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6 February 2015
News from HART:
- On Friday, HART published a visit report detailing the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in Sudan and South Sudan.
- 2,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving villages empty and schools closed due to fighting and the use of helicopters and a fighter jet plane by the Burmese military which took place on the 2nd and 3rd of February. The attacks came just a few days before students were due to sit promotional exams.
- Rohingya organisations have published a press release condemning the destruction of a 16 metre cross by the Chin State Authorities. The cross, which was built by local Christians, has been demolished and a local elder is being charged for his involvement in the building. The Rohingya organisations have condemned this breach of religious freedom and stated; ‘As Rohingya we may face some of the most severe persecution, but we stand in solidarity and support with people of all ethnicities and all religions who are also being targeted and discriminated against by the Burmese government.’
- In what is clearly another attempt by the Burmese Government to cover up human rights abuse, the Burma Ministry of Foreign Affairs has criticised a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, saying that it infringed on state sovereignty and exacerbated tensions. The Special Rapporteur has defended her right to freedom of speech and justified the criticisms.
- Free Burma Rangers have released a report documenting the torture and killing of seven villagers by the Burma Army in two villages in Kachin State. Two people killed were disabled and did not run with the rest of their villages when the Burma Army attacked. The report includes examinations of bodies found, the story of a survivor, and pleas from families for the perpetrators to be found and punished; over 1 year since the attacks, no one has yet been brought to justice.
- In its World Report 2015, Human Rights Watch stated that Burma’s Human Rights situation is in decline as the situation in Burma in 2014 was described as a “car crash” by Brad Adams,Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
- Student protests against the controversial new National Education Law are ongoing. The law is being accused of centralising government control over education whilst not allowing the formation of student unions. Planned talks with student protesters were ‘postponed’ last minute leading to new rounds of protests.
- Russia has voiced concern about the ‘serious deterioration of the situation in Nagorno-Karabkah’ urging both parties to take steps to reduce tension and avoid escalation.
- Clashes between the Karabakh and Azeri forces along the border of Nagorno-Karabakh are continuing. According to ArmenPress, Azerbaijani forces violated the ceasefire over 500 times between the 31st January and 1st February with over 10,000 shots fired in the direction of the Armenian military positions, using different calibre weapons and grenade launchers.
- A photo exhibition ‘Nagorno-Karabakh: The land that the world has forgotten’ has opened in the Czech Republic, featuring pictures by Czech photographer Ladislav Vetvicka.
- Karabakh police resorted to violence to stop a rally of around 40 cars entering the region near Berdzor in a protest held by an organisation called ‘Founding Parliament’. The President of Karabakh has since called for an inquiry into the incident.
- Electoral violence in Nigeria as bomb blast killed 2 and injured 18 in Gombe States on Monday
- “For the second time in two days, the Boko Haram insurgents suffered a crushing defeat on Monday when members of the terrorist group were routed by the Nigerian military, as they attempted to overrun Tungushe, a strategic town in Konduga Local Government Area near Maiduguri, the Borno State capital” This Day Live reported on Tuesday, 3rd February. Reports began coming through of fresh attacks on Maiduguri by Boko Haram on Sunday, 1st
- The UN Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the continued escalation of attacks by Boko Haram and praised the Chadian army’s response in the town of Gambaru “in a bid to break the Islamist insurgents’ grip on the town bordering Cameroon”. The UN Security Council also urged for an enhanced regional military coordination to effectively combat Boko Haram. Meanwhile, France has also entered the campaign by conducting reconnaissance flights along the borders of Niger and Chad.
- Growing concerns over widespread electoral violence continues trending across media outlets. Fears of credibility over the polls have also been cited as “opinion is sharply divided between those who see more danger to the integrity of the polls in disenfranchising a third of the electorate than there is to a postponement”. Postponement on the other hand, may benefit Boko Haram more than democracy.
- UNICEF have warned of potentially catastrophic food shortages in South Sudan if the conflict continues. At least 229,000 children are estimated to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition in South Sudan – a number that has doubled since the start of the conflict just over a year ago.
- The EU has called for the release of a report by the AU Commission of Inquiry on atrocities and crimes committed in South Sudan. The AU has delayed the publication of the report, but the EU “believes that the publication of the Commission of Inquiry’s findings and its recommendations on accountability are necessary to ensure that such violence against civilians cannot be undertaken with impunity”.
- Three Al-Jazeera journalists have just visited South Kordofan. They have written about the recent spike in attacks, and civilian casualties (particularly of children) resulting from aerial bombardment and artillery shelling. At least 10,000 people have been displaced by violence in the last few weeks alone.
- Sudan Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti attended the US National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Mr Karti was previously head of the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), the militia responsible for brutal attacks on civilians across Sudan. He represents a regime which continues to systematically and brutally attack civilians, particularly in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. A statement from HART and Baroness Cox on his invitation to the National Prayer Breakfast can be read here.
- Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, the guerrilla leader who helped end Indonesian rule in 2002, is meeting the president this week to discuss a possiblegovernment restructuring, sending perhaps the strongest signal yet that the 68 year old wants to step down and let a younger generation take over.
- A body believed to be that of the wanted deputy leader of the LRA,Okot Odhiambo, has allegedly been found earlier this week. DNA tests are being carried out, although their release date, alongside the location of the grave, remain classified information by the Ugandan army.
- Ugandan troops areto continue protecting South Sudan leader, President Salva Kiir, after an agreement was signed between the two countries to extend Uganda’s military presence in the violence – prone region for four more months. Based mostly in the capital, Juba, the Ugandan military has been fighting alongside pro – Kiir factions to put down a rebellion led by former Vice President Machar.
- It has also been announced that two battalions are to be deployed in Nigeria tofight against Boko Haram, permitting clearance from the African Union. This comes a week after leaders at the AU summit in Addis Ababa agreed to send7,500 troops to combat Boko Haram insurgents.