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Uganda to Chair Security Council; US Action at the HRC; DRC Mapping Report Out Tomorrow

Human Rights Council: today U.S. advanced one of its top priorities for the 15th session of the HRC with the passage of a resolution on freedom of assembly, including the creation of a  Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association.  When introducing the resolution on behalf of a cross-regional group and over 60 co-sponsors, Ambassador Donahoe underlined that “civil society is essential to political and economic progress”.  In his speech to the GA last week, President Obama touched on the importance of this issue stating, “the arc of human progress has been shaped by individuals with the freedom to assemble”.  The passage of the resolution without a vote was a victory for the U.S., who was up against concerned countries such as China, Russia, Cuba, Libya and Pakistan, who ultimately never forced a vote.  Also on the HRC, yesterday, by a vote of 30 to 1 with 15 abstentions (the U.S. voted against), the Council endorsed the conclusions of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the flotilla incident, which said the conduct of the Israeli military was “disproportionate and excessive” and “serious violations of both humanitarian and human rights law occurred”.  For its part, the U.S. said it was concerned by the Report’s “unbalanced language, tone and conclusions” and urged that it not be used to disrupt ongoing negotiations.  The U.S. regards the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry as the “primary method for the international community to review the incident”.  The Panel of Inquiry’s findings have not yet been released.

DRC Mapping Report: the much anticipated Mapping Report of human rights abuses in the DRC is expected to be released by the High Commissioner tomorrow at 3pm Geneva time.

Haiti: Nigel Fisher, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, reported that the 30-minute storm last Friday in Port-au-Prince damaged or destroyed 15,000 tents in 262 of the 1,300 camps, where 1.3 million survivors have been living since the earthquake.  The UN and Haitian Government began assessing the situation immediately after the storm, distributing supplies just hour later.  Fisher stressed the importance of continuing contingency and mitigation plans and disaster preparedness.

Pakistan: the UN continues to step up its relief efforts in Pakistan, with over 20 million people affected by the flooding.  WHO has provided medicine for 5 million people, and has worked with  UNICEF to acquire half a million bednets to address the increase risk of malaria.  Roughly 3.67 million people are receiving potable water, more than 448,400 families have been provided shelter and the UN and its partners have provided food assistance to an estimated 7 million.  To date, 31% of the Floods Emergency Response Plan has been funded.

Security Council: tomorrow Uganda assumes the rotating Presidency of the Security Council from Turkey.

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Coup in Ecuador?

Some troubling news out of Ecuador.  CNN captures some footage of what may be a coup in progress.

Apparently, the police are protesting against austerity measures imposed on public employees by President Rafael Correa.  According to the latest reports from Reuters, Caldera was somehow injured in the protests and is now holed up in a hospital with masses of angry police gathered outside.

Here in Washington, DC the Organization for American States has called an emergency meeting on the matter.  Presumably, the OAS will uniformly condemn the attack on Correa–they tend to be understandably sensitive to coup attempts.  But it will be interesting to see how this develops politically in the United States.

Correa is a left winger and politically aligned with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.  You may recall that last year around this time another Central American left winger, Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, was deposed in a military coup that also drew widespread international condemnation.  One powerful group that supported the coup, however, was a cadre of Republican members of Congress, neocon political magazines, and a former counsel to Bill Clinton.

Might a pro-coup caucus emerge once again?

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Ethiopia and Eritrea take their Dispute to the General Assembly

Macedonia The Former Yugoslav Republic Macedonia and Greece The Hellenic Republic were not the only two countries to trade barbs from the podium of the General Assembly this past week.  Representatives from Eritrea and Ethiopia also used the opportunity of the United Nations General Debate to settle some scores.

Here is the Eritrean Foreign Minister on Tuesday:

While the United Nations grapples with Sudan and Somalia, it continues to ignore the grave consequences of Ethiopia’s continued occupation of sovereign Eritrean telTitory, eight years after the ruling of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), and three years after the Commission ended its work by depositing in the United Nations the demarcated boundary between the two countries. Ethiopia’s illegal occupation and the United Nations’ silence, which mean the continuation of the conflict, is exacting a heavy price on the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia and complicating the regional situation. I wish to remind the United Nations that Eritrea awaits responsible and urgent action to end Ethiopia’s violation of international law and its threat to regional peace and security.

And the Ethiopian foreign minister fired back:

When we talk about security in the Horn of Africa Region…we cannot avoid raising our concern once again about the destructive role the Government of Eritrea has continued to play since independence.  It is an open secret that the Eritrean Government has for some time now been actively playing the role of the spoiler in the whole tragic situation in Somalia…the Eritrean regime is the principal destabilizer in our sub-region with utter contempt for international law and the norms of international behavior.

Both sides have a point here.  The fact is, Eritrea was left out to dry by the international community. In 2002, a boundary commission in the Hague deemed that a disputed town should properly be considered Eritrean territory.  The Ethiopians simply ignored the ruling and the United States and other powers did not use their influence to force Ethiopia to abide by the ruling.

That said, Eritrea did not express its frustration in constructive ways. It kicked out UN peacekeepers, launched a border raid on Djibouti and has been arming Somali insurgents against the internationally-backed Somali Transitional government. For these reasons, the Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea last year.

Moral of the story: expressing your grievances by mounting a proxy war against your neighbor is not likely to win you any friends in the international community.   Still, it is better that these two countries blow off some steam at the United Nations than resume a war that claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Security | 4

Will Scientists’ Call For Climate Action Fall on Negotiators’ Deaf Ears?

With only days remaining until diplomats are due to arrive in Tianjin for the final round of climate negotiations before the Cancun summit, scientists have provided a grim reminder of how little progress governments have made in addressing the threat of climate change and the consequences of continued inaction. Yet the statements being made by some world leaders suggest that governments are still unwilling to acknowledge the scope of the problem.

Stern Warning

Research now suggests that the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in Copenhagen was an even bigger failure than originally thought. A study published yesterday in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that the national emissions reduction commitments countries made under the non-binding Copenhagen Accord will still result in a dangerous increase in the global average temperature. The cuts would only limit warming over the next century to 4.2º C (7.6º F), according to the analysis of scientists from seven European research centers. The increase baked into the Copenhagen Accords is only slightly off the “catastrophic” 5 – 7º C rise the UK’s Met Office warned would result if the world continued to burn fossil fuels at the present rate.

Global warming in excess of 2º C could produce disastrous changes to the earth’s ecosystems. The study’s authors warn that the present cuts will not be enough to save heat-sensitive coral reefs, the “rainforests of the sea.” Already, scientist are predicting a widespread coral die off in the Caribbean, which will decimate the wide range of marine life that thrives in this fragile habitat. As ScienceDaily notes “coral reefs provide services estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion globally each year,” the loss of which would benefit no one at the negotiating table.

At this point, it is not even clear that the best efforts of negotiators could prevent dangerous warming from occurring. According to the Environmental Research Letters study, with an emissions reduction of 50% by 2050, there is still a less than 50% chance of keeping the global temperature rise under 2º C. “It is clear from this analysis that higher ambitions for 2020 are necessary” to limit increases to below 2º C “without relying on potentially infeasible reduction rates after 2020,” the scientists concluded.

Ignoring the Problem

Meanwhile, world leaders are heading to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Tianjin with ambitions too small to address the looming crisis. In an interview with Rolling Stone, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would begin pursuing climate protection in “chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation.” But according to an analysis published by the World Resources Institute after the US climate bill died in the Senate, that piecemeal approach can only get the world’s largest historic contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs) close to but short of the relatively insubstantial reductions Obama promised at COP 15.

China, the world’s biggest GHG producer and the host of next week’s talks, is setting similarly lackluster goals. “China hopes that based on the outcomes from Cancun, we’ll be able to settle on a legally binding document at the meeting in South Africa,” senior Chinese climate negotiator Li Gao said in the Chinese Economic Times newspaper. After the COP 17 South Africa summit scheduled for the end of 2011, Li said “we’ll move to concrete implementation.”

But neither scientists nor diplomats truly know whether treaty negotiators will be able to agree upon a stronger treaty. And if one eventually does comes to pass, by that time even an ambitious global agreement may be too late to prevent the type of extreme warming the deeply flawed Copenhagen Accord aimed to prevent.

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Human Rights Council Takes On the Gaza Flotilla Raid

You may recall the May 31 Israeli commando raid of a flotilla of Gaza bound activists which resulted in the death of nine activists, an emergency Security Council meeting, and a resolution at the Human Rights Council.

The Human Rights Council ended up commissioning a fact finding mission led by a British judge.  That report dropped earlier this week and it was very damning of Israeli actions. Among other things, it offers evidence that six of the deceased were victims of summary executions by the Israeli commandos.   For example, this is what the report said happened to a 19 year old American who was killed in the raid:

Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old with dual Turkish and United States citizenship, was on the central area of the top deck filming with a small video camera when he was first hit with live fire. It appears that he was lying on the deck in a conscious, or semi-conscious, state for some time. In total Furkan received five bullet wounds, to the face, head, back thorax, left leg and foot. All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range. Furthermore, the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back. The other wounds were not the result of firing in contact, near contact or close range, but it is not otherwise possible to determine the exact firing range. The wounds to the leg and foot were most likely received in a standing position.

The Human Rights Council voted on a resolution endorsing this report yesterday. The vote ended up 27 in favor, 1 against, and 19 abstentions.  The United States was the lone “no” vote. (Europeans made up most of the abstentions.)

The United States dismissed the report as “unbalanced,” which is to be expected.  At the very least, though, someone needs to be held account over these deaths.

Rights | | 3

Let’s Make Ahmad Haroun (in)Famous

Nicholas Kristoff sketches out a possible time line for a genocide in South Sudan that includes this nugget:

JAN. 18 The South declares that 91 percent of voters have chosen secession. The North denounces the vote, saying it was illegal, tainted by violence and fraud, and invalid because the turnout fell below the 60 percent threshold required.

JAN. 20 The South issues a unilateral declaration of independence.

JAN. 25 Tribal militias from the North sweep through South Sudan villages, killing and raping inhabitants and driving them south. The governor of a border state in the North, Ahmad Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and organizing the janjaweed militia in Darfur, denies that he is now doing the same thing in the South. [emphasis mine]

That last part deserves a little more explaining.

In May 2007, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Ahmad Haroun for crimes against humanity.  The warrant alleges that he was the key government figure who implemented Khartoum’s counterinsurgency-by-genocide strategy for Darfur.   Then, when most of Darfur’s population was displaced to IDP camps, he was promoted to “Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs.” From that position oversaw the systematic harassment of humanitarian workers and restriction of humanitarian access to Darfur’s displaced population.

This is all spelled out in very clinical prose in Haroun’s arrest warrant. But the point is, he has demonstrated a particular expertise in population control. Now, he serves as governor of South Kordofan, a province which includes the contested, oil rich border region of Abyei.

Two weeks ago the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo visited Washington, D.C. with the message: if you want to understand what is going to happen in South Sudan, look no further than Ahmed Haroun, “To follow the crimes, follow Haroun,” he said. “You should know a genocide is coming in the south. It is important for me to come to Washington to explain that,” the prosecutor told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center.  “Haroun in South Kordofan is a huge risk.”

Haroun is someone that those who write about politics and foreign policy should get to know a bit better. He ought to be at least as infamous as Mladic or Eichmann.  Read the prosecutor’s application for an arrest warrant and you will understand why.

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