In 2005 heads of state and government unanimously agreed on the responsibility of states to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), it is the primary responsibility of each individual state to protect their own population and the responsibility of the international community to assist them in doing so. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) can play an important role in assessing each country’s institutional preparedness to protect human rights and prevent mass atrocities. During the 45th session of the UPR working group, the Global Centre would therefore like to respectfully encourage you to provide all states that are under review with the following recommendations, where applicable:
Central African Republic
Civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR) continue to suffer from persistent and widespread violence, atrocities and a lack of access to basic services due to protracted insecurity. For nearly three years a loose alliance of predatory armed groups, known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change, and other armed groups have launched attacks while perpetrating widespread violations of IHL, including killing and abducting civilians, forcibly recruiting children, extortion and targeting civilian infrastructure, humanitarian workers and the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA). The Central African Armed Forces (FACA) – working closely with Russian bilateral forces, including mercenary fighters from the Wagner Group – have responded with counteroffensives, during which the UN has documented evidence of abuses and violations that may amount to war crimes. Ethnic and religious minorities, particularly Fulanis and other Muslims, are being targeted in widespread abuses.
Inter-communal tensions and atrocity risks have also heightened as some armed groups are targeting civilians along ethnic lines. The cross-border flow of foreign fighters, arms and natural resources is contributing to a thriving conflict-economy. Competition for control of profitable minerals has resulted in human rights violations by armed groups and Russian bilateral forces.
Government institutions have cracked down on civil society, journalists and opposition political parties, particularly in the lead up to a controversial constitutional referendum on 30 July 2023. The narrowing of civic space has been marked by intimidation, threats and repressive measures. MINUSCA has recorded hate speech and incitement targeting ethnic and religious communities, migrant workers, particularly transhumance communities, and against dissenting voices.
CAR has a history of widespread impunity that has fueled cycles of conflict and atrocities. Despite ongoing trials at the ICC, the Special Criminal Court for CAR (SCC), the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission (TJRCC) and the government’s special commission of inquiry, accountability remains limited with few alleged perpetrators having been arrested, prosecuted or tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2013.
The Global Centre therefore urges you to include the following recommendations to the Central African Republic during the UPR session on 26 January:
The Global Centre further respectfully encourages you to consider the following advanced questions for the review of the Central African Republic:
Since 2017 – one year before China’s last UPR – the government has severely escalated its long-standing persecution of members of the ethnic Uyghur community, as well as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other majority-Muslim ethnic groups under the guise of combating religious extremism and terrorism. Since then, numerous UN experts have documented the role of the Chinese government in committing serious human rights violations and abuses in the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region(“the Uyghur Region”), including mass arbitrary detentions, forced labor, widespread rape and sexual abuse, torture and ill-treatment, forced abortions and sterilizations, restrictions on religious practice and the destruction of cultural heritage. The imposition of strict control over populations in the Uyghur Region, including through mass surveillance, facilitates ongoing persecution.
In a landmark report released on 31 August 2022, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) determined that the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other majority-Muslim ethnic groups may constitute crimes against humanity, and that conditions remain in place for serious human rights violations to continue. In July 2022 the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery also warned that some instances of forced labor of Uyghurs and other ethnic communities may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity, meriting further independent analysis. In light of ongoing atrocity crimes, in November 2022 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted a decision under its “early warning and urgent action procedure” and referred the situation in the Uyghur Region to the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. China has responded to intensifying international scrutiny by engaging in systematic reprisals against human rights defenders cooperating with the UN system.
The Chinese government also appears to be intentionally perpetrating at least three other acts prohibited under the Genocide Convention, including causing serious bodily and mental harm; inflicting living conditions that are intended to bring about the group’s destruction; and forcibly transferring Uyghur children to state-run orphanages and boarding schools. The Chinese government’s systematic destruction of cultural heritage aims to erase the history and identity of Uyghurs and other groups, providing further evidence of possible genocide.
In the absence of formally mandated discussions on China’s human rights record at the HRC, China’s upcoming UPR review provides a timely and important opportunity to further international attention and discuss necessary action to prevent further crimes against humanity. The Global Centre therefore urges you to include the following recommendations to China during the UPR session on 23 January:
The Global Centre further respectfully encourages you to consider the following advanced questions for the review of China:
For further assessment of the situation in China, see the Global Centre’s submission from July 2023.
Populations in Nigeria are at risk of atrocity crimes as a result of multiple security threats. Recurrent violence between herding and farming communities, rooted in competition over scarce resources, has escalated in central and north-west Nigeria since 2021. Largely in response to these growing tensions, armed groups and gangs, including so-called “bandits,” have formed and perpetrated widespread abuses, including organized cattle-rustling, kidnapping, plunder, murder and rape. Intensified military operations by the government in attempts to curb the activities of armed bandits has killed hundreds of civilians since 2021.
Violence perpetrated by armed extremist groups, namely Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), against civilian and military targets has also resulted in mass atrocities in northern Nigeria – with more than 35,000 people killed since 2009. Their tactics include killings, suicide bombings, abductions, torture, rape, forced marriages and the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as attacks that are directed against government infrastructure, traditional and religious leaders and civilians. During counterterrorism operations, Nigerian security forces have reportedly committed human rights violations and used excessive force, including extrajudicial killings, rape, torture and arbitrary detentions against suspected Boko Haram and ISWA members, as well as civilians.
The Global Centre therefore urges you to include the following recommendations to Nigeria during the UPR session on 23 January:
The Global Centre further respectfully encourages you to consider the following advanced questions for the review of Nigeria:
Since 2015 a Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE)-led international coalition has perpetrated indiscriminate and unlawful attacks against civilians in Yemen in violation of IHL. Coalition airstrikes have hit residential neighborhoods, critical civilian infrastructure and detention facilities. More than 19,200 civilians, including over 2,300 children, have been killed or maimed as a result of these airstrikes alone. The HRC-mandated Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) on Yemen documented that Saudi Arabia’s pattern of indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling may amount to war crimes. The Saudi/UAE-led coalition has also blocked access to critical humanitarian aid, despite Yemen enduring one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, with more than 23.4 million people in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance.
In October 2021 Saudi Arabia imposed significant diplomatic and political pressure on UN member state to halt the renewal of the mandate of the GEE – the only international independent mechanism dedicated to monitoring international law violations in Yemen. Consequently, civilians in Yemen suffered from a dramatic escalation in armed hostilities and indiscriminate bombing, with the Saudi/UAE-led coalition carrying out over 200 air raids per month between October and April 2022. More than 2,050 civilians were killed or injured during this period, including over 471 as a result of coalition airstrikes.
Although there has not been a significant escalation in hostilities and no airstrikes have occurred since the start of a truce brokered by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen in April 2022, there have been no credible investigations into allegations of international law violations. There have also been no meaningful steps taken towards ensuring justice and reconciliation, including redress and reparations, for victims of likely war crimes in Yemen.
The Global Centre therefore urges you to include the following recommendations to Saudi Arabia during the UPR session on 22 January:
The Global Centre further respectfully encourages you to consider the following advanced question for the review of Saudi Arabia: