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French authorities arrest Roger Lumbala, former militia leader, for crimes against humanity in DR Congo

January 2021

Congolese MP Roger Lumbala has been arrested in France and is under investigation for complicity in crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2002-2003.

The charges relate to his responsibility for a military campaign in Ituri province named Effacer le tableau (‘Erasing the Board’) in which thousands of civilians were tortured and/or killed, including members of the indigenous Bambuti population. Violations including murder, forcible population transfer, torture, rape and persecution were documented by an investigative mission in 2004 conducted by Congolese civilian activists coordinated by Minority Rights Group International, Ceasefire’s partner NGO.

The French prosecutor announced on Monday 4 January that Lumbala had been arrested last Tuesday, but charges against him were only confirmed this weekend.

A UN-commissioned ‘Mapping Report’ published in 2010 detailed 617 incidents under the heading of war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law committed in the DRC wars from 1993 – 2003. The charges confirmed against Roger Lumbala mark the first time that any prosecution has been mounted for those crimes since the report’s publication.

‘Lumbala’s arrest is a significant step forward for international justice and a blow against impunity in the DRC’, said Joshua Castellino, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International. ‘The indigenous Bambuti population was targeted in a campaign of extermination for which no-one has yet been held responsible. Crimes of that gravity demand justice.’

Effacer le tableau was a planned, systematic campaign of attack against the civilian population of the DRC’s Ituri province, carried out by two armed opposition groups, the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC) and the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie – National (RCD-N), the latter under the control of Roger Lumbala. From October 2002 until January 2003, the combined militia forces occupied territory in the areas of Epulu, Mambasa, Teturi, Byakato and Erengeti, carrying out a series of atrocities against the Bambuti and other local populations and forcing the displacement of over 100,000. After the signing of Congolese peace accords in 2003, the RCD-N forces were integrated into the Congolese army. Accused of supporting further rebel movements, Lumbala only returned to the DRC from exile in 2017 after another peace accord and was elected a parliamentary deputy.

‘Civilian victims have had to wait over 10 years since the UN Mapping Report catalogued atrocities in the DRC for this first prosecution,’ said Miriam Puttick, Head of Programmes at Ceasefire. ‘For the cause of justice and reconciliation it is vital that other prosecutions now follow.’

A group of over 180 mainly Congolese NGOs, led by Nobel laureate Denis Mukwege, have called for the identities of suspected perpetrators of the crimes in the Mapping Report to be disclosed in order to kickstart the stalled justice process.

Following the landmark Pinochet case 20 years ago, international criminal prosecutions under the principle of universal jurisdiction have gained ground. The trial of Anwar Raslan, a former colonel in Syria’s feared General Intelligence Directorate, is currently taking place in Koblenz in Germany. Other Syrian cases are expected to follow.

Notes for editors

  1. Erasing the Board: Report of the international research mission into crimes under international law committed against the Bambuti Pygmies in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is available in English and French here: https://searchlibrary.ohchr.org/record/3176?ln=en
  2. The UN ‘Mapping Report’, Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003, is available here: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/CD/DRC_MAPPING_REPORT_FINAL_EN.pdf
  • Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. It works with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
  • The Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights is an international initiative to develop civilian-led monitoring of violations of international humanitarian law or human rights in armed conflict, to pursue legal and political accountability for those responsible for such violations, and to develop the practice of civilian rights. www.ceasefire.org

For more information or to arrange interviews email press@mrgmail.org or contact@ceasefire.org

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Turkey orchestrating destruction, demographic change in northern Syria – new report

July 2020

Turkey’s occupation of Afrin in northwestern Syria is causing permanent changes to the demographic character of the area, according to a new report by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and YASA e.V. – Kurdish Centre for Studies & Legal Consultancy.

The report, entitled Cultivating Chaos: Afrin after Operation Olive Branch, is based on more than 120 interviews conducted with individuals from Afrin since the area fell under Turkish control over two years ago, documenting violations including killings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, pillage, and attacks on livelihoods.

Turkey’s military advance into the area, code-named Operation Olive Branch, culminated in the capture of Afrin city on 18 March 2018 and caused the mass displacement of its Kurdish-majority population.

The invasion was spearheaded by Turkish armed forces, bolstered by tens of thousands of Arab and Turkmen fighters organized under the umbrella of the Syrian National Army (SNA). Despite their name, the factions take direct orders from Turkey, which also trains them and pays their salaries, according to the report.

Since the invasion, Turkey has handed direct control of Afrin’s districts and villages to the factions. The consequences for the local population have been disastrous.

‘Civilians who remain in occupied Afrin live in constant fear of the factions,’ says Miriam Puttick, Head of Middle East and North Africa Programmes at Ceasefire. ‘They know that they can be accused of collaboration with Kurdish parties, detained, tortured, or even killed at any time.’

The presence of the factions is continuing to drive displacement and acts as a barrier to the return of Afrin’s Kurdish-majority population, the report finds. Meanwhile, thousands of families from other parts of Syria have been resettled into empty houses belonging to local residents.

These processes, far from being a secondary effect of the military operation, appear to have been one of its central goals, the report argues.

‘The existence of the Kurds in Afrin is in serious danger,’ says Jian Badrakhan, Legal Consultant at YASA. ‘From over 95% at the Turkish occupation, they are estimated to be under 40% now.’

Turkish authorities appear to be permanently cementing these changes through the introduction of a new identification card system that obscures civil registry data pertaining to family origins, making it impossible to distinguish between local residents, internally displaced persons and refugees. These developments are jeopardizing the possibility of future processes of return and reconciliation in the area.

Alongside these demographic changes, Turkish forces and allied fighters have also carried out widespread attacks on the region’s religious and cultural landscape. These have included numerous instances of damage or destruction of Kurdish cultural and religious symbols, Alevi and Yazidi shrines, and historical and archaeological sites.

‘Under Turkish occupation, Afrin’s history and culture is being erased,’ adds Badrakhan. ‘The very peaceful coexistence of different religious groups in Afrin is almost destroyed.’

Note for editors:

Cultivating Chaos: Afrin after Operation Olive Branch is published by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and YASA e.V. – Kurdish Centre for Studies & Legal Consultancy on 28 July 2020. This report was written on the basis of 120 interviews carried out with individuals from Afrin between November 2018 and February 2020, which were documented using the Ceasefire-MENA online reporting tool.

For further information or to arrange interviews, e-mail: contact@ceasefire.org

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In the name of national security, Iranians pay a heavy price – new report

June 2020

Measures taken in the name of national security and combating terrorism have led to grave and widespread violations of human rights in Iran, according to a new report published jointly by Minority Rights Group International and the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights.

Read the report here: In the Name of Security: Human Rights Violations under Iran’s National Security Laws (in English) and in Farsi.

In the Name of Security: Human rights violations under Iran’s national security laws details how Iranian authorities have imprisoned, tortured and killed their own citizens in pursuit of a national security imperative that has dominated public life in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Those targeted for the worst treatment include political dissidents, ethnic and religious minorities, dual nationals, and migrants.

‘Iran’s securitised worldview sees all political challenge as an existential threat,’ says Drewery Dyke, the report author. ‘This has led to unfettered and illegal killings during recent state-wide protests over the dire economic situation and botched efforts to deal with Covid19 effectively.’

The report finds that the threat posed by COVID-19 was treated by the Iranian authorities not just as a public health challenge but also as a national security issue, with state media reporting that the virus could be a US-manufactured ‘bioweapon.’ The security services detained thousands of people for challenging the government’s narrative of its handling of the virus, including over social media.

The dominance of the national security narrative in Iran has led to the growth in power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which plays a decisive role in the intimidation and prosecution of those whom it considers a threat. Its anti-riot units, formed by the paramilitary Basij, are the country’s most important units to suppress public protests and riots.

Its conduct has exacerbated poor relations with minority communities in Kurdistan and Baluchistan, as well as with Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks and Turkmen, all located on Iran’s borders. Minority rights activism in Iran is often falsely and deliberately conflated with separatism and terrorism, the report argues.

The report also reveals the IRGC’s shocking role in trafficking and forcibly recruiting large numbers of Afghan and Pakistani migrants to fight on its behalf in the Syria conflict. While the IRGC promised recruits a good income and the possibility of acquiring Iranian citizenship, many Afghans and Pakistanis died in the fighting and never returned to Iran.

‘The Supreme Leader, government and new parliament must work to end this approach to restore dignity to Iran’s varying ethnolinguistic, religious and other communities that are suffering,’ urges Dyke. ‘The Islamic Republic does face real security threats, but for how long can it continue treating its own people as the enemy?’

Note to editors:

For more information or to arrange interviews: contact@ceasefire.org

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Ceasefire partner addresses UN Security Council on South Sudan peace process

Patrick Gruban / CC BY-SA

23 June 2020   

The head of Ceasefire’s partner organisation in South Sudan presented a joint list of priorities for civilian protection to the United Nations Security Council today.  

Edmund Yakani, head of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO), was invited to address the council remotely from Juba in a session that discussed the peace process in South Sudan by the current French Presidency of the council.  

The list of CEPO and ceasefire’s joint recommendations for civilian protection includes 

  • A proactive approach to early warning that identifies and addresses both the proximate and underlying structural causes of the outbreaks of violence that have blighted South Sudan since the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed in December 2017 
  •  The immediate establishment of the three institutions of transitional justice stipulated in the September 2018 Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, namely the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and the Compensation and Reparation Authority.  
  • The continuing engagement and active support of the international community for South Sudan to deal with the direct and indirect effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. This support should explicitly address wider protection needs and not be focused exclusively on humanitarian issues 

Read CEPO and Ceasefire’s priorities for civilian protection in the South Sudanese conflict here.  

Watch Edmund Yakani’s presentation to the United Nations Security Council here.

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South Sudan: New unity government but worrying levels of violence

February 2020

Although recent developments in South Sudan including the formation of a government of national unity are positive, violence against civilians remains worryingly high and almost four million displaced have been unable to return to their homes.  

Ceasefire’s submission to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan focuses on violence related to cattle-raiding, widespread across much of the country, the role of land as a conflict resource and the consequent forced mass displacement of civilians in the context of the community-based violence that have characterised South Sudan’s civil war.  

The report of the UN Commission, issued ahead of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, expresses concern at the escalating toll of local conflicts across South Sudan, noting an almost 200% increase in civilian casualties between 2018 and 2019.  It accuses both government and opposition forces of deliberately starving civilians as a method of warfare in Western Bahr el Ghazal and Unity States.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan reported 152 incidences of violence which caused 531 deaths and 317 injuries between late February and May 2019.  

The commission reported that the some groups of cattle herders, motivated by local communitarian grievances, were mobilised by military and civil authorities, equipped with light and heavy weaponry and operated like organised militia groups in carrying out attacks.

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Protecting civilians from explosive weapons in urban areas

November 2019

Over 20,000 civilians were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2018, according to the 2019 report of the UN Secretary-General on protection of civilians in armed conflict. The year before, the number of civilians killed or injured by explosive weapons was over twice as great.

Download the full statement here

At the Vienna Conference on Protecting Civilians in Urban Warfare in October 2019, participating states supported the initiative of a political declaration aimed at strengthening protection for civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and a series of international consultations to draft the declaration are currently taking place.

The Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights works directly with civilians affected by conflict, including in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, many of whom have suffered from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Based on this experience, Ceasefire’s guidelines have been drawn up to support the international agreement of a strong political declaration on explosive weapons which will be effective in improving civilian protection.

  1. The political declaration should avoid undercutting or diluting existing legally-binding obligations, or appearing to shift rules from the realm of obligations to that of ‘good practice’. The civilian death toll from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is due first and foremost to a failure to implement existing international law duties, including (but not limited to) those under the Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and customary international law.
  2. The declaration should reiterate that legal limits applicable to military operations include not just international criminal law standards on avoiding war crimes, but also the complete range of legal obligations on the conduct of hostilities, including the duty to take precautions in attack. Parties to conflict often assert that attacks are lawful because they do not intentionally target civilian objects and any expected civilian damage is proportional; however,they frequently violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid or minimise civilian harm and/or deploy unguided bombs or projectiles or other explosive weapons with wide area effect in populated areas whose effect is indiscriminate.
  3. Consideration of the effects of explosive weapons in populated areas should be undertaken in the context of the wider military operation(s) of which they form part. Most civilian deaths and damage to civilian objects in recent conflicts have occurred in the context of sieges, including those in Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta, Raqqa, Mosul, Hodeidah, Taiz, Donetsk and Marawi. Explosive weapons are extensively used to lay and enforce sieges, frequently trapping large numbers of civilians in besieged areas,and in attempts to capture besieged towns and cities.
  4. Assessments of expected civilian deaths or injury or damage to civilian objects should include not just immediate direct effects but also the medium and longer-term effects of explosive remnants of war,and the reverberating effects of damage to vital civilian infrastructure.The standard for including reverberating effects in the assessment should be that they are ‘reasonably foreseeable’.
  5. Operational policies to limit the humanitarian impact of military operations in populated areas should address factors which have led to higher than expected rates of civilian casualties in recent conflicts, including:
    • the conduct of operations in urban localities where civilians are not immediately visible but which are known or suspected to have high population density;
    • rules of engagement and authorization procedures for the deployment of explosive weapons in dynamic targeting;
    • authorization for air support/ airstrikes called in by partner forces on the ground;
    • verification procedures for identification of objects benefitting from special protection, including hospitals, schools, religious institutions and other cultural property.
  6. The declaration should recognise the value of local civic and civil society efforts, including civil defence organisations and those facilitating voluntary movement of displaced persons, and emphasise the need to avoid obstructing, criminalizing or politicising humanitarian action.
  7. The declaration should reiterate that parties to conflict, including but not limited to parties on the ground, have a duty to carry out or otherwise facilitate effective, prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into civilian deaths and award reparation to civilians who have suffered violations.

Where parties to conflict are unable or unwilling to implement the above provisions, there should be a presumption against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Taiz, Yemen ©anasalhajj / shutterstock.com

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Iraq joint statement: Stop the killing of activists

December 2019 update

Civilian activists across cities in central and southern Iraq have been targeted deliberately with live fire, bringing the death toll in the latest protests by early December to over 400, with thousands injured. The killings have been carried out by militia members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and by Iraqi Security Forces, protestors report.

Read the joint appeal issued by CEASEFIRE and 14 other human rights organisations here: Authorities must immediately end the use of lethal force against protestors and stop targeting activists, journalists and the media

Read our October joint letter here: Freedom of speech and assembly under attack in Iraq

‘CEASEFIRE called for effective investigations into a wave of targeted assassinations by alleged PMF members a year ago’, said Executive Director Mark Lattimer. ‘The government’s failure to investigate and prosecute perpetrators means that the militias now feel they can shoot with impunity.’

Read the CEASEFIRE report in English here: Civilian Activists under Threat in Iraq

And in Arabic here نشطاء مدنيون تحت التهديد في العراق

Drawing on thousands of accounts of violations uploaded on CEASEFIRE’s violations reporting platform, the report details a pattern of attacks on civilian activists in 2018 including protestors, journalists and media workers, lawyers, women in public life, and other human rights defenders. In addition to the use of excessive force against protestors on the streets, the report documents a campaign of systematic death threats and premeditated assassinations.

Killings of unarmed protestors continue to be reported by official sources in Iraq as being carried out by ‘unknown assailants’. PMF militias aligned with Iran have, however, made little secret of their willingness to use force to end the protests.

Created in 2014 as an umbrella for militias fighting ISIS, the Hashd al-Sha’abi or Popular Mobilization Forces are now believed to number over 100,000 fighters. They include powerful militias supported by Iran such as the Badr Organisation, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. They were given official status by former prime minister Haider al-Abadi and now operate with the authority of the Iraqi state.

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Beyond the Veil: Women in Iran continue to face discrimination

September 2019

PDF: Beyond the Veil: Discrimination Against Women in Iran in ENGLISH and PERSIAN

The human rights environment for women in Iran continues to be characterized by inequality and exclusion in all areas of Iranian society, says a group of human rights organizations in a comprehensive new report.

Beyond the Veil: Discrimination against women in Iran by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, Minority Rights Group International and the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights (CSHR) delineates how Iranian women and girls face discrimination in all aspects of their lives, from participation in public life to access to education and employment, as well as in marriage and other family matters. In addition, the report highlights how the many ongoing efforts at reform within Iran have been obstructed, with recent protests by women activists against state repression being met by an escalation in official surveillance and intimidation.

‘President Rouhani’s repeated promises to improve the situation of women’s rights have rung hollow’ says Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Laureate and Chair of CSHR. ‘Instead, Iran has increased its repression of women human rights defenders. Women who have peacefully protested compulsory veiling laws have been attacked, detained and imprisoned.’

Iran is one of just six UN member states that have not signed the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and its national legislation enshrines many barriers to accessing basic rights in areas such as employment, marriage and citizenship.

‘These issues are especially pronounced for minority women, who often face intersectional discrimination on account of their ethnic and religious identity,’ says Joshua Castellino, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International (MRG). For instance, while the gap in literacy rates between women and men has narrowed, girls from ethnic minorities remain particularly disadvantaged when it comes to education, not least because many of the provinces home to ethnic minorities are among Iran’s poorest and most marginalized.’

Despite certain advancements for gender equity in Iran in recent years, such as an amendment enabling women to pass on nationality at childbirth for the first time, continued resistance to equality by conservative forces has largely curtailed meaningful progress. Women’s rights were not a focus of the 2017 election, and Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has called gender equality ‘one of the biggest mistakes of Western thought’.

The report concludes with recommendations for women’s and girl’s rights for the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of Iran, scheduled for November of this year. It also recommends that states that have established bilateral human rights dialogues with Iran in the past continue to prioritize human rights and follow up on any women’s rights recommendations they might have already made.

Notes to editors

  • The Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights is an initiative to develop ‘civilian-led monitoring’ of violations of international humanitarian law or human rights, to pursue legal and political accountability for those responsible for such violations, and to develop the practice of civilian rights.
  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is the leading international human rights organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
  • The Centre for Supporters of Human Rights is a non-governmental organisation established in the UK in 2012. Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2003, is one of its founders and the chair of the Centre. The objectives of the Centre are the advancement of education and increased awareness of human rights in the Middle East, in particular in Iran.
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Peoples Under Threat 2019: The role of social media in exacerbating violence

4 June 2019

PDF: Peoples under Threat 2019 briefing.

Website: Peoples under Threat

The use of social media by repressive states and extremist groups is adding directly to the threats faced by some of the world’s most vulnerable populations and can exacerbate violence where atrocities have occurred or risk transpiring, according to new data analysis provided by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights.

The analysis, known as the Peoples under Threat index, uses authoritative indicators to identify those countries around the world most at risk of genocide, mass killing or systematic violent repression. This year’s index draws attention to the numerous instances where social media is being used in an organized way to disseminate hate and incite killing.

‘Unequal access to modern technology by way of social media creates an accelerated process through which hate and xenophobia can spread,’ says Joshua Castellino, MRG’s Executive Director. ‘The immediacy of the medium facilitates opinion without need for context or nuance. The sensationalist nature of some of these communications, designed to shock and awe, inevitably aids their spread.’

Syria, where social media platforms are used actively by all sides in the war, heads this year’s Peoples under Threat index. The power of hashtags persists in Syria, where supporters of President Bashar al-Assad popularized a #SyriaHoax hashtag on Twitter to discredit the overwhelming evidence of horrific chemical attacks on civilian targets. Numerous videos uploaded to YouTube by many parties to the conflict have received hundreds of millions of views, leading the Syrian conflict to be dubbed the ‘social media war’.

Somalia maintains its position behind Syria in the index. As it relates to social media, Al-Shabaab has been known to use Twitter and Facebook as propaganda and recruitment tools in an environment where mobile phone use has steadily risen in recent years.

Afghanistan is among those states where threat levels have increased this year. The civilian death toll in Afghanistan reached an all-time annual high in 2018, with 3,804 killed and another 7,189 injured. Government-controlled territory also shrank to its lowest since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. To mitigate this discouraging picture, the Afghan Ministry of Defense publishes daily figures of Taliban fighters who are killed or captured to its Twitter feed. The Taliban, in turn, widely uses WhatsApp and Twitter to recruit, plan, fundraise and claim responsibility for its attacks.

Myanmar is a stark example of the link between social media and the commission of atrocities. In this instance, dehumanizing language and outright incitement to mass murder was amplified via Facebook and Twitter, contributing to the widespread targeting of the Muslim Rohingya minority.

Iraq remains vulnerable to outbreaks of violence, and during its most intense and violent repression of minority communities, ISIS used the Twitter hashtag #AllEyesOnISIS to publicise its atrocities. While the hashtag has recently lost much of its currency, its deliberate use demonstrates how social media has become an important conduit for spreading hate and fear.

The threat level has also risen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the country now holds more than 5 million displaced people within its borders and represents the largest displacement crisis on the African continent. Authorities in Kinshasa have engineered internet and social media bans to assist in denials of government mismanagement and insecurity.

’In country after country, social media platforms are now being used to spread hate, recruit the killers, and organize mass killing,’ said Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights. ‘For years we have thought of social media as the friend of civil society, but it is now being used against them on an unprecedented scale.’

India is among the highest risers this year, moving up 16 places in the Peoples Under Threat Index in 2018. Violence has been escalating in Kashmir since 2016 when a separatist commander with a major social media following among Kashmiris was killed. With increased militarisation by the government, 2018 saw the highest death toll in the region in a decade, along with greater coooperation between several Islamist separatist groups. Meanwhile, across India, it is important to note that social media has played a significant role in advancing Hindu nationalism and intolerance towards minorities and perceived outsiders in the lead-up to the 2019 general elections. Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), supporters and ‘bots’ ratcheted up the production of inflammatory, anti-Muslim messaging. The BJP’s president Amit Shah called Bangladeshi migrants ‘termites’, and the party’s Twitter account echoed his words. The BJP won the election returning Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power with a renewed mandate. However, in the few days since the BJP’s victory, Muslims have already been targeted by numerous hate attacks.

Cameroon has also leapt up the index amid escalating political violence. Peaceful demonstrations in 2016 against decades of political and economic marginalization of the country’s Anglophone regions by the largely French-speaking government led to a separatist movement for an independent state. Facing prolonged internet shutdowns and scant international attention, protestors, and later separatists, have relied heavily on Twitter hashtags to mobilize. President Paul Biya, in power since 1982, even labelled social media used by separatists ‘a new form of terrorism’. Meanwhile, Boko Haram attacks persist in the far north, adding to the growing numbers of internally displaced and deepening the humanitarian crisis.

‘Regulating hate and false news is an imperative, with collective responsibility: of technology companies, states and politicians, but also of a responsible civil society and general population’, says Castellino. ‘Failures, as this report demonstrates, increase the threats that vulnerable communities face, which becomes ever more acute in a context of heightened competition for limited resources.’

Social media promises to increasingly influence how violence is perceived or responded to. Upheaval and conflict can no longer be dislocated from the use of social media by an array of actors. It is also important, however, to consider how these expansive communication tools can be equally used to mitigate hate and combat the spread of misinformation.

This is the 14th year that the Peoples under Threat index has been released by MRG, joined now by the Ceasefire Centre. It is based on indicators from authoritative sources and continues to provide early warnings of potential mass atrocities.

Notes to editors

  • Visit the online map which visualizes data from Peoples under Threat. View the map by year or by country, and find links to reports, press releases and further information on the communities under threat.
  • Download the full Peoples under Threat 2019 briefing.

Interview opportunities: 

  • Joshua Castellino, Executive Director, Minority Rights Group International (London, UK)
  • Mark Lattimer, Executive Director, Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights (London, UK)
  • Minority representatives from Syria, Somalia, Iraq, DRC and other countries featured in the index.

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:

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