third wave of COVID-19, is essentially “like a tsunami [is] hit[ting] this country.” The people of Myanmar are “experiencing the most difficult moment in their lives.” He further stated that the hunger situation in Myanmar has spread further and deeper, with nearly 90 per cent of households living in slum-like settlements around Yangon, saying that they have to borrow money to buy food as incomes have been badly affected for many. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) also warned that its life-saving operations in Myanmar are being held back by a major funding shortfall, with over 70 per cent of its funding needs for the coming six months still unmet. In April, the UN agency estimated that the number of people facing hunger could more than double to 6.2 million in the next six months, up from 2.8 million prior to February. In response, the WFP has tripled its planned support to the country and started in May by launching a new urban food response that targets 2 million people in Yangon and Mandalay, Myanmar’s two biggest cities. At the same time, the WFP has stepped up its operations to reach newly displaced people affected by the clashes and insecurity in recent months. In total, 1.25 million people in Myanmar have received WFP food, cash and nutrition assistance in 2021 across urban and rural areas, including 360,000 food-insecure people in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, where there have been longstanding concerns.
Mali: Security Situation at a Critical Threshold
On 6 August, Alioune Tine, UN independent human rights expert at the end of his 11-day official visit to Mali recounted stories of increased extrajudicial executions, civilian kidnappings and gang rapes, saying that the “serious and continuing deterioration of the security situation has exceeded a critical threshold.” The UN expert stated that some Malians expressed serious doubts about the political will of the authorities to guarantee the security of civilians, especially in the regions which have been most affected by conflict. He also expressed grave concern over the failure of state security institutions, which have resulted in all-out attacks on civilians by the armed extremist, as Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and others consolidated their control over areas in the north and centre of the country. The UN expert pushed the authorities to give top priority to the increased violations of human rights and prevent the widespread impunity for perpetrators. Mali has experienced two military coups over the past year, which have clouded efforts to restore an elected democratic government, with transitional authorities pledging to respect calls for elections next February.