News Updates, 2/5/14

Burma

TIME magazine: There are now fixed ghettos that the Rohingya are being forced to live in with guarded gates that one has to obtain a permit in order to pass through. The article describes many of the early signs of genocide.
The Burmese government arrested 5 journalists for reporting on a secret chemical weapons facility and also arrested the family members of these journalists, including 3 year old girl.

Congo

Human Rights Watch sent an open letter to President Joseph Kabila urging him to end impunity for M23 leaders and other perpetrators of serious human rights abuses. The letter referred to the recent surrender of M23 to the Congolese government and emphasized the need to prosecute the group’s leaders; more broadly, it reiterated of creating an institution within the Congolese government and supported by international actors whose sole purpose would be to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Such legislation is currently underway in Congo.

The Congo government announced its concern over recent reports that M23 has continued recruiting new members, presumably for a new round of insurgency.

Rwanda’s ambassador to the UN called Congo a “cry baby” for continuing to blame Rwanda for the problems within the DRC.

FDLR representatives announced that the group had begun to disarm and was prepared for talks with the Congolese government, but the UN peacekeepers in the DRC said that they had yet to see any signs of this disarmament.

Sudan

The UN recently asked $1.27 billion in funding for aid to South Sudan. However, this was greatly complicated by recent evidence of how much of the humanitarian aid supplies sent to the area are still being looted. A photo (below) of soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army wearing UNICEF backpacks intended for children heading back to school has made headlines, complicating the issue.

Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers wearing UNICEF backpacks walk along a road in Mathiang near Bor on Jan. 31, 2014.

Also, in the same vein, according to UN officials, 4,700 tons of World Food Program food has been looted from warehouses across the country. Relations between South Sudan and the UN remain tense, as despite South Sudan President Salva Kiir  accusing the UN of being too involved in the government, they are trying to ask for even more funding. The increasing evidence of the out-of-control looting problem also casts doubt on their ability to create change.

The capital city of Sudan’s North Kordofan state, El-Obeid, has been repeatedly attacked by janjaweed militias. A local merchant was killed recently, sparking public demonstrations asking for retribution. The governor of North Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, has stated that he would help drive them out within 72 hours. Haroun himself, though, is wanted by the ICC for war crimes.

Syria

US Condemn Barrel Bomb Raids in Aleppo

  • Aleppo–key city in the north
  • has been divided since 2012 when rebels captured large areas
  • more than 150 killed in the past four days in a string of bombings
  • barrel bombs: oil drums/cylinders packed with explosives
  • Secretary of State Kerry calls it “latest barbaric act of the Syrian regime”

UN Releases Report Documenting Abuses of Children in Syrian Conflict

  • new report to UN Security Council presented last week
  • report says children that have been detained by government have been:
    • sexually abused
    • tortured
    • used as civilian shields
    • also have been recruited to fight with opposition
    • estimated at least 10,000 have been killed
  • Syria’s deputy foreign minister in Geneva:
    • blamed opposition forces
    • “I categorically deny there are any children being detained. Those are rumors.”

Syrian Opposition Disappearing from Facebook

  • the revolution has grown much beyond what the initial peaceful activists who utilized social media wanted
  • activists being martyred, journalists detained
  • it is no longer safe to post on Facebook or YouTube
  • Facebook has now barred dozens of pages for posting “graphic imagery” and “calls to violence”
  • Syrian Network for Human Rights had page closed down in October
  • Quote by Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook: “By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase in number and volume. They cannot be ignored.”

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