On 29 September Amnesty International released a report documenting evidence of the government of Sudan repeatedly using chemical weapons against civilians in Darfur over the past eight months. Utilizing satellite imagery and hundreds of interviews, investigators documented at least 30 chemical attacks in the Jebel Marra area, most recently on 9 September. The Sudanese government has denied that it possesses or uses chemical weapons. During a 4 October UN Security Council briefing on Darfur, however, the head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, called upon Sudan to cooperate with any investigations by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), indicating that UN peacekeepers have been denied access to Jebel Marra. After more than 10 years and 62 UN Security Council resolutions – including authorization of sanctions, a peacekeeping mission in Darfur, an arms embargo on Darfur, and an ICC referral – the government of President Omar al-Bashir continues to perpetrate mass atrocity crimes. If the government refuses to allow the OPCW investigators access to Jebel Marra, the Security Council must reassess its approach to holding Sudan accountable for crimes perpetrated against the population.
After two weeks of a Russian and Syrian government offensive on opposition-held east Aleppo, more than 342 people, including 106 children, have been killed as populations endure sustained and indiscriminate airstrikes, including with illegal barrel bombs, cluster munitions and “bunker-buster” bombs. As a result of Russia’s participation in the bombardment of east Aleppo, on 3 October the United States officially suspended participation in bilateral negotiations regarding a peaceful resolution of the conflict. On the same day, the UN Security Council began consultations on a French draft resolution calling for a return to the cessation of hostilities and for accountability for atrocities. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights subsequently declared that the Security Council “should, without any further delay, adopt criteria to restrain members from using the veto” in situations of mass atrocities.
The UN Security Council must continue to press parties to the conflict to return to a cessation of hostilities, end indiscriminate airstrikes against civilians and ensure unrestricted humanitarian access to all besieged populations in Aleppo and throughout Syria. If the Security Council fails to act, the UN General Assembly should take up the issue themselves.
On 30 September the Human Rights Council concluded its 33rd regular session after adopting several resolutions pertaining to situations where populations are facing, or are at risk of, mass atrocities. The Council strongly condemned the offensive on eastern Aleppo in Syria in Resolution A/HRC/33/L.30, which demanded “that the Syrian authorities meet their responsibility to protect the Syrian population.” In Resolution A/HRC/33/L.31 the Council authorized the creation of a commission of inquiry to conduct investigations into human rights violations and abuses in Burundi since April 2015. The Human Rights Council also passed resolutions on “technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights” for Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. The Yemen resolution (A/HRC/33/L.5) called upon all parties to respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, but unfortunately failed to get the support necessary to approve an independent international commission of inquiry as recommended by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.