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Women take part in maternal health awareness and guidance training sessions at a health center in Bamako Sabalidougou, Mali. Photo Credit: UN Women, CNIESC (National Information Center for Education and Community Health) - See more at: http://www.unwomen.org/news/stories/2013/4/ensuring-mothers-do-not-die-when-giving-life#sthash.BlYEhEo4.dpuf

Will Women’s Rights Earn its Place at UNGA?

The 69th session of the UN General Assembly is officially open. One key issue that will be discussed over the next two weeks is what will replace the Millennium Development Goals once they expire next year. In UN Circles, this is called the “Post 2015 Development Agenda.” One aspect of that agenda that is sure to be contentious among member states is the role of women’s rights and gender equality.

Gender equality should be a critical element for the post-2015 Development Agenda. The MDGs included provisions for gender equality; however, they have been widely criticized by feminist scholars and policy practitioners alike for not moving far enough to promote women’s rights. In particular, frequent scholarly critiques of the current MDGs include a lack of focus on the economic barriers that impede gender equality, such as labor discrimination; lack of inclusion of protections for women’s property and inheritance rights; and for not addressing violence against women.

Sam Kahamba Kutesa, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, gave a nod to these frustrations in his opening speech to the 69th session, stating that “as highlighted in the outcome document of Rio+20, although progress in gender equality has been made in some areas, the potential of women to engage in, contribute to and benefit from sustainable development has not yet been fully realized.”

Rio+20 was a 2012 conference aimed to renew commitments made by UN Member States at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio 20 years ago. The first Rio conference was tremendous, with the international community making large commitments to sustainable development, human rights, social equity – and women’s rights.  The Rio+20 conference, however, was another story, resulting in a weak outcomes document and even some internal discussion of backing away from some of the promises made at the 1992 Summit.

However, a positive outcome of the Rio+20 Summit was the 30 member Open Working Group, formed of UN member states tasked with developing SDGs and their measurable targets and indicators. The group created a 17-goal list that will be likely adopted in connection with the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The new SDGs include a new focus on gender equality, particularly within its standalone goal 5: “Achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” It also seeks to end all forms of violence against women, discrimination, early and forced marriage, give women equal rights to land and economic resources, and ensure women’s universal access to sexual health and reproductive rights.

As the post-2015 Development Agenda is discussed on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly over the coming weeks, Member States – particularly those who were not intimately involved in crafting the SDGs – will have interesting opportunities to deliberate over the content of the SDGs and contribute to the broader post-2015 Development Agenda.

Members of the UN General Assembly have been split over specific provisions within the SDGs, particularly over issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights. At a previous UN conferences socially conservative countries have blocked reproductive rights language from being included in outcome documents and resolutions. In the coming weeks, we are likely to see speeches from these Member States advocating for a dilution or removal of this language.

Pushing back against them will be most of the countries of the global north, plus many other more progressive member states in Latin America and Africa.

So how can UN General Assembly Member States work to ensure that this language makes it into the final Post-2015 Development Agenda? Advocates in the region for sexual and reproductive health and rights should take charge by making speeches of their own, coping to bring more of the developing world into support of this action. Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Lakshmi Puri, already solicited the support of the G77 + China for gender equality efforts at this session in May. Staunch supporters of sexual and reproductive health and rights should take special care to promote their inclusion in the Post-2015 Development Agenda in their opening speeches. These words matter. And the world will be watching

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Ebola MSF

This is a Huge Turning Point in the Fight Against Ebola

Ebola is spiraling out of control. According to the latest figures of the World Health Organization there have been 5,335 cases and 2,622 deaths from the virus. And that figure is increasing exponentially. To be precise: it’s been doubling every three weeks.  

The response to date has been poor. One telling statistic: In Monrovia, Liberia 1,210 beds are required to treat Ebola patients. There are currently only 240.

The geographic spread of this outbreak across four countries and in urban centers in a region that has never before experienced ebola has severely hampered the international community’s response. The health systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are at their breaking point. Existing international health structures like the World Health Organization and NGOs like MSF are overwhelmed.

The international system has, so far, failed to stop this outbreak.  But the international system –specifically, the United Nations — is probably humanity’s best hope for turning this around.

For the first time in the history of the organization, an emergency UN Security Council meeting was held to deal with a public health emergency. This unprecedented meeting yielded an unprecedented result: the resolution, which passed unanimously, had 131 co-sponsors — the most ever for a UN Security Council resolution.

What can the resolution do? Much of the resolution is a generalized call for greater international solidarity and international contributions to the fight against ebola. But it also contains some specific provisions that could accelerate the international community’s response to the crisis. In particular, the resolution calls on countries to lift travel restrictions to and from affected countries. This has been an ongoing problem for the United Nations and NGOs.  Airlines have cancelled flights, and countries in the region have prevented the use of their airports to deliver personnel and assistance to affected countries.

These restrictions have significantly hindered the ability of international health workers, NGOs and the UN to do its job–and also made the delivery of supplies and personnel more expensive. Key countries in the region, including important travel hubs like Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa and Kenya, have banned travel to and from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.  In some cases, countries won’t even let UN planes land to refuel.

The resolution passed today explicitly calls for the lifting of these travel bans and the resumption of air travel to and from the affected region. And — this is key — Senegal, South Africa, Cameroon, Kenya, and Sierra Leone, have co-sponsored the resolution. This suggests that they have already lifted (or are preparing to lift) the travel bans.

That should be one immediate and tangible outcome of this emergency Security Council meeting. Another was the announcement by Ban Ki Moon of establishing a special United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER. According to a letter to the Security Council obtained by UN Dispatch, the mission will “build and maintain a regional operational platform, ensuring the rapid delivery of international assistance against needs identified in affected states, lead the response at the operational level, and provide strategic direction for the United Nations system and partners on the ground.” In other words, this will be an arm of the UN General Secretariat devoted exclusively to containing ebola. Again, this is unprecedented.

Today’s Security Council meeting may very well be a turning point in the fight against ebola. The fact that it was the United States that called this meeting and drafted this resolution — and that the Security Council met two days after President Obama announced a huge scaling up of America’s ebola response — demonstrates that the United States is willing and able to take the lead. The fact that 130 other countries co-sponsored this resolution demonstrates an unprecedented degree of global solidarity around this plan. And finally, Ban Ki Moon’s announcement of a UN mission to help coordinate international efforts means that the nuts and bolts of the UN system are being summoned to contribute to the response.

There are very few global problems that cannot be solved with a combination of American leadership and broad international support through the UN system. This Security Council meeting was the moment that these elements finally came together.

 

 

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iego Fernández (autor original) / vendida con "copyright compartido" a la Agencia de Fotografía AP México (autor secundario) - self-made / publicada en La Jornada México (fuente de consulta secundar…

Will the International Criminal Court take on the Mexican Drug War

Last week a group of human rights organizations submitted a letter to the ICC requesting investigation into crimes committed by state security forces in their battle against drug cartels. It is not the first time human rights organizations have requested intervention by the ICC in the brutal Mexican Drug War. Yet, like the last request in 2011, it is unlikely the ICC will take up the case. There are several reasons why the ICC is not interested in the violence in Mexico but the changing nature of conflict and organized crime suggests that it may be time for the court to reconsider its position.

How did Mexico get here?

While Colombia once dominated the drug trafficking industry in Latin America, the decline of major Colombian cartels in the 1990s and the rise in cross-border traffic for goods and services due to the implementation of NAFTA gave Mexican cartels a competitive edge in drug trafficking. Since then, Mexican cartels have dominated the drug trade in North America with devastating human consequences.

For a variety of reasons the exact number of people killed or missing since the drug war began is hard to calculate. Experts estimate that only about 25% of crimes are reported, meaning homicide statistics are largely culled from the number of bodies discovered and reported by government officials. Numerous people have questioned the statistics released by the government, suggesting that the government is underplaying the real numbers and intentionally obscuring which deaths are related to the drug trade and which are not. The other main method is by tracking news reports of homicides but even here not all deaths are reported and it is not always clear when organized crime is involved and when it isn’t. Nonetheless, during former President Felipe Calderón term from 2006 to 2012, an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 people were killed in relation to the drug trade. In addition to this, another 27,000 people were reported as missing but did not match the descriptions of any unclaimed bodies. After peaking in 2011, homicides decreased slightly in 2012 and 2013 but still represents a shockingly high homicide rate

Without question some of these deaths are due to fighting between and within the cartels as well as revenge murders of activists and journalists speaking out against the cartels, but the Mexican military and security forces are also responsible for bloodshed.

Does the Mexican Drug War meet the requirements for the ICC?

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, non-international armed conflict under Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions is a protracted violent conflict that must reach a certain level of intensity – such as requiring a state to deploy the military rather than rely on police actions, which Mexico has done since 2006 – and must be between parties with an organized command structure. In prosecuting crimes committed during the Balkan wars, the ICTY confirmed that multiple armed groups confronting one another, without the presence of government forces, also falls under the definition of non-international armed conflict. Thus on its face it would appear that the violence between the government and the cartels would meet this definition and go beyond “common crime”.

Under the Rome Statute, a crime against humanity occurs when a party commits a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population that includes certain acts such as murder, imprisonment without due process, torture, rape, enforced disappearances, or other inhumane acts. War Crimes are similarly defined although mainly applying to the treatment of the opposing party. The most recent complaint filed alleges a systematic pattern by military forces where roughly 100 civilian victims in Baja California subject to arrest without a warrant, torture, forced confessions, and planted drug evidence to prove their guilt. This too would appear to meet the threshold set forth by the ICC.

Mexico is a state party to the Rome Statute so the ICC would not need intervention by the UN Security Council to prosecute. But under the principle of complementarity, the court only gains jurisdiction if it is also shown that Mexico is unwilling or unable to prosecute the crimes itself. The recent petition appears to address this as well by noting that despite a 500% increase in complaints of torture by the Mexican military and state security forces, no one has yet to be charged, let alone tried, for these crimes. Likewise the complaint alleges thousands of enforced disappearances and more than 8,000 people arbitrarily detained without charges according to government statistics, but again the government has failed to investigate. In this context it would appear that any investigation by the ICC would meet the qualifications of complementarity.

So why is it unlikely the ICC will open up an investigation?

Despite the appearance that the Mexican Drug War meets all the qualifications for ICC jurisdiction, it is still unlikely the court will open a preliminary investigation, let alone open any cases related to this conflict. The death toll and human rights abuses during Calderón’s term prompted several human rights organizations to present a petition with 23,000 signatures to the ICC in 2011 requesting the court to investigate the Mexican government and leading cartel figures. The ICC has declined to open a preliminary investigation, with then-Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo stating in a speech in Mexico City that he did not believe the violence met the definition of war crimes or crimes against humanity and suggesting the request was more an attempt to litigate the political choices of the Mexican government.

This may seem incredulous in light of the accusations but in many ways is not surprising.

Despite the evolution of conflict and the rise of non-state actors since the end of the Cold War, there is still an institutional culture that views conflict as being between certain kinds of armed groups but not all armed groups. Most of the time, these groups will have political goals set of seizing or maintaining the political power of the state. Drug cartels, with their predominately economic motivations, simply do not conform to this notion.

Given this backdrop, it is highly unlikely the ICC will consider the latest request by international and Mexican human rights organizations to consider the numerous documented acts of torture, forced disappearances and murder by state security forces in Baja from 2006 to 2012 as crimes against humanity. The points Moreno-Ocampo outlined in 2011 still hold true, namely that many consider the violence in Mexico – as severe as it is – as a common crime problem rather than an issue of armed conflict.

Why the ICC should do so anyway

Unfortunately this leaves a large gap in international criminal law. While extensive academic literature is dedicated to the possibility of the ICC investigating transnational organized crime, the court itself has made no indication that it plans to wade into this realm. This means that powerful crime organizations, often too much for state institutions to handle, have no institution that can effectively hold them accountable regardless of the level of violence they use. The lack of accountability feeds the rise and power of the cartels, which makes it even harder for states to combat. This creates a cycle that is playing out in Mexico and Central America today.

The consequences of that cycle include over 50,000 unaccompanied children from Central America who have fled the violence from organized crime and drug cartels in their own countries to apply for asylum in the US. Over the past few months, UNHCR pressured the US to treat these children as refugees fleeing armed conflict. This means that one UN agency based on an international legal convention is pushing for acknowledgement that rampant organized crime does constitute armed conflict while another agency charged with holding international criminals accountable is saying it isn’t.

In contrast to the indifference the ICC has demonstrated towards these issue, the court did open a preliminary investigation on the possibility that crimes against humanity were committed in the aftermath of the 2009 coup d’etat in Honduras. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights submitted a report to the ICC in 2012 that outlined their belief in why human rights abuses committed by the current government during and after the coup constituted crimes against humanity.

The report details 20 deaths related to the coup and a further 50 related to land rights activism that threatened holding of the government’s key supporters as well as other human rights abuses. Such crimes certainly should be prosecuted, but why this warrants attention by the ICC but tens of thousands of deaths in Mexico do not is a bit baffling.

The lack of consistency by the ICC in choosing which conflicts to investigate is concerning but also highlights how slow the international system is to adapting to changing circumstances. In this instance, Mexico provides a model example for a much needed paradigm shift for the ICC.

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Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 9.12.09 AM

What to Expect at the Big UN Climate Summit

Hundreds of world leaders are descending on the United Nations for a one day meeting on climate change. This is a big deal for the United Nations, for diplomacy, and possibly for the planet. So who is showing up and what countries are snubbing the conference? What will be discussed? And how will this affect ongoing negotiations to construct an internationally binding climate change agreement?

I speak with Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions who helps put this historic meeting at the United Nations in the larger context of international climate change diplomacy. This is a very useful conversation for understanding the diplomatic contours of arguably the single most important issue facing humanity today. (Subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss our twice/week podcast!) 

 

Episode 33: Ruth Messinger, American Jewish World Service CEO, Former NYC politician.

A conversation with Evan Cinq-Mars of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect Can UN Peacekeeping Save the Central African Republic?

 Episode 32: Andrew Young, UN Ambassador, Mayor, Civil Rights Legend

Obama’s Syria Dilemma, an in interview with Will McCants

Episode 31: Ambassador Michael Guest, LGBT Trailblazer

The Deadly Fear of Ebola, an interview with journalist Jina Moore

South Sudan’s Looming Famine, an interview with Tariq Riebl of Oxfam

Episode 30: Jeff Sachs, economist

Sex Slaves in Iraq, an interview with Zainab Hawa Bangura, the UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict

Episode 29: Chris Hill, former Ambassador to Iraq and North Korea nuke negotiator

Kevin Jon Heller discusses the  International Criminal Court’s Palestine Problem

Episode 28: Nancy Birsdall, founder of the Center for Global Development

The WHO explains Why this Ebola Outbreak is So Hard to Contain

Episode 27: Daniel Drezner, counter-intuitive wonk

Michael W. Hanna on How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire

Episode 25: Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE, USA. Long-time AIDS-Fighter

One Campaign’s Erin Hofhelder How Humanity is Winning the Fight Against AIDS

Episode 24: Joseph Cirincione, Nuclear Policy Wonk 

A Migrant’s Story: Why are So Many Children Fleeing to the USA?

Episode 23: Live from the UN 2014 (Volume 2); A special edition with a slew of UN officials.

Inside the Iran Nuke Talks

Episode 23: Jillian York, Digital Free Speech defender

Turkey’s Strategic Interests in Iraq

Episode 22: Live from the UN, 2014 (Vol 1); A special edition, featuring the President of the General Assembly,  the UN Ambassadors from Vietnam and Jamaica, the head of the UN Association, and more!

The UN’s View of the Iraq Crisis

Episode 21: Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to the UN, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India and more.

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk

 

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syria map

Suspicious Deaths in Syria and a Vaccine Campaign Suspended

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The WHO and UNICEF have suspended a measles vaccination campaign in rebel-held part of Syria after at least 15 and as many as 50 children died after taking the vaccine. “The children, some just babies, all exhibited signs of “severe allergic shock” about an hour after they were given a second round of measles vaccinations in Idlib province on Tuesday, with many suffocating to death as their bodies swelled…The Western-backed opposition based in Turkey said it had suspended the second round of measles vaccinations, which began on Monday. The campaign was meant to target 60,000 children. In a statement, it said the vaccines used Tuesday met international standards and did not say what may have caused the deaths.It is extremely unlikely that the vaccinations killed the children, said Beirut-based public health specialist Fouad Fouad, who said spoiled vaccinations were more or less harmless. “It cannot cause death,” he said.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1uUikbD)

Stat of the Day:  22 million people were displaced in 2013 by disasters brought on by natural hazard events – almost three times more than by conflict in the same year. From a new report by the Norwegian Refugee Council http://bit.ly/1uUjMuA

Paul Farmer’s Ebola Treatment Experiment...The famed doctor is en route to Liberia to open a clinic, backed by George Soros, to provide high quality medical treatment to ebola victims.  (Forbes http://onforb.es/1qZ2rRL)

What to Watch Out For Today:  The Security Council is holding an emergency session Thursday to discuss an international response to the ebola crisis.  It will be webcast at webtv.un.org

Africa

The government in war-torn South Sudan said Wednesday it will not be expelling any foreign workers, reversing a policy announcement made the previous day that caused a storm of protests from aid agencies and neighbouring countries. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1u9mcVH)

Seventy bodies have been recovered from the rubble of a collapsed church building in Lagos but remain unidentified, a Nigerian official said on Wednesday, questioning South Africa’s assertion that 67 of the victims had come from there. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1u9jUWA)

The World Bank approved a $105 million grant to bolster the fight to contain the deadly Ebola virus epidemic raging in west Africa. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1mbGpLF)

The largest-ever outbreak of Ebola could drain billions of dollars from economies in West Africa by the end of next year if the epidemic is not contained, the World Bank said in an analysis. (AFP  http://bit.ly/1u9jsYn)

Around 80 people are missing in Central African Republic after their boat sank last week on the M’poko River south of the capital Bangui, the government said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1u9mn3g)

Zimbabwean lawyers on Wednesday decried reported assaults and the death of suspects in police custody, as well as conditions in holding cells they called unfit for human habitation. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1mbL941)

The Democratic Republic of Congo still has a long way to go to meet its pledges under a peace deal agreed last year, 10 Congolese NGOs said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1mbMUhx)

Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram violence at home and seeking refuge in Cameroon border towns are still not safe. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1mbOMaj)

MENA

Russia and Egypt have reached a preliminary deal for Cairo to buy arms worth $3.5 billion from Moscow, Interfax news agency quoted the head of a Russian state arms agency as saying on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1u9n3p6)

The UN envoy to Yemen held talks Wednesday with Shiite rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi in a fresh effort to end the country’s political crisis, as deadly fighting intensified north of Sanaa. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1u9oW5p)

A deal reached on war-battered Gaza’s reconstruction is set to be implemented in the coming months, with the amount of building materials entering the territory expected to quadruple. (AP http://yhoo.it/1mbMlo1)

A top American intelligence official is acknowledging that the U.S. has difficulty tracking the movements and activities of Westerners in Syria who have joined rebels fighting President Bashar Assad. (AP http://yhoo.it/1u9p98A)

Asia

One-third of migrant workers in the Malaysian electronics industry, which produces goods for some of the world’s best-known brands, are trapped in forced labour, a form of modern-day slavery, according to new research. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1u9qU5C)

Doctors in the flood-ravaged Himalayan region of Kashmir said Wednesday that they were seeing outbreaks of gastroenteritis among people crowded into shelters after their homes were inundated two weeks ago. (AP http://yhoo.it/1u9lMhW)

A UN human rights team looking into complaints of torture in Azerbaijan said on Wednesday it had cut short its investigations because it had been stopped from visiting some government detention centers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1mbLDXR)

As the flood emergency deepens in Pakistan, now affecting nearly 2.3 million people, humanitarian teams have mobilized to work alongside local government authorities to assess needs in the worst-affected areas. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1u9r3WN)

The Americas

Colombia’s police chief says leftist rebels have killed seven police officers and injured five in an ambush in the country’s northwest. (AP http://yhoo.it/1u9kjbv)

Opposition candidate Marina Silva has increased her lead slightly over President Dilma Rousseff in an expected second-round runoff to Brazil’s election next month, a new poll showed. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1u9kMKE)

A Caribbean trade bloc is urging governments to establish isolation facilities and take other preventive measures in case the Ebola virus reaches the region. (AP http://yhoo.it/1u9oYu3)

Opinion/Blogs

As oil and terror intertwine, Somalis want more from their government (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1u9pI26)

Should Countries Be More Like Shopping Malls? A Proposal for Service Guarantees for Africa (CGD http://bit.ly/1mbNwUm)

Sierra Leone: Getting beyond nutrition as “a women’s issue” (ODI http://bit.ly/1mbNTP1)

Ebola: seven things that need to be done to tackle the outbreak (Guardian http://bit.ly/1u9qRqC)

A Climate Summit to Spark Action (IPS http://bit.ly/1mbPYdK)

Is Africa Losing the Battle Against Corruption? (ISS http://bit.ly/1u9ue0J)

As the Islamic State Expands, How Vulnerable Is Africa? (Daily Maverick http://bit.ly/1u9uYD7)

52 pick-up lines that will win the heart of an aid worker (WnyDev http://bit.ly/XFaiZ6)

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a demonstration in support of syrian human rights

This Syrian Journalist Was Arrested by the Assad Regime Three Times. Then ISIS Nabbed Him for a Facebook Post and He Barely Escaped With His Life

All we know of the man is that he was journalist living in Aleppo. When the civil war erupted in 2011 and was arrested several times by Syrian government. While in custody he was beaten and tortured. But, each time, he was eventually released.

Then ISIS took over his part of Aleppo.

What follows is testimony from United Nations investigators dispatched to compile evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria. This man’s story (with key identifying features redacted) was released by the UN Human Rights Council’s commission of inquiry. It is profoundly disturbing, but a very important documentation of the human rights catastrophe inside Syria today.

 ————

The interviewee is a male citizen journalist from Aleppo who was interviewed on 15 August 2014

The interviewee has been arrested three times by Government forces for being an activist. The fourth time he was arrested and detained by ISIS due to his criticism of them in online newspapers.

From 2011 till 2014, he was coordinating demonstrations, working on social media and a xxxxx xxxxx.. The interviewee xxxxx for online newspapers xxxxx and xxxxx

The first time the interviewee was detained was in xxxxx 2011. He was arrested by the Shabbiha while participating in a demonstration in Aleppo. He was detained for xxxxx days at the Military Intelligence Branch in Aleppo. He was interrogated, beaten with a wooden stick, received electric shocks on his knees and was hung up by his wrists from the ceiling for xxxxx days.

The second time he was detained was in xxxxx 2011. Again, he was arrested by the Shabbiha while participating in a demonstration in Aleppo. He was detained for xx days at the Military Intelligence Branch in Aleppo. He was interrogated and beaten with a wooden stick during the xxxxx days there.

The third time he was detained was in early 2012. The interviewee was arrested by Government forces while he was taking pictures with his mobile phone of the big clock in Aleppo. He was first detained for xxxxx days in an isolated cell at the Political Intelligence Branch in Suleimania neighbourhood of Aleppo. For xxxxx days he was interrogated, beaten with a wooden stick and hung up by his wrists from the ceiling. Afterwards the interviewee was transferred to the Criminal Security Intelligence Branch in Aleppo. He was detained there for xx days. He was interrogated for one day and beaten with a plastic pipe. After his release, the interviewee went to his family in xxxxx. He continued working as an activist, writing commentary on xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx. Most of his writing criticised the rise of ISIS. 

In October 2013, xxxxx was killed by ISIS in xxxxx in Aleppo governorate. He was xx years old. xxxxx was  a journalist. He was murdered while xxxxx. Two ISIS members came into xxxxx xxxxx and shot the victim. One ISIS member was waiting outside. Witnesses recognized them as being from ISIS. The interviewee was informed of what happened by friends who witnessed the event. The murder of xxxxx was widely reported. ISIS announced on Twitter that they would continue killing people working for his media outlet. The interviewee saw the Twitter message. (A copy of Twitter message has been retrieved and archived).

On xx November 2013, another friend of the interviewee was kidnapped by ISIS. His name was xxxxx, aged xx years. He was also a journalist.

On xx November 2013, the interviewee was arrested at his house in xxxxx by five members of ISIS. ISIS members handcuffed and blindfolded him and took him away in the presence of his friends. His friends and family were not arrested. ISIS took the interviewee to a former hospital in Qadi Askar. The interviewee was put into in a cell in the basement. There were 12 cells. Each cell contained 40 to 50 people. All detainees were male. Most of the detainees were activists or people who opposed ISIS’s ideology. 

The next day, the interviewee was taken out of his cell, blindfolded, and escorted into a room on the first floor. While he lay on the ground, up to four ISIS members beat him with their hands, feet, and a wooden stick. He was beaten because he criticized ISIS on a public page of Facebook. 

The interviewee was detained for xx days. He was handcuffed with his hands in front of him. Each time an ISIS member would come, everyone was forced to stand against the wall so nobody would see them. If ISIS needed one of the detainees, he would be blindfolded before being taken away. During the last three days of his detention, the interviewee asked ISIS to remove his handcuffs because he had small insects over his body. Conditions of the cells were very bad. There was no bathroom. Many detainees had long hair. Interviewee did not take a shower for the entirety of his time in custody.

Every day he could hear people being tortured but could not see what was done to them. After xx days they interrogated and beat him again. Then ISIS members started to come into the basement on a daily basis. It became evident to him that his fellow detainees were being executed. The executions followed a pattern: two ISIS members would come into the cell, announce the names of the wanted persons, blindfold them while standing against the wall, escort them out of the cell into the first floor and a few minutes later they would hear gunshots. This occurred once a day, every day. 

During the last three days, there were 27 detainees left in the interviewee’s cell. One day, 19 detainees were killed from his cell at the same time. The last day ISIS came into his cell and called his name and another detainee called xxxxx. At that time clashes were taking place outside the building. Just when they were being escorted out of the cell, fighters from another armed group entered the building and started shooting. The interviewee and xxxxx were pushed back into the cell and ISIS locked their cell. Some members of ISIS escaped during the clashes, while others were killed. 

Around 150 people were released by the other armed group on 7 or 8 January 2014. The interviewee estimates that before the execution, there were between 400 and 600 detainees. When fighters from the other armed group helped the survivors escape from the backyard of the building, they discovered approximately 45 bodies in the yard of the hospital. They had all recently been  shot in the back of their head. The other armed group filmed the discovered bodies. (A copy of video has been retrieved and archived). The interviewee, aided by the other armed groups, escaped on 8 January 2014 and went to his family in xxxxx

 ————

This story was one of twelve testimonies released yesterday by the Human Rights Council’s commission of inquiry. The commission’s chairperson Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, said plainly upon its release, “I have run out of words to depict the gravity of the crimes committed inside Syria.”

 

 

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