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Peoples Under Threat 2019: The role of social media in exacerbating violence

4 June 2019

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.

ceasefirePeoples Under Threat 2019: The role of social media in exacerbating violence
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Study finds displacement, economic hardship drive domestic abuse among Syrian refugees in Iraq   

March 2019

A two-year programme on sexual and gender-based violence among Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq found that displacement and economic hardship have led to an increase in physical and emotional abuse, with one focus group of women reporting that as many as half of husbands yelled at and hit their wives.

The programme, a joint project run by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Asuda, an Iraqi women’s rights group, surveyed Syrian refugees in the governorates of Erbil, Dohuk and Suleymania in Iraqi Kurdistan. The lessons learned from this study are highlighted in Ceasefire’s report: “Combating sexual and gender-based violence in refugee crises: Lessons from working in with Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq”.  

SianStudy finds displacement, economic hardship drive domestic abuse among Syrian refugees in Iraq   
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ISIS fighters and their families facing justice: Eight options and four principles

March 2019

Crimes under international law committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), including systematic attacks on civilian populations, have shocked the world. Now that the remaining ISIS-controlled territory in Syria is regained, attention is at last focusing on bringing ISIS leaders and fighters to justice. These include Iraqi and Syrian nationals, as well as the so-called ‘foreign fighters’ – nationals of other states in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as European, North American and other nationals. In particular, a global debate has begun about what to do with foreign fighters and their families, including a significant number of women and children.

This Ceasefire briefing considers eight accountability options potentially facing ISIS fighters and their families. It assesses the feasibility of each option and its implications, and then highlights four cross-cutting principles that should be taken into account in any decisions on justice mechanisms.

SianISIS fighters and their families facing justice: Eight options and four principles
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Meet the civilian activists from Iraq

Film by NiiWorks for Ceasefire /MRG.

SianMeet the civilian activists from Iraq
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Iraqi activists live in fear as death squad killings rise – new report

December 2018

Report PDF: Civilian Activists under Threat [PDF]

Civilian activists in Iraq are facing arbitrary detention, torture and premeditated assassinations, including at the hands of Shi’a militia members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), reports a new bulletin published today by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International. Hundreds of human rights defenders have been detained and mistreated, and scores have been killed.

SianIraqi activists live in fear as death squad killings rise – new report
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Using law to protect civilians: launch of The Grey Zone

September 2018

“The main legal norm being eroded in conflicts today is the distinction between combatants and civilians”

How has the face of modern conflict changed? What happens to the civilian population caught in the grey zone between the traditional fields of application of human rights and the laws of war?

These were among the urgent questions considered on 12 September at a packed event at the Swiss ambassador’s residence in London to launch The Grey Zone: Civilian Protection between Human Rights and the Laws of War. Edited by Ceasefire director Mark Lattimer and Professor Philippe Sands QC of University College London, The Grey Zone includes contributions from some 20 leading international jurists on challenges and developments for the law protecting civilians.

Swiss Ambassador Alexandre Fasel opened the panel discussion on international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians in modern armed conflict, and Minister François Voeffray outlined Swiss initiatives regarding IHL compliance and the prosecution of starvation as a method of warfare.

‘The conditions on the ground in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen show how much modern warfare has changed,’ said Ceasefire’s Mark Lattimer, introducing the discussion. ‘But they are often poorly reflected in legal definitions or indeed in the international media.’

‘Conflicts are becoming more complex, more fragmented, and more protracted,’ explained Helen Alderson, Head of the UK Delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross. The urbanization of conflict, the impact of new conflict technologies and the targeting of civilians were other game changers in warfare she highlighted.

Contributors Philippe Sands, Liesbeth Zegveld and Mark Lattimer

Contributors Philippe Sands, Liesbeth Zegveld and Mark Lattimer

Professor Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy, identified enforcement of international law as the greatest challenge. ‘The main legal norm being eroded in conflicts today is the distinction between combatants and civilians – which is the foundational principle of international humanitarian law.’

‘The international order created in 1945 is now under existential threat,’ warned Philippe Sands. ‘A systematic assault on the system is taking place – and it will soon include an assault on the Geneva Conventions.’

Professor Liesbeth Zegveld of Amsterdam University, a leading litigator for the rights of civilians and a contributor to The Grey Zone, said: ‘What most civilians want from legal action is not compensation, but an answer to the questions: What happened to us? And why?’

‘The Grey Zone: Civilian Protection between Human Rights and the Laws of War’, edited by Mark Lattimer and Philippe Sands, is published by Hart Publishing / Bloomsbury Professional.

@CeasefireCentre           @hartpublishing

Main photo: Swiss ambassador Alexandre Fasel introduces the London discussion

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Syrian refugee women and girls facing gender-based violence in Iraq’s Kurdistan region – new report

May 2018

Seven years after the eruption of the conflict in Syria, refugee women and girls are facing gender-based violence in host countries in the region, says a new report from the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Asuda, a leading NGO combating violence against women in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

It finds that the pressures associated with displacement, combined with the deteriorating economic situation of refugees in the Kurdistan Region, have led to higher levels of gender-based violence in the Syrian refugee community. In particular, intimate partner violence is on the rise, although other forms of violence within the family are also common.

SianSyrian refugee women and girls facing gender-based violence in Iraq’s Kurdistan region – new report
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Reparations for the victims of conflict in Iraq – new report

As Iraq prepares to rebuild and recover from the conflict with ISIS, ensuring accountability for violations committed and reparations for victims is an immediate priority, says a new report from the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International.

SianReparations for the victims of conflict in Iraq – new report
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Eyes on the Ground: Realizing the potential of civilian-led monitoring in armed conflict

July 2017

Technological advances have meant that civilians are now enabled to play a greater role than ever before in monitoring and documenting violations, finds a new report Eyes on the Ground: Realizing the potential of civilian-led monitoring in armed conflict.

As UN rapporteurs and other official international monitors are effectively denied access to a wide range of insecure territories around the world, civilian monitors have become a complementary, and in some cases the principal, source of information on what is happening on the ground to civilian populations.

SianEyes on the Ground: Realizing the potential of civilian-led monitoring in armed conflict
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Ending enforced disappearance: from Baghdad to Belfast

January 2018

Pooling international best practice to support Iraq in ending enforced disappearances was the theme of a combined study and advocacy tour to Belfast and London undertaken by leading Iraqi MPs last month, organized by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights in partnership with the Institute for International Law and Human Rights.

Iraq has faced the recurring problem of enforced disappearances at many times in its recent history, and all Iraq’s communities have been affected. Thousands of people remain missing, even just from the latest phase of the conflict. In 2010 Iraq acceded to the International Convention on Enforced Disappearance but it has yet to enact any implementing legislation.

Following an agreement with the Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi Parliament, Ceasefire and IILHR have provided technical assistance in reviewing draft legislation in line with international standards.

In December, key members and officials of the Iraqi Human Rights Committee responsible for the bill came to London and Belfast to hold discussions with academics specializing in transitional justice from the School of African and Oriental Studies – University of London, Queen’s University Belfast, MPs and Peers, UK Foreign Office officials, relevant NGOs and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (NI).

Photo caption: MPs from the Iraqi delegation meet in Belfast with Ceasefire and IILHR staff and the lead forensic investigator for the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (December 2017)

SianEnding enforced disappearance: from Baghdad to Belfast
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