Event: Human Rights and Reconstruction in Syria

A man inspects a damaged house after an airstrike on al-Yadouda village, in Deraa Governorate, Syria February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

A man inspects a damaged house after an airstrike on al-Yadouda village, in Deraa Governorate, Syria, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

Date: 25 May 2018, 14:30 – 17:30.

Location: The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, 10 St James’s Square, London.

Although the conflict in Syria continues unabated, there has already been a shift of focus onto Syria’s reconstruction. Many international actors have refused to contribute to Syria’s reconstruction until a political strategy towards settlement is negotiated. Some are unsure of how to proceed, and others have expressed interest. While Syrians are entitled to having their country rebuilt, participating in reconstruction in Syria may support the narrative that the conflict is over and thus weaken the calls for accountability and justice.

This event aims to shed light on the risks, opportunities and challenges that should be taken into account by various stakeholders such as governments, businesses and NGOs when approaching reconstruction in Syria. The event will include two panels in which speakers will address the human rights aspects of reconstruction including political and economic issues that may impact the pursuit of accountability.

If you wish to register, click here.

As Russia Ratchets Up Repression in Annexed Crimea, Crimean Tatars Deserve European Support

by Wayne Jordash and Ashley Jordana*

Russia’s violations of international laws on humanitarian crises and conflicts in Crimea are a signal for further attention from the European Union.

March 2014: Crimean Tatar community mourns death of tortured activist Reshat Ametov. Photo: Yaghobzadeh Rafael/ABACA/PA Images.

March 2014: Crimean Tatar community mourns death of tortured activist Reshat Ametov. Photo: Yaghobzadeh Rafael/ABACA/PA Images.

On the eve of this year’s presidential election, Vladimir Putin attended a rally in Sevastopol in Crimea. Though he appeared to the flag-waving crowd for less than a minute, the message was clear and triumphalist: this is the president of Russia, in a city that belongs to Russia, in a peninsula that is part of Russia.

For Crimean Tatars, a Muslim ethnic minority indigenous to the Crimean peninsula, history is not simply learnt from books – it is witnessed daily. The eldest of the Tatars can still remember the 1944 deportation of their population under Stalin, when over 200,000 Crimean Tatars were forcibly removed from their homeland and dispersed across the Soviet Union.

Now, children and grandchildren of the deported are defending their neighbourhoods from Russian soldiers who occupy their once-peaceful peninsula. There are constant reports of systematic house searches and unlawful detentions; a startling similarity to the prelude to deportation used over 70 years ago.

In February 2014, soldiers entered Crimea and took control of the Parliament and Government. The Parliaments of Crimea and Sevastopol then sought unification of the strategically placed Black Sea region with Russia through an illegal referendum. A month later, Russia and the so-called Republic of Crimea signed a “treaty of accession”, effectively annexing the peninsula to the Russian Federation. Continue reading

Can We Prosecute Starvation?

YemenGlobal Rights Compliance, in partnership with the World Peace Foundation has released the first briefing paper related to the Yemen Accountability Project: Entitled “Can we prosecute starvation?”, the paper considers the relationship between starvation and conflict, reviews the relevant law, and discusses the requisite evidence for mounting a prosecution.

In summary, the paper addresses the following key points:

  • Famine can be ended. The world came close to doing so. Between 2000 and 2011, there were no famines. Today, several famines threaten various states and regions, all due to the conduct of armed conflict;
  • Famine is properly understood as an atrocity: the result of distinct and often criminally intentional policies that target discrete populations in the pursuit of military or political goals. Famines will no longer occur when they are so morally reprehensible that causing them, or allowing them to happen, is unthinkable. In order to achieve this goal, a sharper application of international law is needed;
  • Although starvation has appeared in a handful of prosecutions in international criminal law over the modern era, there have been a dearth of prosecutions resting squarely on the crime of starvation;
  • A principal challenge is ensuring that the law distinguishes between legitimate military actions such as sieges, the multiple and intersecting causes of famine, and the deliberate starvation of civilians;
  • The clearest and most progressive law on the books is Article 8(2)(b)(xxv) of the Rome Statute, however it does not apply to non-international armed conflict, the context for all of today’s famine situations;
  • Several other legal options exist for prosecution, ranging from war crimes, to crimes against humanity, to genocide, which might be used to address the deliberate starvation of civilians. Doing so will require careful attention to the elements of the offence and the necessary evidence required to establish those elements and the required intent;
  • Only when existing or future legal mechanisms develop or create a better understanding of these scenarios, will prosecutions produce a more singular definition of the crime of starvation.