On 17 October the Iraqi government announced the launch of a long-anticipated offensive to liberate Mosul from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Iraqi forces, supported by a United States-led anti-ISIL coalition and Kurdish Peshmerga, have been attacking ISIL targets with the aim of seizing back control of Iraq’s second-largest city. The UN has warned that the offensive may affect as many as 1.5 million civilians in Mosul, up to 1 million of whom may be displaced and may require emergency humanitarian assistance. During the first days of the offensive there have been reports of ISIL fighters using civilians as human shields. On 19 October the Popular Mobilization Force, a Shia paramilitary group, announced it would join the offensive. While retaking Fallujah from ISIL earlier this year, Shia militias reportedly targeted Sunni civilians fleeing the city for abduction and killing, possibly amounting to war crimes. It is essential that all parties participating in the battle for Mosul take effective measures to ensure the protection of civilians.
Central African Republic
Despite a period of relative stability following the establishment of a new government during April 2016, populations in Central African Republic remain at risk of mass atrocity crimes as various rebel groups continue to fight each other as well as attack civilians, humanitarian workers and UN peacekeepers. The risk is particularly acute in Kaga-Bandoro where attacks perpetrated by ex-Séléka on 12 October, and the ensuing defense by the UN Mission in CAR (MINUSCA), resulted in at least 30 people killed and several thousand civilians displaced. Since September humanitarian agencies have been forced to withdraw from Kaga-Bandoro and surrounding villages as a result of ex-Séléka looting and targeted attacks on humanitarian workers. While MINUSCA was able to eventually repel the Kaga-Bandoro attackers, it must do more to anticipate threats to vulnerable populations and forcibly disarm armed groups.
Since taking office on 30 June 2016, Philippines‘ President Rodrigo Duterte has implemented a violent campaign against millions of civilians suspected of either dealing or using illegal drugs. President Duterte has been accused of inciting vigilante groups to attack drug dealers and encouraging police to carry out extrajudicial killings. An estimated 3,800 civilians have been killed so far this year. President Duterte has responded to international condemnation of his policies with derision. The widespread extrajudicial execution of suspected drug users or traffickers may amount to potential crimes against humanity.
UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced on 17 October that all Yemeni parties have committed to a 72-hour cessation of hostilities as of 19 October at 23:59 Yemeni time. The Special Envoy will negotiate an extension of the cessation if the first 72-hour period is respected. Violence between Houthi rebels and various pro-government forces, as well as sustained Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, have resulted in more than 4,125 civilians killed since March 2015. More than 3 million Yemenis have been displaced by the conflict while an estimated 82 percent of the population require humanitarian assistance. It is essential that all parties to the conflict respect the proposed cessation of hostilities, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. All parties to the conflict must immediately cease indiscriminate attacks on civilians and return to credible peace talks.
Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
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