Week of August 7th

  • NPR reported that Carla Del Ponte, a top former war crimes prosecutor, has quit the U.N.’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, over what she described as the Security Council’s lack of political will to hold the perpetrators of war crimes accountable. “I give up. The states in the Security Council don’t want justice,” Carla Del Ponte said in comments to the Swiss publication Blick, as quoted by The Associated Press. “I can’t any longer be part of this commission which simply doesn’t do anything.” She has previously called for an international tribunal for Syria, or as the BBC reports, for referring the matter to the International Criminal Court.  The U.N. commission was established in 2011, with a mandate to investigate potential human rights violations by all participants in the war in Syria. Del Ponte joined as a commissioner in 2012, and she has been working with Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of Brazil and Karen Koning AbuZayd of the U.S. “We have had absolutely no success,” she proclaimed. “For five years we’ve been running up against walls.”
  • NPR also shared a story on the growing numbers of Syrian refugees returning home in 2017.  More than 600,000 have gone back in the first seven months of this year, according to the International Organization for Migration. The U.N. migration agency says that number is comparable to the number of returns spanning the entire year in 2016. State media has been posting photos and accounts of such returns. However, NPR reports that the rate of new displacements during the beginning of this year was significantly higher than the number of returns. According to the IOM, “an estimated 808,661 people were displaced, many for the second or third time, and over 6 million in total currently remain displaced within the country.” Most of those going home – 84 percent — were displaced within Syria.
  • A recent report published by the International Journal of Public Health (IJPH) shows that ten times more people are dying from murder and suicide than in warMurder and suicide accounted for 1.4 million deaths across 22 countries in the eastern Mediterranean – which have a combined population of 600 million people, including Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen whereas the violence of war was directly responsible for another 144,000 deaths over the same period. The data showed a 100 per cent increase in suicides and 152 per cent increase in murders over the course of 25 years, compared to a respective rise of 19 per cent and 12 per cent in the rest of the world, the study’s lead author told the AFP – a knock-on effect of the psychological scars of war.  The areas studied, particularly those mired in conflict, also suffer from a severe shortage in mental health professionals.
  • Up to 50 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia were “deliberately drowned” when a smuggler forced them into the sea off Yemen’s coast, the U.N. migration agency said Wednesday, calling the drownings “shocking and inhumane.” International Organization for Migration staffers found the shallow graves of 29 of the migrants on a beach in Shabwa during a routine patrol, the agency’s statement said. The dead were buried by those who survived. The passengers’ average age was around 16, the agency said. A third of them are estimated to be women. Despite the fighting in Yemen, African migrants continue to arrive in the war-torn country where there is no central authority to prevent them from traveling onward.
  • Following newly imposed sanctions by the United States, the Iranian parliament reacted by approving on Sunday a bill to boost spending on Tehran’s missile program and the elite Revolutionary Guard in retaliation. The Islamic Republic has also been taking part in a power grab in chaotic, neighboring Afghanistan, attempting to add to its list of proxy wars. Beyond its typical geopolitical meddling, however, Iran has also received attention for recently banning for life two players on its national soccer team from playing for their country on Thursday after they participated in a match with their club team in Greece against an Israeli team, an Iranian governmental official said. The Iranian government does not recognize the state of Israel, and has no official ties with the country. A longstanding rule by the country’s Islamic government prohibits Iranian athletes from competing against Israeli athletes in any contest or tournament, including the Olympics.
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