Atrocity Alert No. 9: South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and UN Human Rights Council 32nd Session

15 June 2016

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting and updating situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.


South Sudan

On 7 June an op-ed purportedly written by South Sudan President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar was published in the New York Times, warning the international community that accountability for atrocities perpetrated during the civil war might lead to further destabilization and ethnic division in the country. Machar later denied authorship of the article following critical statements from the UN Secretary-General, the international community and many South Sudanese. Regardless of authorship, the denial of justice leaves populations in South Sudan at serious risk of a potential recurrence of widespread atrocities and would contravene the 2015 peace agreement. It is critical that the Transitional Government of National Unity cooperates with the African Union in establishing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and prosecutes serious human right abuses.


Air strikes on a market in Idlib city, Syria, killed at least 40 civilians on 12 June. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack on Idlib contributed to the more than 224 civilians who have been killed during the first week of Ramadan. Attacks on medical facilities in Syria also continue, including 15 civilians killed in attacks in Aleppo on 8 June. The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health remarked that evidence “suggests that some hospitals and medical facilities may have been directly targeted,” acts that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 15 June more than 50 Syrian humanitarian and civil society organizations also accused the UN of breaching its neutrality by allowing the Syrian government to control the flow of aid to besieged communities.


Despite a nation-wide ceasefire, which started in April, and ongoing peace talks, civilian-populated areas of Yemen continue to be targeted for attack. Particularly intense fighting has been witnessed in Taiz, where the UN Secretary-General and High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned a series of rocket and mortar attacks against residential areas, schools and markets that have taken place since the start of June. According to Médicins San Frontières, “shelling, airstrikes, bomb blasts, landmine explosions and sniper fire” happen every day as “none of the warring parties appear to be making an effort to prevent casualties among civilians.”

32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

The UN Human Rights Council opened its 32nd Session on Monday, 13 June, in Geneva. During his opening address, High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein raised alarm at human rights violations in more than 50 countries. High Commissioner Zeid’s speech touched upon violations in all of the countries featured in the R2P Monitor this year. The Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect in Geneva also delivered a joint statement commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council.

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