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UN OHCHR — Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (PDF)
Source: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The findings presented in the present report, based on 480 interviews and evidence collected between 20 January and 15 July 2014, establish that the conduct of the warring parties in the Syrian Arab Republic has caused civilians immeasurable suffering.

Government forces continued to perpetrate massacres and conduct widespread attacks on civilians, systematically committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance amounting to crimes against humanity. Government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and the war crimes of murder, hostage-taking, torture, rape and sexual violence, recruiting and using children in hostilities and targeting civilians. Government forces disregarded the special protection accorded to hospitals and medical and humanitarian personnel. Indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombardment and shelling led to mass civilian casualties and spread terror. Government forces used chlorine gas, an illegal weapon.

Non-State armed groups, named in the report, committed massacres and war crimes, including murder, execution without due process, torture, hostage-taking, violations of international humanitarian law tantamount to enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence, recruiting and using children in hostilities and attacking protected objects. Medical and religious personnel and journalists were targeted. Armed groups besieged and indiscriminately shelled civilian neighbourhoods, in some instances spreading terror among civilians through the use of car bombings in civilian areas. Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) committed torture, murder, acts tantamount to enforced disappearance, and forcible displacement as part of an attack on the civilian population in Aleppo and Ar Raqqah governorates, amounting to crimes against humanity.

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Social media freedom in Turkey

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Social media freedom in Turkey
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

After a two-month ban, the Turkish government restored access to the video-sharing website YouTube in June 2014. This move was necessary to comply with a Constitutional Court (CC) ruling, which judged blocking the site as a breach of freedom of expression. In April Turkey’s highest court had ruled in a similar case, overturning the controversial ban on the micro-blogging site Twitter. While Turkish Prime Minister (PM) Erdogan criticized the judgment fiercely, Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, commended the CC for “safeguard[ing] rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms”.

The two social media court cases illustrate the widening gap between an increasingly authoritarian government and the judiciary in Turkey.

CRS — Guatemala: Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations (August 7, 2014)

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Guatemala: Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Since the 1980s, Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America with a population of 15.5 million, has continued its transition from centuries of mostly autocratic rule toward representative government. A democratic constitution was adopted in 1985, and a democratically elected government was inaugurated in 1986. A violent 36-year civil war ended in 1996.

This report provides an overview of Guatemala’s current political and economic conditions, relations with the United States, and several issues likely to figure in future decisions by Congress and the Administration regarding Guatemala. With respect to continued cooperation and foreign assistance, these issues include security and governance; protection of human rights and human rights conditions on some U.S. military aid to Guatemala; support for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala; combating narcotics trafficking and organized crime; trade relations; intercountry adoption; and unaccompanied children at the U.S. border.

Left in the Dark: International Military Operations in Afghanistan

August 18, 2014 Comments off

Left in the Dark: International Military Operations in Afghanistan
Source: Amnesty International

Thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001 by international forces, and thousands more have been injured. This report examines the record of accountability for civilian deaths caused by international military operations in the five-year period from 2009 to 2013. In particular, it focuses on the performance of the US government in investigating possible war crimes and in prosecuting those suspected of criminal responsibility for such crimes. Its overall finding is that the record is poor.

CRS — Iraq Crisis and U.S. Policy (August 8, 2014)

August 15, 2014 Comments off

Iraq Crisis and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The offensive in northern and central Iraq led by the Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS) has raised significant concerns for the United States and precipitated new U.S. military action in Iraq. U.S. concerns include a possible breakup of Iraq’s political and territorial order; the establishment of a potential base for terrorist attacks in the region or even against the U.S. homeland; the potential for a humanitarian catastrophe; and direct threats to the approximately 5,000 U.S. personnel in Iraq.

The crisis has raised several questions for U.S. policy because it represents the apparent unraveling of a seemingly stable and secure Iraq that was in place when U.S. combat troops departed Iraq at the end of 2011. The Islamic State offensive into Kurdish-controlled territory in early August has caused the United States to become reengaged militarily in Iraq. The Administration has said its intervention will remain limited and will not result in a deployment of U.S. ground troops back into Iraq. The Administration also has engaged in humanitarian air drops to members of minority communities in northern Iraq that fled the IS onslaught.

Iraq: Understanding the ISIS Offensive Against the Kurds

August 12, 2014 Comments off

Iraq: Understanding the ISIS Offensive Against the Kurds
Source: Brookings Institution

Caveat: As I have noted in previous assessments, it is always difficult to assess the dynamics of an ongoing conflict. It is probably the case that even the U.S. government, with its vast array of intelligence collection systems, has an imperfect grasp of the situation in Iraq. Outside military analysts without access to that information must accept an even greater degree of uncertainty. Consequently, what follows should be seen as little more than informed speculation based on limited and potentially unreliable evidence.

Inter-agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings

August 8, 2014 Comments off

Inter-agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings (PDF)
Source: World Health Organization

Reproductive health is a human right, and like all other human rights, it applies to refugees, internally displaced persons and others living in humanitarian settings. To realize this right, affected populations must have access to comprehensive reproductive health information and services so they are free to make informed choices about their health and well-being.

The provision of comprehensive and high-quality reproductive health services requires a multisectoral integrated approach. Personnel from sectors such as protection, health, nutrition, education and community service all have an important role in planning and delivering reproductive health services. Needs are best met through involving affected communities in every phase of action: from assessing needs to designing programmes, to launching and maintaining programmes and evaluating their impact.

The Inter-agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings is the result of a collaborative and consultative process engaging over 100 members from United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations that make up the Inter-agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises.

The updated information in this Field Manual is based on normative technical guidance of the World Health Organization. It also reflects the good practices documented in crisis settings around the world since the initial field-test version of the Field Manual was released in 1996, followed by the 1999 version, Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations: An Inter-agency Field Manual. This latest edition reflects the wide application of the Field Manual’s principles and technical content beyond refugee

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