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  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 15 December 2013 the world's newest state descended into civil war. Continuing fighting has displaced more than 1,000,000 and killed over 10,000 while a humanitarian crisis threatens many more. Both South Sudanese and the international community were ill-prepared to prevent or halt the conflict: the nation's closest allies did little to mediate leadership divisions within the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement's (SPLM). The SPLM and its army (SPLA) quickly split along divisions largely unaddressed from the independence war. Were it not for the intervention of Uganda and allied rebel and militia groups, the SPLA would likely not have been able to hold Juba or recapture lost territory. The war risks tearing the country further apart and is pulling in regional states. Resolving the conflict requires not a quick fix but sustained domestic and international commitment. Governance, including SPLM and SPLA reform and communal relations, must be on the table. Religious and community leaders, civil society and women are critical to this process and must not be excluded.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, International Cooperation, Governance
  • Political Geography: Africa, South Sudan
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Violence has exacerbated an already tense political situation in Venezuela and made finding a solution both more urgent and more complex. Nationwide unrest, following deaths at a protest called by student leaders and a sector of the opposition on 12 February, sparked a political crisis that involved Venezuela's neighbours in efforts to find a negotiated settlement. By early May it had cost around 40 lives and led to scores of human rights violations. Failure to end the violence through negotiations has hindered the task of resolving serious social and economic problems. It has also damaged the credibility of regional institutions. To reverse the crisis and turn this tipping point into an opportunity, both parties must commit to a political dialogue based on the constitution; the government must abide by its human rights commitments and restore the rule of law and the separation of powers; the international community must provide both sides with guarantees, technical assistance and political impetus.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Human Rights, Governance
  • Political Geography: South America, Venezuela
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Within ten days, Guatemalan courts made and unmade legal history. The trial and conviction of former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt on 10 May 2013 for genocide and other human rights violations was an extraordinary achievement for a justice system that must grapple simultaneously with the legacy of a vicious internal conflict and the contemporary scourges of gang violence, corruption and illegal drug trafficking. Victims had barely finished celebrating, however, when the Constitutional Court annulled the verdict in a confusing decision that raised questions of outside interference. Widespread impunity for past and present violence continues to have a corrosive effect on the country's democracy. Failure to renew the trial for mass atrocities against Ríos Montt and pursue justice for the victims of violent crime would undermine its halting progress toward rule of law, including a strong independent judiciary.
  • Topic: Corruption, Crime, Genocide, Human Rights, Narcotics Trafficking, Law
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Guatemala
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: If the Santos administration and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are to lay the foundations for lasting peace as they continue to make head-way toward successfully concluding talks underway since late 2012, they need to agree on a clear, credible and coherent plan for dealing with human rights abuses committed by all sides. This is not easy. Any sustainable agreement must be acceptable well beyond just the two parties. Finding common ground between the guerrillas, the government, the critics of the peace talks, victims and a public largely unsym- pathetic to FARC would be difficult at the best of times but will be even harder on the cusp of the 2014 electoral cycle. However, with courts, Congress and voters all having important roles to play in ratifying and implementing transitional justice measures, both parties' long-term interest in a stable transition should outweigh the costs of agreeing to a deal that goes beyond their own narrow preferences. Otherwise, flagging popular support, political controversy and legal challenges risk undermining both justice and peace.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, Peace Studies, Torture, Treaties and Agreements, Governance
  • Political Geography: Colombia
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Indonesian communities are increasingly turning to violence to retaliate against the police for abuses, real or perceived. Some 40 attacks on police stations and personnel since August 2010 are clear evidence that community policing, the centrepoint of the police reform agenda, is not working; police are too quick to shoot, usually with live ammunition; and little progress has been made toward police accountability. In the absence of urgent reforms and mechanisms to address local grievances, public hostility is likely to grow. Police are supposed to be helping prevent conflict but too often they are contributing to its outbreak.
  • Topic: Security, Human Rights, Law Enforcement
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: One year into the new semi-civilian government, Myanmar has implemented a wide-ranging set of reforms as it embarks on a remarkable top-down transition from five decades of authoritarian rule. In an address to the nation on 1 March 2012 marking his first year in office, President Thein Sein made clear that the goal was to introduce “genuine democracy” and that there was still much more to be done. This ambitious agenda includes further democratic reform, healing bitter wounds of the past, rebuilding the economy and ensuring the rule of law, as well as respecting ethnic diversity and equality. The changes are real, but the challenges are complex and numerous. To consolidate and build on what has been achieved and increase the likelihood that benefits flow to all its citizens, Myanmar needs the international community to come closer, seeking opportunities for greater engagement rather than more reasons why sanctions should be sustained.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Human Rights, Law Enforcement
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Myanmar's leaders continue to demonstrate that they have the political will and the vision to move the country decisively away from its authoritarian past, but the road to democracy is proving hard. President Thein Sein has declared the changes irreversible and worked to build a durable partnership with the opposition. While the process remains incomplete, political prisoners have been released, blacklists trimmed, freedom of assembly laws implemented, and media censorship abolished. But widespread ethnic violence in Rakhine State, targeting principally the Rohingya Muslim minority, has cast a dark cloud over the reform process and any further rupturing of intercommunal relations could threaten national stability. Elsewhere, social tensions are rising as more freedom allows local conflicts to resurface. A ceasefire in Kachin State remains elusive. Political leaders have conflicting views about how power should be shared under the constitution as well as after the 2015 election. Moral leadership is required now to calm tensions and new compromises will be needed if divisive confrontation is to be avoided.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democratization, Human Rights, Governance
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Philippine government is unable to control and develop large parts of the country because of the longstanding communist insurgency. The conflict has lasted more than 40 years and killed tens of thousands of combatants and civilians. Planning their attacks and securing weapons and funds locally, the insurgents have strong roots in the different regions where they operate and have proved hard to defeat. The government's counter-insurgency strategy has diminished their numbers but has not been able to destroy the organisation. Neither side will win militarily. As peace negotiations resume under the Benigno Aquino administration, the parties to the talks should immediately commit to making existing human rights monitoring mechanisms work, while they try to reach the more difficult long-term goal of a durable political settlement.
  • Topic: Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Philippines
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As the number of defectors from North Korea arriving in the South has surged in the past decade, there is a growing understanding of how difficult it would be to absorb a massive flow of refugees. South Korea is prosperous and generous, with a committed government and civil society, and yet refugees from the North almost all fail to integrate or thrive. Part of this is the change in the people coming; it is no longer just senior officials and fighter pilots who were useful and privileged propaganda tools. Nowadays many are women who have endured terrible deprivation in the North and abuse on their way to the South. Reconfiguring programs for defectors to take account of this change is essential if new defectors are to find a place in their new home.
  • Topic: Communism, Human Rights, Refugee Issues
  • Political Geography: North Korea
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Six months after the transition to a new, semi-civilian government, major changes are taking place in Myanmar. In the last two months, President Thein Sein has moved rapidly to begin implementing an ambitious reform agenda first set out in his March 2011 inaugural address. He is reaching out to long-time critics of the former regime, proposing that differences be put aside in order to work together for the good of the country. Aung San Suu Kyi has seized the opportunity, meeting the new leader in Naypyitaw and emerging with the conviction that he wants to achieve positive change. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) seems convinced that Myanmar is heading in the right direction and may soon confer upon it the leadership of the organisation for 2014. This would energise reformers inside the country with real deadlines to work toward as they push for economic and political restructuring. Western policymakers should react to the improved situation and be ready to respond to major steps forward, such as a significant release of political prisoners.
  • Topic: Democratization, Human Rights, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Burma, Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Ten months of popular protest spiked by periodic outbursts of violence have done little to clarify Yemen's political future. Persistent street protests so far have failed to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh or bring about genuine institutional reform. The country is more deeply divided between pro- and anti-Saleh forces than ever, its economy is in tatters and both security and humanitarian conditions are deteriorating. Amid the uncertainty fuelled by this lingering crisis, the country's unity—and notably the status of the South—hangs in the balance. Old grievances are coming into sharper relief and, among some, secessionist aspirations are gaining steam. There remains an opportunity for Yemen's rulers, opposition groups and protesters to reach agreement on a political transition that would give priority to the Southern question and redefine relations between centre and periphery, for example by moving toward a federal model. Should this chance be missed, the conflict risks getting bloodier. And Yemen's unity could be a thing of the past.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Political Violence, Economics, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) remains a deadly threat to civilians in three Central African states. After a ceasefire and negotiations for peaceful settlement of the generation-long insurgency broke down in 2008, Uganda's army botched an initial assault. In three years since, half-hearted operations have failed to stop the small, brutally effective band from killing more than 2,400 civilians, abducting more than 3,400 and causing 440,000 to flee. In 2010 President Museveni withdrew about half the troops to pursue more politically rewarding goals. Congolese mistrust hampers current operations, and an African Union (AU) initiative has been slow to start. While there is at last a chance to defeat the LRA, both robust military action and vigorous diplomacy is required. Uganda needs to take advantage of new, perhaps brief, U.S. engagement by reinvigorating the military offensive; Washington needs to press regional leaders for cooperation; above all, the AU must act promptly to live up to its responsibilities as guarantor of continental security. When it does, Uganda and the U.S. should fold their efforts into the AU initiative.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, Religion, Torture, Armed Struggle, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Africa, United States
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Failure to address the systematic crimes committed during Nepal's ten-year civil war is threatening the peace process. There has been not a single prosecution in civilian courts for any abuses. The cultures of impunity that enabled the crimes in the first place have remained intact, further increasing public distrust and incentives to resort to violence. The immediate priorities should be prosecutions of the most serious crimes, investigation of disappearances and action to vet state and Maoist security force members.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Crime, Human Rights, Fragile/Failed State, Governance
  • Political Geography: Asia, Nepal
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Ilham Aliyev's presidency has been marked by stabilisation of the political life of the country and economic growth driven by oil exports. This stability, however, has come with the consolidation of authoritarian rule, greater suppression of freedoms and an increased reliance by elites on corruption and patronage networks to dominate virtually all aspects of public life. With a marginalised and demoralised opposition, little independent media and rent-seeking elites who have vested interests in the preservation of his power, Ilham Aliyev has a level of control over society that his father never possessed. The international community has little leverage with which to pressure the regime, but it should do more to persuade the leadership to see that even its own self-interests lie in gradual but genuine liberalisation.
  • Topic: Corruption, Government, Human Rights, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Azerbaijan
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The vast Palestinian refugee population is routinely forgotten and ignored in much of the Middle East. Not so in Lebanon. Unlike in other host countries, the refugee question remains at the heart of politics, a recurrent source of passionate debate and occasional trigger of violence. The Palestinian presence was a catalyst of the 1975-1990 civil war, Israel's 1982 invasion and Syrian efforts to bring the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to heel. Virtually nothing has been done since to genuinely address the problem. Marginalised, deprived of basic political and economic rights, trapped in the camps, bereft of realistic prospects, heavily armed and standing atop multiple fault lines–inter-Lebanese, inter-Palestinian and inter-Arab–the refugee population constitutes a time bomb. Until the Arab-Israeli conflict is resolved, a comprehensive approach is required that clarifies the Palestinians' status, formally excludes their permanent settlement in Lebanon, significantly improves their living conditions and, through better Lebanese-Palestinian and inter-Palestinian coordination, enhances camp management.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Human Rights, Post Colonialism, Sovereignty, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Latin America's oldest guerrilla organisation, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is under severe stress. Close to seven years of the Uribe presidency have hurt the FARC's capability and morale. Several top commanders have been captured, killed in combat, murdered by their own men, or died of natural causes, as in the case of Manuel Marulanda, the FARC's historic leader. Thousands of foot soldiers have deserted, bringing the guerrillas' troop strength down by almost half, to perhaps 10,000 today. Still, under its new leader, Alfonso Cano, the FARC has shown renewed internal cohesion and continued capacity to adapt to changes in the security environment. The Uribe government remains wedded to its hardline military approach until the FARC has no option but to negotiate surrender, but this strategy is problematic. President Uribe should keep military pressure up but emphasise devising a political strategy capable of drawing a weakened but still largely intact FARC into peace talks. Priority should also be on strengthening rule of law, protecting human rights and increasing citizen security.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Human Rights, War
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Latin America
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Sri Lanka's judiciary is failing to protect constitutional and human rights. Rather than assuaging conflict, the courts have corroded the rule of law and worsened ethnic tensions. Rather than constraining militarisation and protecting minority rights, a politicised bench under the just-retired chief justice has entrenched favoured allies, punished foes and blocked compromises with the Tamil minority. Its intermittent interventions on important political questions have limited settlement options for the ethnic conflict. Extensive reform of the judicial system – beginning with a change in approach from the newly appointed chief justice – and an overhaul of counterproductive emergency laws are essential if the military defeat of the LTTE is to lead to a lasting peace that has the support of all ethnic communities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Human Rights, Law Enforcement
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Asia, Sri Lanka
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The bizarre prosecution and conviction of opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for violating her house arrest has returned attention to repression in Myanmar, as preparations were underway for the first national elections in twenty years, now scheduled for 2010. This further undermined what little credibility the exercise may have had, especially when based on a constitution that institutionalises the military's political role. The UN Secretary-General's July visit, which produced no tangible results, added to the gloom. But while the elections will not be free and fair – a number of prominent regime opponents have been arrested and sentenced to prison terms over the last year – the constitution and elections together will fundamentally change the political landscape in a way the government may not be able to control. Senior Generals Than Shwe and Maung Aye may soon step down or move to ceremonial roles, making way for a younger military generation. All stakeholders should be alert to opportunities that may arise to push the new government toward reform and reconciliation.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After decades of misuse and neglect, Bangladesh's police are a source of instability and fear rather than a key component of a democratic society. Human rights abuses are endemic and almost all Bangladeshis who interact with the police complain of corruption. With an elected government in place again, there are now opportunities to reform this dysfunctional force. But there are also significant obstacles. If the government fails to move beyond the current modest reform process, the democratic transition could falter should deteriorating security give the military another chance to intervene, using, as it has in the past, the pretext of upholding law and order to justify derailing democracy. Deep structural reforms – including a new police law – and major additional resources are necessary to create an effective and accountable service. Above all, it will take political will – which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League-led government is sorely lacking – and a vision of the police as something other than a tool of political control and a source of patronage.
  • Topic: Corruption, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, Asia
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Claims that major terrorist acts were foiled in Azerbaijan at the end of 2007 have prompted discussion about the extent to which Islamic extremism is a genuine threat in the oil-rich land. Azerbaijan is a secular state with an overwhelmingly moderate (predominantly Shiite) Muslim population. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union and independence in 1991, independent Sunni and Shiite groups have emerged which refuse the spiritual authority of the official clergy. Some are political, but very few, if any, appear intent on employing violence to overthrow the state. The government, however, expresses concern about these “independents”, and tries to control them, including through repression. Its strategy risks radicalising peaceful activists and believers.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Soviet Union, Azerbaijan