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UN Experts Call for More US Transparency on Drones (AP, 26 October 2013)

Ben Emmerson and Christof Heyns, who presented two reports on drones at the United Nations in late October called for more transparency from the United States and other countries about their drone strikes program, saying their secrecy is the biggest obstacle to determining the impact pact on civilian casualties. They also called on other countries to speak up about when deadly drone strikes are acceptable. They said the lack of consensus risks creating anarchy as more countries acquire the technology. Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, noted that the U.S. has justified some drone strikes against terrorist targets in other countries by arguing that it is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaida with no boundaries. He said other countries disagree with that analysis but few have spelled out their own positions.

 
Ban Ki-moon offers to help Pak-India dialogue (The News, 27 October 2013)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has stated he welcomes the talks between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan and said he would be happy to play a role in facilitating a dialogue between the two sides. Ban also expressed concern about civilian casualties caused by drone strikes and urged countries to abide by international humanitarian law.

 
White House in first detailed comments on drone strikes (BBC News, 30 April 2012)

In a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Assistant to the President, John Brennan said the drone strikes were helping to win the war on the militant network. For the first time since America's war on the organisation began, Brennan said it was possible to envision a world in which the core of al-Qaeda was no longer relevant. He added that drone strikes usually took place with the co-operation of the host government, in "full accordance with the law". Such strikes are thought to have killed hundreds of militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. But Brennan also conceded that there had been civilian deaths as a result of some strikes.

 
USA urged to clarify basis for drone killings in Pakistan (Amnesty.org, 31 January 2012)
The USA must disclose details of the legal and factual basis for the lethal use of drones in Pakistan, Amnesty International said today, after US President Barack Obama confirmed that the unmanned aircraft are used to target suspected militants in the country's tribal areas. Obama made the rare public acknowledgment on 30 January. "The US authorities must give a detailed explanation of how these strikes are lawful and what is being done to monitor civilian casualties and ensure proper accountability, said Sam Zarifi Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. Past justifications offered by US officials have invoked legal theories based on a “global war” between the USA and al-Qa’ida, a concept not recognized by international humanitarian or human rights law. US Attorney General Eric Holder will reportedly reference US legal arguments in support of such killings by drone attacks in a speech on national security in the coming weeks.

 
Security Council urges permanent ceasefire after recent Thai-Cambodia clashes (UN News, 14 Feb 2011)

Voicing grave concern about the recent armed clashes between Cambodia and Thailand, the Security Council has urged the two neighbours to establish a permanent ceasefire following closed-door talks on the situation. “The members of the Security Council called on the two sides to display maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation,” Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, which holds the monthly presidency of the 15-member body for February, said in a statement read out to the press after the meeting. “The members of the Security Council further urged the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue,” the statement added. 
After the Informal Meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Jakarta on 22 Feb, it was agreed that Indonesia observers would be assigned to the Cambodia-Thailand border.

 
Don’t Forget People Displaced by Conflict in Southern Philippines – Report (International Displacement Monitoring Centre, 9 October 2009)

A new report by the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) highlights the drastic plight of people displaced by internal armed conflict in Mindanao. It states that the renewed fighting between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces in August 2008 caused almost a million people to be forced from their homes. Over a year later, between 330,000 and 400,000 people remain displaced and most of these internally displaced people (IDPs) are concentrated in Mindanao’s majority-Muslim provinces, in particular Maguindanao.

See the report – Cycle of conflict and Neglect: Mindanao’s displacement and protection crisishere.

 
UN Urges Sri Lankan Rebels to Allow Free Movement of Civilians (Xinhua, 19 February 2009)

The international law of armed conflicts mandates that civilian protection is a priority. However, repeated calls by the UN for the safety of civilians continue to be ignored. While some 35,000 civilians in Wanni have purportedly moved to government-controlled “safe zones”, at least 70,000 more people are still trapped in the hostilities.

 
U.N. Staff and Hospital Under Fire in Sri Lanka (NY Times, 27 January 2009)

In the escalating conflict between government forces and the rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, the 11th UN convoy delivering humanitarian aid to displaced communities in Wanni was denied safe passage by the latter. The UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Colombo responded with a strong message calling for the LTTE to uphold international humanitarian law and allow free movement of UN staff and dependents in the area.

However, UN personnel are apparently unsafe from the national army as well. The staff and their families have been recently bombarded with shells from the government forces in a no-fire zone – allegedly in response to an LTTE shell. A UN official said that both sides were flouting humanitarian law by carrying out hostilities where civilians were taking shelter. As a result, many civilians were being killed or injured.

 
Kidnappers Don't Respect Neutral Groups, says Military Chief (ABS-CBN, 21 January 2009)

Philippines Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Alexander Yano has cautioned that the militant separatist group, Abu Sayyaf, does not respect international law or neutrality. Members of neutral groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) need to have military protection during their missions. Gen. Yano has also stated that foreign military forces will not be permitted to join Philippine troops in conducting search and rescue operations of the 3 ICRC staff - Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugene Vagni, and Flipina Marie Jean Lacaba – abducted in Sulu province last week.

 
China Issues Warning Over US-S. Korea-Japan Talks (AFP, 3 December 2010)

China has warned the US, Japan and South Korea not to "intensify confrontation" at their meeting next week in Washington. The three countries are already carrying out major naval drills in a show of force against North Korea which had earlier launched a deadly artillery attack on South Korea and boasted about a new uranium reprocessing plant. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that China intended to keep a close watch on the Washington discussion after US, Japan and South Korea rejected China’s proposal for six party talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US. US Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that China needed to "step up" pressure on North Korea and that its call for the six-nation talks "will not substitute for action".

 
The Role of States in Prosecuting Violations of International Humanitarian Law (ICRC, 26 October 2010)

The Third Universal Meeting of National Committees for the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law in Geneva from 27-29 October has two main goals in clarifying the role of States in prosecuting war crimes. The first is to bring together all national committees to promote discussion and the sharing of experiences and best practice. The second is to strengthen the role of the national committees in implementing international humanitarian law domestically, especially as far as criminal punishment is concerned. Cristina Pellandini, head of the ICRC's Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law, stated that the necessary first step toward fulfilling the obligation to prosecute and punish serious violations is to enact national legislation penalizing the conduct prohibited under international humanitarian law. Any process incorporating criminal offences into domestic law should grant domestic courts jurisdiction over the crimes.

 
'State-sabotage' Behind Iran Virus (Al Jazeera, 26 September 2010)

The recent cyber-attack by a spay worm called "Stuxnet" on Iran’s nuclear power plant in Bushehr has prompted speculation that it was a sabotage attempt by an “enemy state”. Western cyber security experts have said that the attack was likely to have had “nation-state support” and a senior staff member of the information technology (IT) security firm Symantec has said that sixty percent of the computers worldwide infected by the Stuxnet worm are in Iran. The Stuxnet virus targets industrial controls equipment such as power plants, dams, and waste processing systems.

"The Stuxnet spy worm has been created in line with the West's electronic warfare against Iran," the Iran Daily quoted Mahmoud Liayi, Secretary of the Information Technology Council of the Industries Ministry. Nonetheless, while the authorities have identified some 30,000 Internet providers as being infected by the Stuxnet worm, Reza Taqipour, Iran's Telecommunications Minister, has said that the worm had not been able to "penetrate or cause serious damage to government systems” and that the nuclear power plant’s computer system remained unaffected.

Please click here for more about the Stuxnet virus and how IT engineers are combating it.

 
UN "Disappointed" at Israeli Settlement Activity (AP, 28 September 2010)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced disappointment at Israel’s move to not extend the moratorium on the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, and expressed concern over provocative actions taking place on the ground. He recalled last week’s statement by the Middle East Quartet – the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States – which he said reflected the united call of the international community urging Israel to extend the settlement restraint policy. Ban reiterated that settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. He urged Israel to fulfil its obligation under the Roadmap obligation to freeze settlement activity.

 
Landmark Cluster Bomb Treaty Takes Effect (AFP, 2 August 2010)

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, ratified by 37 countries and signed by 107, has come into effect as of 1 August 2010. The International Committee of the Red Cross president, Jakob Kellenberger, stated, “We hope that the entry into force will also affect the practice of states that have not yet adhered to the treaty.” China, Russia, the United States and Israel are among those that have rejected the treaty. The big military powers that have not signed up are thought to hoard and manufacture the bulk of the munitions, although the data is secret.

 
First Khmer Rouge Sentence (VOA, 3 August 2010)

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC, a United Nations-backed court, found Duch, the former head of the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, guilty of crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and other crimes. The court sentenced Duch to 35 years in prison for overseeing the torture and killing of more than 12,000 people. His prison term was reduced by 5 years to compensate for a period of illegal military detention, and he will receive credit for the 11 years he has already spent in prison from the time of his initial arrest in 1999.

The ECCC is expected to reconvene later this year to start proceedings against other former Khmer Rouge leaders. 4 surviving members of the top Khmer Rouge leadership are accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. These 4 defendants include Ieng Sary, 84, who was foreign minister; his wife Ieng Thirith, 78, who was minister of social welfare; Nuon Chea, 84, known as Brother No. 2; and Khieu Samphan, 78, who served as head of state during the regime. Their trial is scheduled to begin in early 2011. However, it is uncertain if further prosecution will actually occur as the ECCC faces two challenges. The first being a budgetary shortage, and the second, the Cambodian government’s constant opposition to the ECCC.

 
World powers condemn North Korea over warship sinking (Channel News Asia, 20 May 2010)

 Following the investigation report which found conclusively that a North Korean torpedo sank the South Korean naval warship, Cheonan, on 26 March, the international community has strongly denounced North Korea. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has stated that the “United States strongly condemns the act of aggression” that led to the deaths of 46 crew members, and that the “act of aggression is one more instance of North Korea's unacceptable behavior and defiance of international law… [it] constitutes a challenge to international peace and security”. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, “This hostile and unprovoked act represents a flagrant violation by North Korea of the United Nations Charter and the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement.” South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak has vowed “resolute countermeasures” and is currently finalising its sanctions package for North Korea.

 
Gaza fleet raid raises questions over legality of Israel’s blockade (Times, 1 June 2010)

The incident surrounding Mavi Marmara, one of three ships sent by an Islamic aid group from Turkey, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief, onboard which Israeli commandos clashed with the protestors of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza strip has raised an international outcry against Israel’s alleged illegal use of force. The United Nations Security Council has condemned the use of force and the Human Rights Council has voted to despatch an independent, international probe into violations of international law.

 
UN urges end to CIA drone attacks (Al Jazeera, 3 June 2010)

Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, has issued a report which concludes that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) does not provide enough transparency or accountability for the programme on drone strikes, and urges the United States (US) government to put the military in charge of the programme as it is more accountable than the CIA and better trained in the laws of war. Bill Burton, the White House deputy press secretary, has responded to Alston's report by saying that US President Barack Obama is doing "everything that he can to protect Americans [and] to advance [US] strategic interests". The CIA has also refuted Alston’s report, saying that all its actions are “within a framework of law and close government oversight”.

 
UN welcomes Afghanistan's commitment to protect children from conflict (UN News Centre, 2 May 2010)

Afghanistan's Government has made important commitments to protect children from the impact of armed conflict, according to a new United Nations report by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. She has also welcomed the appointment a high-level official in the Afghan Foreign Ministry to follow up on all Government commitments and to coordinate efforts to protect children, including the prevention of child recruitment into the armed forces and police and to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

 
Legality and Action Needed on US Drone Attacks in Pakistan (OEN, 2 April 2010)

During his address at the American Society of International Law Annual Meeting in March, Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the Obama administration, spoke on the legality of the use of force by the United States (US), stating that “that US targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war”. Subsequently, Philip Alston, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and professor of law at New York University, commented on Koh’s statement in a public interview. Alston stated that while it was good that Koh addressed the controversial issue, the US needed to show more evidence that it was considering international law seriously in its use of drones in warfare – such as the principles of distinction and proportionality – through greater disclosure of how targeted killings are implemented, what the rules guiding drone warfare are, and the degree of follow-up to measure the targeted and collateral damage.

 
 
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