Tag Archive | "rebels"

A march for those enslaved by Mexico’s drug cartels.

Critical Analysis: Colombia’s FARC Admits That Its Role in the Civil War “Affected Citizens”

November 15, 2014

Colombia’s largest rebel group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), recently acknowledged that its actions have affected citizens in the nearly 50 years of internal conflict.  This is the first admission of this kind by FARC.  Going further, Farc has stated that its rebels are ready to take responsibility for their actions during the 50 years of conflict in Colombia.

FARC joined negotiations in Cuba with the Colombian government in November 2013.  The purpose of the talks has been to get FARC to sign an agreement in which it renounces its armed struggle in order to join the legal political process and stop the internal conflict, and to provide for victim reparations.  However, as a part of working towards an agreement on disarmament and the eventual implementation of a peace deal, FARC is expected to seek an amnesty agreement.

A march for those enslaved by Mexico’s drug cartels.

A march for those enslaved by Mexico’s drug cartels.
Photo Credit: CM Keiner/Flickr, at http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/farc-victims-seek-truth-peace-talks/story?id=17593438

Several important questions emerge from FARC’s admission.  First, what type of reparations are appropriate, when family members are still searching for over 400 victims who were kidnapped by FARC and went missing between 2002 and 2011? Second, should FARC members receive amnesty, or is that in conflict with the notion of FARC taking responsibility for their role in the violence?

In order to determine what type of victim reparations are appropriate, it is important to understand the nature of the conflict. The conflict in Colombia has claimed around 250,000 lives and displaced over 5 million people.  The majority of killings were carried out by the Colombian army, police, and state-linked right-wing paramilitary groups, including FARC.

Between 2002 and 2011, it is alleged that rebels kidnapped 2,678 civilians, and that more than 400 of these victims are still in captivity or have gone missing.   Members of victims’ associations such as Los Que Faltan, or “Those Who are Missing,” state that they are not opposed to the peace process, and support it, as long as there is transparency with what has happened to the victims. Other victims rights groups have stated that they do not want peace talks to advance unless FARC is willing to provide answers to the families of those victims that have been kidnapped or disappeared.  During the peace talks, FARC commanders have stated that the rebels no longer hold any captives.  This leaves family members of missing victims with little in the way of hope of finding their loved ones.  Farc has also threatened throughout this process that without government concessions, peace talks will fail.  The group states that unless the government is willing to guarantee the rights and security of the opposition and cease killing guerrilla commanders in the field, the peace talks will not succeed. Thus, FARC has provided few answers to the families of victims, and has only demonstrated willingness to take responsibility to the extent that members receive amnesty for their actions.

Parties involved in the talks have argued that in order to truly find a solution, it must address the roots of conflict.  Integral in this process would be acknowledgement of the violence caused by FARC, for FARC to provide answers to the many families with missing family members and little in the way of answers.  It is unlikely that the peace process will be successful, or that victims and their families will accept any sort of reparations without getting the answers that they are looking for.  It remains to be seen whether FARC’s admissions and willingness to take responsibility will include providing victims and their families with meaningful reparations and the answers they have been searching for.

With regard to the issue of amnesty, the same perpetrators that have been responsible for large-scale human rights abuses, which have continued and in some cases increased despite the peace process, are now seeking integration into the Colombian political process. Providing amnesty to these perpetrators of violence and integrating them into the legal and political process would send the wrong message to victims, delay the peace process, and could potentially result in violence.  When FARC last attempted to take part in electoral politics, several thousand members and elected officials were murdered. Even if FARC agrees to victim reparations, it is unlikely that the integration of these perpetrators into the political process will be welcomed by victims and their families, and even less likely that they will support the continuation of peace talks.

The question remains what recourse victims will have if FARC opts not to provide victims and their families with the information they are seeking regarding the whereabouts of missing persons.  FARC negotiator Jesus Santrich stated that any punitive measures would have to be taken by an independent tribunal, not the state or its “corrupt and venal judiciary.”  If the Colombian government agrees to amnesty or refuses to prosecute for crimes committed by FARC member over the 50 years of violence, members of the international community may call for an independent tribunal to investigate crimes committed by FARC members.

 

Emily Boehme is a 2L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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M23 rebels have claimed control of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. (DW)

Critical Analysis: Conflict Between M23 Rebels and the Congolese Army in Goma – How Must the International Community Respond?

M23 rebels have claimed control of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. (DW)

M23 rebels have claimed control of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. (DW)

Congo’s M23 rebels, a group comprised mostly of Tutsi defectors from the Congolese army, launched an uprising in Congo in the spring of 2012.  They have since been advancing in eastern Congo against the weak Congolese army.  On November 20th, the rebels invaded Goma, an eastern border city that had been thought a safe haven for refugees prior to the invasion.  Although the rebels reportedly left the city ten days later under international pressure, it is widely believed they are still present, hiding in civilian clothing.  Now residents of Goma, including already displaced refugees, are caught between the rebels and Congolese army forces.  No shots have been fired over the last two weeks, but anticipation of violence looms.

The presence of both M23 and government soldiers in Goma places most city residents in a near impossible situation.  According to UNICEF, “more than 130,000 people have been displaced in and around Goma [since the 19th of November] and are currently living either with host families or in camps and spontaneous sites, or in public buildings.”  Many of these people arrived in Goma to flee M23, while others arrived fleeing the Congolese army.  Now, rebels and soldiers alike are stealing water and supplies donated for humanitarian needs, “many schools have been looted, destroyed or occupied by internally displaced persons or armed forces,” and there are gruesome reports of soldiers kidnapping and raping local women.

The stated purpose of M23 is not entirely clear. Some claim the rebels initially left the Congolese army because they were mistreated, not paid, and going hungry.  Others believe their revolt stemmed from Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s threat in January to submit M23’s leader, General Bosco Ntaganda, to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.  While three suspected warlords in Congo are currently being tried by the ICC, General Ntaganda remains a leader of M23 and outside ICC custody.  Now, M23 and the Congolese government are in negotiations, with the reported goal of developing a power-sharing deal over Goma. The deal remains uncertain, however, because “M23 insists on administrative control of Goma . . . [while the] Congolese government refuses.”  This has led many refugees to seek help from the international community.

International humanitarian aid has been coming to Congo, and Goma in particular, from international NGO’s and organizations.  “In November 2012, UNICEF and its NGO partners Norwegian Refugee Council and Solidarité International supplied over 20,000 displaced households with 15 tonnes of soap and with 10-litre jerry cans in an effort to reduce the spread of water-borne diseases, including cholera. The World Food Programme provided a three-day ration of food to each household.”  UNICEF is also mobilizing funds to allow refugee children the opportunity to continue their education.

As for the United Nations, UN forces patrol camps in Goma. However, the UN presence has thus far been ineffective; as evidenced by their failure to defend the city during the rebels’ November invasion. The United Nations did impose new sanctions on M23 leaders on December 31st that will freeze their assets and bar them from travel, but the effects of such sanctions have yet to be determined.

The events in Goma do not raise the question of whether the international community should act to protect the residents – the United Nations’ “responsibility to protect” initiative established in 2005 was partly set forth to prevent the type of war crimes and crimes against humanity that are currently taking place in the Congo.  Rather, the question is exactly what actions the international community, by way of the United Nations, can and should take. Thus far, military intervention has arguably been ineffective. The possibility of now allowing the people of Goma to be governed under power shared by these two factions seems irresponsible at best, and more likely reprehensible.

Frank Lawson is a 4LE and Board Member on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

 

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Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons, close to a military base, near Azaz, Syria. (Fox News)

Critical Analysis: U.S. Formally Recognizes Syria’s Main Rebel Group

Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons, close to a military base, near Azaz, Syria. (Fox News)

Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons, close to a military base, near Azaz, Syria. (Fox News)

On Tuesday, President Obama announced that the newly formed Syrian Opposition Council is the only “legitimate representative” of its country’s people.  This was a big step as the international community has increased its efforts to end Syrian President Bashar Assad’s reign.  By recognizing the Syrian Opposition Council, the U.S. joins Britain, France, and other Arab allies to recognize the Syrian rebel group.  The U.S.’ recognition comes as the Syrian government appears to have backed off using chemical weapons against rebel forces and after it was reported in the U.S. last week that the Syrian government might do so.  With this upgraded status, the Syrian Opposition Council will now receive more humanitarian and non-lethal aid from the U.S.  The U.S. may add military support for the rebel group too.  President Obama commented how the recognition comes with responsibilities and that the Syrian Opposition Council must “organize themselves effectively” and make sure “that they are representative of all the parties” including women and minority groups.

Another cautious element to recognizing the rebel group is the link between many who oppose the Assad regime and al Qaeda in Iraq.  For the first time on Tuesday, the Obama administration recognized an al Qaeda terrorist organization, Jabhat al-Nursa, as being directly tied to a powerful Syrian rebel group.  The U.S. sanctioned the terrorist group, freezing any assets it may have in the U.S. and preventing Americans from conducting business with it, out of fear that the group is becoming stronger than other rebel groups and could potentially overtake Assad’s regime in Syria.  The U.S. Treasury also publicly identified two Jabhat leaders by name for the first time on Tuesday, sanctioning them for their ties to al Qaeda.

The U.S.’s recognition of the Syrian Opposition Council comes a day before an international conference in Morocco.  The focus of the conference is to bring together 80 nations to support Syrian opposition groups.  While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was expected to attend the conference, she has since canceled her trip due to illness.   Deputy Secretary of State William Burns will attend in her place.

Some critics have argued that the U.S.’s formal recognition of the Syrian rebel groups may be too little too late.  For instance, the recognition does nothing to change the military equation inside Syria.  President Obama’s move also does not give the opposition the legal authority of a state—the rebel forces may not have access to Syrian government money, take over the Syrian embassies globally, or enter into binding diplomatic commitments.   While the fighting inside Syria has intensified, it is unclear how this formal recognition will influence the Syrian Civil War.  What is known is that the U.S.’s formal recognition of the Syrian Opposition Council is meant as a “political shot in the arm for the opposition.”  More will soon be evident as the international conference takes place in Morocco later this week and as the fighting intensifies with each passing day.  Reports indicate that over 40,000 people have died since fighting began back in March 2011.

Dan Warhola is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Executive Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

 

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A mortar attack in Akcakale, Turkey, on the border with Syria, killed a woman, her three children and a relative. (NY Times)

Critical Analysis: The Role of the United States in Syria

A mortar attack in Akcakale, Turkey, on the border with Syria, killed a woman, her three children and a relative. (NY Times)

The Syrian crisis is a hot topic in the U.S. Presidential election.  Republican candidate Mitt Romney has criticized President Barack Obama’s policies in Syria and suggested that the United States should take a tougher stance on ensuring rebels receive the assistance they need.  So far, the Obama administration has limited its assistance to “non-lethal support,” such as providing communications equipment.  Amidst growing fears that the Syrian government’s crackdown on rebels may spark a regional war between Syria and Turkey, questions are rife in the U.S. political sector as to what role the United States should take in this conflict.

On Wednesday, October 3, the Syrian government shelled Akcakale, a Turkish town on the border of Syria and Turkey, resulting in five deaths.  The victims were all civilian women and children.  Turkey retaliated for two consecutive days, shelling a Syrian military position, and authorizing its troops to move beyond its borders.  The U.N. Security Council condemned Syria for the attack, and urged both countries to exercise restraint.  The Council President, Gert Rosenthal, the ambassador from Guatemala, stated “the members of the council demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated.”  The relationship between Turkey and Syria began deteriorating when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began cracking down on Syrian protestors, which sparked an 18-month civil war between the government and rebels fighting to oust the Syrian President.  Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations stated that Syria does not seek to fight with Turkey, however, the ambassador called on Turkey to cease allowing armed Syrian rebels to cross the border, as well as to cease allowing media coverage for opposition groups operating from Turkey.

Syria has not confirmed whether the incident in Turkey was a mistake or intentional, but one possible motive behind the shootings is that rebels have allegedly been using Turkey as a safe haven to regroup and rearm.  The rebels are “severely outmatched” and are improvising weaponry, such as taking guns off of Syrian tanks that they have commandeered and mounting them on civilian automobiles.  The increase in improvised weapons is an indication that, without outside assistance, the rebels may be unable to maintain adequate weapons and ammunition.

The Syrian government, on the other hand, has continued to receive arms shipments from Russia, despite calls to from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many others in the international community to stop the shipments.  However, the Russian state-controlled arms dealer, Rosoboronexport, stated, “No one can ever accuse Russia of violating the rules of armaments trade set by the international community.”  The dealer further stated that while it continues to supply Syria with mobile gun and missile air defense systems, the contract was signed “long ago,” and the armaments that it supplies to Syria are defensive arms, not attack weapons.

Additionally, Syria continues to receive small arms, infantry weapons, and personnel from Iran, using Iraqi airspace.  In a televised interview between al-Assad and Iran’s intelligence chief, Saeed Jalili, Jalili stated that the situation in Syria “is not an internal issue but a conflict between the axis of resistance on one hand and regional and global enemies of this axis on the other.”  During the same interview, al-Assad stated that it was “unacceptable” that some countries were “supporting terrorism” by arming the rebels in Syria.

If the United States does take a tougher stance on Syria and ensures that the rebels are armed, the implications could be far-reaching.  Iran could interpret U.S. assistance in arming the rebels as U.S. assistance in backing terrorism in Syria, thereby inviting terrorism in return.  Additionally, the possibility still exists that the United States, in arming Syrian rebels, may be arming those who may be terrorists in the future, as happened in Afghanistan.  Given the candidates’ differing stances, the result of upcoming U.S. Presidential election may alter the fate of Syria and the region.

Lisa Browning is a 2LE at the University of Denver School of Law and a Staff Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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