UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, expressed
concern about the risk of government reprisals in a speech following the conclusion of her trip to the country on Friday. Lee also noted the many travel restrictions placed on her during her visit that interfered with her investigation.
The Burmese army has claimed
to have two missing Kachin church leaders alive in custody. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called
on the Burmese authorities to either release or charge two detained church leaders and to allow for proper legal procedures.
The army reportedly seized
a camp of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an armed ethnic faction and member of the Northern Alliance coalition, continuing the ongoing clashes with the group. Large military supply convoys were also reportedly deployed
to the northern Kachin region, indicating a potential for a renewed offensive against the factions in the contested north.
The Peace Process Steering Committee (PPST) delegation, representing the eight factions that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in October 2015, met
with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Chief Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on Monday to discuss groundwork for the second round of the Union Peace Conference, including the potential ability to include the Northern Alliance in negotiations. The delegation leader for the PPST also called
on both the State Counsellor and the army chief to halt military operations and declare a ceasefire north, where the clashes have resulted in numerous military and civilian casualties.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has suggested
that the government, lead by The National League for Democracy (NLD) party, should seek to amend or repeal laws that criminalize nonviolent speech. During the government's first year there has been an escalation in prosecutions of peaceful political speech and speech monitoring has become significantly more aggressive. The government has reportedly continued the repression of the population through refused bail, months-long detentions pending trial, and the sentencing of citizens to excessive jail time for political speech.
On Wednesday, 22 non-governmental organizations called
for immediate cessation of armed conflict, protection and safety of displaced citizens, and a dialogue of peace in Burma. In a press release
, these organizations expressed concern for the escalating conflict and mass displacement in the country, particularly in the Kachin and Northern Shan States. Dire living conditions and lack of humanitarian aid plague more than 6,000 already displaced in camps, while an additional 5,600 have recently been displaced.
President Pierre Nkurunziza has pardoned
300 of Burundi’s prisoners as part of the government’s plan to release 25 percent of the Mpimba central prison inmates, totaling a release of 2,500 prisoners. However, human rights groups have voiced concern that this pardon is simply to make room for victims of arbitrary arrests, adding to the repression of Burundi’s citizens.
Central African Republic:
New reports have shown
that the Central African Republic has become the most dangerous country for aid workers over the past year, with 365 security incidents in 2016. The International NGO Safety Organization recorded 27 injuries in attacks against aid workers last year and five deaths of humanitarian aid workers. They reports also shows no sign of improvement, with the security situation likely to deteriorate even more. In addition, hospitals and other areas for the provision of humanitarian assistance have repeatedly been attacked.
The UN independent expert on capacity building and operations for Côte d’Ivoire examined
the challenges facing the country, looking ahead to the imminent withdrawal of United Nations Operation of Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in a statement on Friday. Mr. Mohammed Ayat called for vigilance to preserve and strengthen the country's security and stability, political dialogue, transitional justice, and human rights situation. He specifically called upon Ivorian authorities to reform the security sector and strengthen institutions for peace and good governance.
Democratic Republic of Congo:
The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) declared
its intent to work on resolving the increasing violence caused by conflict between farmers, the government, armed groups, and nomadic herders in search of pasture for their cattle.
Bishops leading the negotiations between rival leaders in the DRC have said
they are confident all stakeholders will ratify the agreement by 28 January. However, they also warned
that unless the deal
from 31 December is signed by that date, their efforts for peace in the country will have been in vain.
Iraqi forces declared
that they have retaken control of eastern Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIL) on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has ordered
investigations into violations of human rights and other abuses purportedly committed by government troops and paramilitary forces in the battle to retake the city. The order came after a UN demand for a government probe into a video reportedly showing brutal treatment and executions of at least three ISIL suspects taken prisoner in eastern Mosul.
In a report on Tuesday, Amnesty International claimed
that the government of Iraq has executed 31 individuals for connections to a 2014 mass killing. The human rights monitor called the execution further proof of the government's disregard of human rights in security efforts and alleged that the individuals were additionally victims of torture and a flawed judicial process. Mosul trauma care has been increased
by the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, but current funding levels are not enough to provide full services for the 2.7 million people affected
US officials have announced
that Libya has been removed from a list of combat zones where the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) rules to protect to civilians can be disregarded. Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria remain on the list.
Officials from neighboring countries met
in Cairo this week with the UN envoy for Libya and rejected the use of military force to resolve the Libyan conflict. The leader of the UN-backed Government of National Accord announced
on Wednesday that he will meet with the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Cairo. While talks will reportedly be unmediated, they may involve representatives from Russia. The forces of the LNA have reportedly clashed
with militias supporting the UN-backed administration, leading some to analysts and diplomats to raise concerns regarding a potential re-escalation of the conflict. LNA forces have been the primary group in Libya combating Islamist groups, including the Islamic State (ISIL) and the LNA announced
on Thursday that they had made ground against an al-Qaeda linked group in Benghazi.
Also in Benghazi on Thursday, a car bomb injured
six. A bombing last Friday near a mosque also killed one civilian and injured 10 others.
Pro-government militias have claimed
that an attack by former rebels killed 14 on Saturday. Elements of a Tuareg-led former rebel group who had been part of a joint patrol on Wednesday reportedly carried out the attack on pro-government and other former rebel militias while they were preparing for a joint patrol as part of the terms of the peace deal.
On Tuesday, the UN announced that a mortar attack on a camp of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) killed
one UN peacekeeper and wounded two others. In a press statement
, the UN Security Council called on the Malian government to swiftly investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice, emphasizing that such attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes in international law. These attacks are
reportedly part of an escalating trend in violence in the northern regions of the country driven by an expansion of extremist groups.
On Saturday, the Indigenous People of Biafra claimed that police killed 20 people after a demonstration organized by a separatist group supporting the new US president and seeking his aid in establishing a breakaway Biafran state turned violent. The group also claimed that 200 people have gone missing. A police spokesperson denied that anyone had been killed, but did inform media that police arrested 65 people.
According to local officials, the total number of people killed in the purportedly accidental airstrike on an aid camp outside of the town Rann could be as high as 236. The regional security situation has only recently allowed humanitarian groups access to the area to help those fleeing the fighting between the government and Boko Haram terror group, however, only two days after the errant airstrike, a group of around 15 Boko Haram fighters attacked the town. Military officials have reported that a local garrison defending Rann killed all those fighters involved in the attack.
On Monday, the UN Security Council called
for the government of South Sudan to cooperate with the United Nations in the immediate deployment of a 4,000 strong regional protection force (RPF). The decision came after the government rescinded on its earlier acceptance of the force on 11 January. UN Secretary General Guterres has accused South Sudan of willfully hindering the deployment of the additional forces. Numerous voices have called on the UN Security Council to take immediate action in South Sudan to prevent the possibility of genocide. Former Deputy Defence Minister of South Sudan, Majak D'Agoot, has stated
that the deployment of 4,000 additional troops, called for by UNSC resolution 2304 in August, was necessary given the delicate situation in the country and the warnings signs of a potential genocide. He also accused the political elite in Juba of interfering with the deployment to protect their own interests. The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) responsible for monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement has echoed
calls for an accelerated deployment of the delayed RPF, citing similar concerns of the ethnically-fueled conflict collapsing into genocide.
The Director of Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Katherine Almquist Knopf, has also recommended
a method of resolving the violence and risk of atrocities in South Sudan in a new report published by the Council of Foreign Relations. The report calls for the UN and African Union to cooperatively assume the responsibility to form an international transitional administration to allow the country to recover and stabilize.
On Tuesday, a UN spokesperson informed
the media that the the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had received credible reports of renewed fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the opposition in Central Equatoria over the weekend and of clashes in Eastern Equatoria. UNMISS is pursuing further information of civilians being killed in both instances. However, on Thursday, the South Sudanese government officially denied
any clash between their forces and the opposition.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated
in the December 2016 humanitarian access situation snapshot that 77 incidents hindering humanitarian access had occurred over the course of the month. 61 percent of such incidents involved violence against humanitarian personnel and assets, with 27 percent involving interference in implementation. The snapshot also reports of multiple situations where violent clashes forced aid workers to relocate, including one incident involving refugees and members of the host community that necessitated the relocation of 85 humanitarian personnel. It was also stated that the country had deported two senior aid workers and the country’s armed forces forcibly occupied two schools.
A breakaway faction of the Sudan Liberation Army rebel group signed
a peace deal with the government in Doha on Monday. Officials of Qatar’s government and the head of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) were also in attendance.
Peace talks between the Assad regime and rebel factions moderated by Russia and Turkey in the Kazakhstani capital of Astana began
on Monday with a difficult start between the two sides of the conflict angrily insulting and challenging one another. It was later determined that the objectives of the meeting would not be full peace agreement, but rather a strengthening of the current ceasefire agreement in order to increase the likelihood of success at the UN-brokered peace conference in Geneva next month. According to a final statement read
by the foreign minister of Kazakhstan following the talks, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have agreed on behalf of the Assad regime and rebel factions to establish a trilateral mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire agreement. While the representative for the regime hailed the talks as a success, neither side has formally endorsed the agreement and opposition forces have voiced major reservations.
Government forces have continued
to besiege East Ghouta using a strategy not dissimilar to the one utilized in the seizure of Aleppo. However, civilians are reportedly refusing to abandon their homes and the city to the government, with medical centers reporting that nearly 20-30 people each day are treated for injuries caused by the continuous bombardment of the area. 300,000 people are still believed to be living in East Ghouta. The city is one of 39 besieged communities which have trapped more than 1.3 million people in combat zones. At least 400,000 civilians have been killed since 2011 when the uprising began according to statements by the UN.
US military officials have claimed
that the final airstrike of the outgoing US administration landed in Syria on Thursday, allegedly killing roughly 100 al-Qaeda forces. Officials have also claimed they have a high level of confidence that the airstrike did not harm any civilians.
Government forces fighting their way up the western coast had mostly surrounded
the contested Red Sea port city Mocha by Sunday. The city is suspected to be a source of arms for the Al Houthi rebel groups. An army spokesperson stated
on Wednesday that the army was in the process of clearing the last of resistance snipers and landmines throughout the town. Retreating Houthi forces have allegedly continued to heavily mine the territories they once occupied. The army has reportedly made concerted efforts to carefully target combatants to avoid civilian casualties. However, Houthi sources have claimed
that coalition airstrikes killed one civilian and wounded two others in Mocha as well as killing another elsewhere in the Taiz province and wounding three civilians in Saana over the weekend. On Tuesday, the reported
lack of coordination between Yemeni ground forces and coalition air power resulted in a mistaken strike on Yemeni soldiers. Reports claim
that the fighting in Yemen over the weekend killed a total of 75 people, including those killed by the first US drone strikes of the new administration.
The British Ministry of Defence is reportedly
tracking 252 violations of international humanitarian law by Saudi-led coalition forces, but has declined to state if arms supplied by the United Kingdom were utilized in the alleged violations. The export of arms and munitions to Saudi Arabia by the UK has been criticized for potentially fueling the conflict and thereby worsening the suffering of Yemeni civilians.
UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived
in the capital on Sunday to continue to push for a new round of peace talks. Under the new peace plan, current President Hadi will retain presidential powers until the Houthis fully withdraw from all occupied territories and disarm. The government formally expressed
objection to the UN Special Envoy meeting with Houthi militia leaders and their allies in the Houthi-occupied capital, Sanaa. Following his visits, the UN Special Envoy briefed
the Security Council on the situation in Yemen and provided several recommendations, including an immediate and complete ceasefire, the disarmament and withdrawal of the Houthi faction from Sanaa, and adherence to the roadmap for peaceful settlement, which includes the appointment of a new Vice President.