Daily Archives: December 18, 2017

United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament in Asia, Pacific to Host Illicit Trafficking of Small Arms, Light Weapons Seminar, 19-20 December

NEW YORK, 18 December (Office for Disarmament Affairs) — The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific and the Government of Cambodia are jointly organizing a Regional Seminar on Illicit Trafficking and Diversion of Small Arms and Light Weapons and Other Conventional Arms and Ammunition in South‑East Asia.  The Seminar will be held from 19 to 20 December in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This capacity‑building seminar is a response to requests made by several Member States in South‑East Asia to organize a sub‑regional meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) States and Timor‑Leste with the ASEAN Association of Chiefs of Police secretariat to find ways to address diversion and illicit trafficking of small arms and their ammunition.

The Seminar will foster regional dialogue among South‑East Asian States and explore possibilities for strengthening sub‑regional cooperation and coordination in this area.  Experts from national law enforcement agencies will engage with representatives from the ASEAN Association of Chiefs of Police, the secretariat of the Arms Trade Treaty, the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Customs Organization, research institutions and non‑governmental organizations to identify ways and means to effectively address small arms and light weapons diversion, and reduce illicit arms flows to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Target 16.4 (“by 2030 significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized crime”).

The Seminar is made possible with financial support from the Government of Germany.

For further information, please contact Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, at e-mail:  info@unrcpd.org.

Mashnouq hails ISF efforts in apprehension of British diplomat's killing

NNA – Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Nohad Mashnouq, on Monday heaped praise on the “exceptional” efforts exerted by the Internal Security Forces in arresting the killer of British diplomat Rebecca Dykes.

“This extinguished security achievement proves once again the high professionalism of the ISF and the Information Branch,” he said.

“Such accomplishments reassure the Lebanese and suggest that the security situation in composed on one hand, and bolster foreign sides’ trust in the work of our security apparatuses,” he stressed.

Mashnouq made these remarks during his meeting with the Governors of the South, Baalback, and Akkar.

========R.A.H.

Follow the latest National News Agency (NNA) news on Radio Lebanon 98.5, 98.1, and 96.2 FM

Minutes – Monday, 20 November 2017 – PE 613.621v01-00 – Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

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EXCLUSIVE: Inside the Congolese army’s campaign of rape and looting in South Kivu

Her face was tired and bruised, her arms bone-thin, her dress torn in several places. “Look at my body,” she whispered. “Is this the body of somebody who is normal?” There was a short pause before she responded herself: “This is death.”

The 36-year-old, who asked not be named, is one of dozens of women to accuse soldiers battling a new insurgency in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern South Kivu province of rape and sexual violence.

The abuses documented by IRIN began in late September after government soldiers reoccupied areas briefly captured by a new alliance of local Mai-Mai militias called the National People’s Coalition for the Sovereignty of the Congo (CNPSC).

The CNPSC is one of three Mai-Mai coalitions that have recently emerged in eastern Congo, an area mired in conflict since the mid-1990s, when the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide fled there, triggering two regional wars.

The coalitions say they are fighting against Congolese President Joseph Kabila, who refused to step down and hold elections last year when his constitutionally mandated two-term limit expired.

An agreement between the government and opposition, reached last December, stated Kabila would leave office and hold elections by the end of 2017. But Congo’s electoral commission now says that a vote will not be held until December 2018.

In September, the CNPSC launched a fresh offensive in the Fizi region, capturing a string of strategic villages before attempting an audacious naval assault on Uvira, the second largest town in South Kivu.

                                                                  

The group was eventually driven back by MONUSCO, the UN’s peacekeeping mission, which deployed attack helicopters to protect the town.

Congolese army moves in

As the Mai-Mai coalition withdrew from nearby villages, Congolese soldiers began systematically raping women and arbitrarily arresting young men, according to dozens of interviews IRIN conducted over several weeks with victims and witnesses.

In Makobola, 15 kilometres south of Uvira, the representative of a local peace organisation said at least 25 women were gang raped by Congolese soldiers over the course of one day in late September, after the army retook the town.

Sat in a small, two-roomed hut, away from the main road where soldiers lounged around in a makeshift barracks, four women took turns to tell their stories. They all spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the army and stigmatisation by friends and families.

The still-bruised 36-year-old women said she was gang raped by soldiers alongside her 65-year-old blind mother at 10 in the morning. The attack was so brutal she said her mother was subsequently paralysed from the waist down and died shortly afterwards.

“She couldn’t move; she couldn’t even go to the toilet,” the woman said.

Nearby, a 35-year-old mother-of-four said she was stopped by soldiers outside her home at 10am while taking her two-year-old son to the toilet. The soldiers asked where her husband was. When she replied that he was travelling, they accused her of collaborating with the rebels.

“They told me, ‘You are telling us this because your husband is Mai-Mai and you have sent him to the bush’,” she said.

The soldiers stole her phone and money hidden in her underwear before entering her house. “They said, ‘Today we will rape you until you regret being alive’,” she recalled.

Five men then raped her in front of her children until she fell unconscious.

“I woke up to the sound of my children shouting Mama, Mama!,” she said.

See also: War on Women, our film exploring sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

In a restaurant on the main road through Makobola, five women tried to hide but were caught and raped by 15 soldiers, according to the peace organisation representative.

One of the women, passing through the town to visit a hospital further south in Baraka, subsequently died. Another was hospitalised after being penetrated with a wooden object.

The owner of the restaurant told IRIN the five women were eventually freed after she paid soldiers the equivalent of around $100.

“After what happened, I felt very bad,” she said.

At another restaurant, an owner said she was raped at night on 11 October, after soldiers accused her of providing a place for Mai-Mai to sleep. Two more women inside her restaurant were also raped, with soldiers shooting into the air to stop them screaming. The soldiers then stole $130, leaving the owner broke.

“I have nothing to restart my business,” she said.

Further south in Sebele, another village in the Fizi region, three men were killed by Congolese soldiers and eight women raped after the the army regained control, according to village deputy chief Elias Feruzi.

The rebel alliances

The CNPSC label has been in use since late 2013 but only recently gained traction when Babembe warlord William Amuri Yakutumba rallied behind it.

Yakutumba’s group, Mai-Mai Yakutumba, is the largest component of the CNPSC, which claims to unite several Mai-Mai groups and has expanded into the western end of Fizi Territory as well as Maniema and parts of southern Shabunda.

Yakutumba and the Babembe have a long, fractious history with the region’s Banyamulenge community, who are ethnic Tutsi and often perceived as “foreigners”.

Ethnically targeted massacres have occurred on both sides over the past two decades. Analysts say the presence of a small number of Banyamulenge commanders in units deployed against the CNPSC, could aggravate these tensions.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring North Kivu province, another coalition called the National Movement of Revolutionaries (MNR) has also recently emerged to take advantage of the current political crisis. It includes several ethnic Nande Mai-Mai leaders from groups including Corps du Christ and Mai-Mai Mazembe.

                       

MONUSCO sources told IRIN that the MNR also includes allies from the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan rebel group accused of the attack earlier this montn on a UN military base near Beni that left at least 14 blue helmets dead.  

                                                                                       

The CMC, a third new coalition, brings together various factions of Nyatura, a Congolese Hutu militia. The coalition was recently able to take over a large amount of territory in Kalehe when army units withdrew to fight the CNPSC.

The strong anti-government rhetoric of the coalitions marks a shift in direction for Mai-Mai groups, which have traditionally focused on local grievances and ethnic rivalries. It remains to be seen whether they will be capable of building popular support outside their usual constituencies.

“At the moment, none of them represent a major national threat, and, given geographical distance, ideological divergence, and the risk of co-option, it appears unlikely they will merge into something bigger,” said Christoph Vogel, a researcher on Congo at the University of Zurich.

Nonetheless, fighting in both North Kivu and South Kivu continues to cause massive population displacement and major problems for Congo’s overstretched, demoralised army. Areas retaken from the CNPSC are now covered with army checkpoints, where soldiers harass and extort money from the local population.

In the South Kivu town of Mboko, which was occupied by the CNPSC for a week, locals told IRIN that soldiers subsequently looted houses, including a compound belonging to the Congolese NGO GEADES, and that they continue to rob people at night.

A 32-year-old teacher in Mboko said he was robbed by a soldier on a recent evening.

“The solider put his gun on my chest and said, ‘You are a Mai-Mai; you must say your last prayers.’ He then put his hands in my pocket, took out two phones and money and told me to run.”

Arrests and extortion

In Sebele, deputy chief Feruzi said 30 young men had been arrested and accused of being Mai-Mai since September.

“[The soldiers] use it at as an excuse to extort money,” he explained. “Once people are arrested they have to pay [$100] to be set free.”

IRIN also received reliable reports of arbitrary arrests of young men in Simbi, Mboko, Lukoke, and Fizi town, where 20 youths were arrested while watching a football match on 23 October and some were subsequently tortured.

In many villages, locals said the actions of Congolese soldiers are helping to build sympathy for the CNPSC.

After the coalition withdrew from Mboko, dozens of young men and children were recruited into the group, while others told IRIN they would consider joining in the future.

“There are two options people have here,” said the teacher. “Go to Tanzania and join the refugee camps or join the Mai-Mai and fight for the country.”

“His image comes into our minds and we start running”

Rapes victims spoke of their trauma, the stigma they felt in speaking about it, and their anger at the impunity as the abuse continues.

A 39-year-old woman from Sebele said she was raped alongside her 14-year-old daughter at 3pm in late September while farming in a nearby field. Her account was confirmed by medical certificates.

                                                                       

“Today, whenever we go to our field and reach the place where the solider raped us, his image comes into our minds and we start running,” said the women.

The Congolese NGO, Solidarity of Volunteers for Humanity, told IRIN that several women were also raped in Lulimba and the mining town of Misisi, both sites of recent clashes between the CNPSC and the army.

A reliable report from local researchers, shared with IRIN, claims that eight women were also raped by soldiers on 8 November in the hills above the village of Sangya. The women were asked what they knew about the Mai-Mai before being assaulted.

According to the same report, on 10 November, a woman arrived at Mboko health centre claiming she had been raped by two soldiers who accused her of providing information to the Mai-Mai. That followed two other cases of rape in Mboko, reported on 6 October.

In Makobola, women told IRIN the soldiers responsible for the attacks remain in the village and continue to rape women despite the cases being reported to army commanders.

“The rapes are still going on in the fields,” said the peace organisation representative. “Because of stigmatisation, women don’t say anything. They are afraid of being abandoned by their families.”

The women said they are now too afraid to farm or leave home at night. Some said they have decided to flee the country.

“I am waiting for some money and then I will go [to Tanazania],” said the 35-year-old mother-of-four.

 

A spokesperson for the Congolese army in South Kivu did not respond with comment in time for publication.

pk-gk/oa/ag

Europe – the continent of solidarity: Joint Statement on the occasion of International Migrant Day

On the occasion of International Migrant Day on 18 December, Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, and Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, made the following statement:  

“On International Migrant Day, we remember all those who live outside their county of birth and are on the move – either by choice or forcibly. We remember that our own continent, Europe, is built on migration. Our common history is marked by millions of people fleeing from persecution, war or dictatorship – looking only 100 years back. Today, our European Union allows people across the continent to freely travel, to study and work in other countries. This has made Europe one of the richest places in the world – in terms of culture, of economy, of opportunities and in terms of liberties. But this day is also an occasion to remember those who have left their homes, in the face of conflict, political oppression, poverty or lack of hope, and who struggle to build a new and decent life elsewhere. While for some, migration is a positive and empowering experience, too many others have to endure human rights violations, xenophobia, exploitation and unacceptable living conditions along their journeys.  

Protecting and upholding the fundamental rights and freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their status, has always been and will always be our priority. This is at the heart of our European Agenda on Migration. We are working relentlessly, inside and outside the European Union, in close cooperation with our Member States and our international partners to save lives, provide protection, offer safe and legal pathways for migration and tackle the root causes that force people to leave their homes in first place, as well as fight the criminal networks that often take advantage of people’s despair.    

We have a shared responsibility towards people on the move and we need to act on a global scale to support them and to uphold the safety, dignity and human rights of migrants and refugees. It requires the engagement and the consistent implementation of international agreements by all.

Europe is committed to remaining the continent of solidarity, tolerance and openness, embracing its share of global responsibility. And for those who we have recently welcomed to Europewe want the same as we want for all Europeans, namely to prosper and flourish and contribute to a better future for our continent.  

We strongly support the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and will continue to actively work towards the adoption of the UN Global Compacts on Migration and on Refugees at the United Nations.  

Background 

Over the past 20 years, the European Union has put in place some of the highest common asylum standards in the world. And in the past two years, European migration policy has advanced in leaps and bounds with the European Agenda on Migration proposed by the Juncker Commission in May 2015. Progressively, a more united approach to dealing with migration is emerging, internally and externally. 

Internally, work has been intensified on the reform of the Common European Asylum System to put in place a more effective and fair approach, based on solidarity and responsibility, alongside continuous support to the Member States most exposed and reinforced cooperation with partner countries. 

The European Union has also stepped up its efforts to protect vulnerable groups, in particular children who are among the most exposed of migrants, including through new Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child and recommendations on the protection of children in migration.

Externally, the EU has progressively put in place a genuine external dimension of its migration policy, complementing and reinforcing its actions within the Union. The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development recognises the positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development. It also recognises that both challenges and opportunities of migration must be addressed through coherent and comprehensive responses.   

Along the migratory routes, we are working to save people’s lives with our international partners, such as the UN agencies. We are fighting the criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling and in trafficking in human beings, through our Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations on the ground and by supporting regional initiatives, such as the G5 Sahel Joint Force. We are also conducting search and rescue operations at sea, with the support of the European Border and Coast Guard and EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. These efforts help to save thousands of lives every month.   

The EU also works on opening up safe and legal pathways through resettlement – to allow those in need of protection to come to Europe without having to risk their lives in the desert and at sea. An ambitious target for the resettlement of 50,000 persons in need of international protection was set by President Juncker in September 2017. A particular focus should be put on resettlement from North Africa and the Horn of Africa, notably Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia, whilst ensuring continued resettlement from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

We also continue, jointly with our UN and civil society partners on the ground, to support concrete actions in Libya and along the migratory routes, to ensure the respect of human rights, improve migrants’ living conditions and assist migrants and refugees, who too often become victims of smuggling and trafficking networks. The establishment of a joint Task Force between the African Union, the United Nations and the EU, is an important step that will help to accelerate our joint work. In concrete terms, actions will aim to evacuate those in need of international protection to Europe, accelerate the assisted voluntary returns to countries of origin for those stranded in Libya, as well as intensify our efforts to dismantle criminal networks.  

For More Information 

Joint African Union-European Union-United Nations Task Force to Address the Migrant Situation in Libya

2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the protection of children in migration

EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child