Violence between security forces and the Kamuina Nsapu militia poses an escalating risk to civilians in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Local authorities reportedly found at least 40 police officers killed and beheaded on 25 March after their convoy was ambushed by the militia. Earlier in March two members of the UN’s Panel of Experts on the DRC were abducted along with four Congolese colleagues in Kasai-Central province. On 28 March the UN confirmed it had discovered the bodies of the two UN investigators near Kananga. At least 10 mass graves have been discovered in the region and more than 400 people have been killed by Kamuina Nsapu since July.
Violence and instability in eastern DRC is increasing as talks in Kinshasa on the implementation of a 31 December agreement regarding the country’s elections are falling apart. As the UN Security Council votes to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC this week, it must consider the growing risk of further atrocities and ensure that civilian protection remains at the core of the UN’s mission in the DRC.
Sunday, 26 March, marked two years since the escalation of the conflict in Yemen, where Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have been engaged in an ongoing armed conflict with the UN-recognized government backed by a Saudi-led military coalition. In the past two years over 4,700 civilians have been killed, including more than 1,500 children. Over 3.1 million Yemenis have been forcibly displaced, and an estimated 18.8 million people – over 75 percent of the population – require humanitarian assistance. According to the UN, approximately 7 million Yemenis are now at risk of starvation, including 462,000 children who are at risk of death due to severe acute malnutrition.
Yemen remains a politically neglected, and under-reported, crisis. It is imperative that the UN, the Security Council and regional powers facilitate a permanent ceasefire and a return to political negotiations; urge parties to enable unhindered humanitarian access; and establish a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate atrocities committed since the start of the conflict. UN member states must also immediately halt the sale of weapons to parties to the conflict who have been implicated in atrocities in Yemen.
On 25 March the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) had temporarily paused military operations in western Mosul due to a sharp increase in civilian casualties. An estimated 500 civilians were reportedly killed in airstrikes during the week beginning on 19 March. Particular concern has also been expressed over reports of a massive airstrike in the al-Jadidah district of Mosul that took place on 17 March, where up to 200 civilians may have been killed. On 28 March a senior United States commander in Iraq conceded that that a US airstrike had likely contributed to civilian casualties.
The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who remain in control of most of western Mosul, refuses to comply with international humanitarian law and continues to commit war crimes, including targeting civilians as they try to flee.
As the battle for Mosul continues, members of the US-led coalition and the ISF must ensure their military operations fully comply with their obligations under international law. All potential violations, including possible war crimes, must be thoroughly investigated.