UN Report on a Changing Al Qaeda

Crowd Fleeing After Attack on Westgate Mall, Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 2013 (image/ wikimedia)

Crowd Fleeing After Attack on Westgate Mall, Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 2013 (image/wikimedia)

Feb. 26, 2014 – Al Qaeda’s new leaders are younger, there is growing support for the group in sub-Saharan Africa, and it has become adept at exploiting gaps in governance to launch attacks and find new spaces to operate.

The latest report from the Security Council’s Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee also says that the influence of Ayman al-Zawahiri is rapidly waning and Al Qaeda affiliates mostly ignore his operational instructions.

The new leaders of Al Qaeda affiliates are in their late 30s and 40s whereas previous leaders ranged in age from the late 40s to 70s.

sub-Saharan African support for the Al-Qaeda ideology is one of the most significant trends to watch,” the report states, noting that the The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)  recruits from the Songhai and Fulani tribes. It also notes “the involvement of sub-Saharan and West Africans in recent attacks in Algeria and the Niger.”

Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasing capacity to take advantage of internal conflicts, as in Yemen and Syria, as well as becoming adept at exploiting gaps in governance in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. The Tibesti Mountains, on the borders between Chad and Libya, are a venue for terrorist training, the report says, and Mount Chaambi in Tunisia, on the border with Algeria, has also become a refuge for terrorists.

Payment of ransom to Al Qaeda and its affiliates is a main source of financing with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) receiving $120 million between 2011 and 2013, the report says. “A total of 1,283 kidnappings motivated by terrorism were reported in 2012, and a single hostage could deliver a seven-figure ransom into the hands of terrorists.”

Improvised explosive devices are the primary weapon of choice for Al Qaeda affiliates. “These remain a versatile and dangerous weapon and the principal cause of civilian casualties in many terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda affiliates.”

The full report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Security Council Unite on Syria Humanitarian Aid Resolution

Feb. 22, 2014 –  The Security Council on Saturday voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2139 which demands unhindered access for humanitarian relief operations in Syria.

It specifically demands that the Syrian government allow aid delivery across international borders, a move which Australia’s UN envoy, Gary Quinlan, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said will allow humanitarian agencies to urgently provide assistance to more than one million people.

Luxembourg’s UN ambassador, Sylvie Lucas, another co-sponsor, said the implementation of the resolution will be “closely monitored by the Council.”

“We will see the first report from the secretary-general in 30 days and then every 30 days thereafter. This means that individuals and entities who are obstructing will be able to be held accountable. It also means that in the case of non-compliance there will be a trigger for further Council action.”

Najib Ghadbian, the opposition Syrian Coalition representative to the UN, said the Council must be ready to back up its threat of further action if the Syrian government does not comply.

“Failing that, we urge responsible nations to work with humanitarian agencies to deliver aid directly across Syria’s borders even without the consent of the regime,” he said in a statement. “The overwhelming humanitarian need and the strong international consensus to alleviate it provide all the legal justification that is required.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

(Image courtesy of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent)


UNSC Draft Syria Resolution Demands Unhindered Humanitarian Access

Destruction in Homs (source: wikimedia)

Destruction in Homs (source: wikimedia)

Feb. 21, 2014 – The draft UN Security Council resolution to be voted on Saturday morning calls for a lifting of the sieges on the Old City of Homs, Yarmouk, Eastern Ghouta and Darayya.

It also demands that all parties allow unhindered access to humanitarian agencies “including across conflict lines and across borders.”

It demands that all parties respect the principle of medical neutrality and calls for the immediate demilitarization of medical facilities.

The draft asks Ban Ki-moon to report to the Council 30 days after the resolution is adopted and “expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance.”

Russia is understood to be sympathetic to the draft but it is not clear if Moscow will abstain or vote for the text.

The United States, United Kingdom, South Korea and Lithuania have expressed their intention to join Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg as co-sponsors of the draft, according to a Council diplomat. Other states will likely follow before tomorrow morning.

A copy of the draft resolution is below.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Syria Humanitarian Draft Resolution

Sudan and Yemen Among Nine Countries to Lose UNGA Voting Rights

60th plenary meeting of the General Assembly 66th session:
Feb. 20, 2014 – The UN General Assembly has suspended the voting rights of nine member states over non-payment of dues.

Among the nine who have fallen foul of Article 19 of the UN Charter are Sudan and Yemen.

Article 19 declares that:

A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.

A minimum payment of $111,300 is required from Sudan to get its voting privileges back, according to a letter from Ban Ki-moon to the president of the General Assembly, while Yemen owes $34,525.

In total, 14 countries are not in compliance with Article 19, but five of those, including the Central African Republic and Somalia, can still vote as the GA decided that inability to pay is beyond their control.

A list of the countries in arrears under Article 19 is here. The list, last updated on the UN’s website on Feb. 14, is accurate as of Feb. 20, according to a representative from the Committee on Contributions.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

China Likely to Block UNSC Referral of North Korea to ICC

Feb. 17, 2014 –  North Korea’s totalitarian regime should be referred to the International Criminal Court, according to UN investigators who have compiled a detailed report outlining systematic and widespread human rights abuses that the investigators say amount to crimes against humanity.

But any move by the 15-nation council to refer the situation to the Hague-based court is likely to be scuppered by veto-wielding China. Beijing is named in the report for forcibly repatriating fleeing North Koreans. Those repatriated are then tortured and often disappeared, the report says.

The Security Council has only twice ever referred situations to the ICC, voting 11-0 in 2005 to refer the situation in Darfur to the court – with China, US, Algeria and Brazil abstaining – and in 2011 voting unanimously to refer the situation in Libya.

Neither situation has resulted yet in justice served with Sudan’s president Omar Al-Bashir, though subject to an international arrest warrant, still in office and still traveling outside his country’s borders. The case against Muammar Gaddafi was dropped following his death while Libyan authorities have refused to handover his son Saif to the the ICC. The court ruled last year that intelligence chief Abdullah Al-Senussi could be tried in Libya, under the principle of complementarity.

With Security Council referral not likely, the General Assembly could pass a resolution establishing an ad hoc tribunal administered by consenting countries but UNGA resolutions are non-binding so any ad hoc tribunal set up by the 193-nation body would lack compulsory jurisdiction.

A copy of the 372 page report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

More than 50 Groups in Fourteen Countries Recruiting Child Soldiers

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 11, 2014 – Parties in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic are recruiting children as soldiers.

Those three countries are among the 14 where the United Nations says children are enlisted by armed groups. In at least seven of the countries, government forces are among those recruiting, according to the Office of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, which is calling attention to these violations ahead of the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers on Feb. 12.

In total, there are more than 50 armed groups listed by the UN as recruiters of child soldiers including nine groups in Sudan, among them the country’s national forces; eight groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo; eight in Myanmar and seven in Central African Republic.

Besides Sudan, the other six countries where national forces recruit children are Afghanistan, with the Afghan National Police listed as a recruiter; Chad, whose army currently has peacekeepers in Mali; as well as government forces in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

In Syria, the Free Syrian Army are listed as a recruiter of child soldiers. While the Syrian government is not listed as recruiting children, its intelligence services and allied Shabbiha militia are listed as perpetrators of grave violations against children including killing and maiming, rape, and attacks against schools and hospitals.

The fourteen countries where children are recruited by armed groups are:

1. Afghanistan
2. Central African Republic
3. Chad
4. Colombia
5. Democratic Republic of the Congo
6. Iraq
7. Mali
8. Myanmar
9. Philippines
10. Somalia
11. South Sudan
12. Sudan
13. Syria
14. Yemen

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image: Wikimedia/Gilbert G. Giroud

UN to Re-Examine Death of Dag Hammarskjold

First Phase Digital
Feb. 9, 2014 – Ban Ki-moon has asked the General Assembly to look into new evidence concerning the 1961 death of Dag Hammarskjold.

Ban’s request came in a Feb. 4 letter to the 193-member Assembly and may result in a re-opening of the UN investigation into the circumstances surrounding the former Swedish secretary-general’s death when the plane he was traveling in crashed over Zambia.

A 1962 investigation proved inconclusive.

The new evidence was presented to the UN secretariat in September last year. A statement at the time from Ban’s office said Hammarskjold had given “unparalleled service to the UN and paid the ultimate price” and that “the United Nations is among those most concerned in arriving at the whole truth.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Letter from Ban Ki-moon asking UN General Assembly to look Into new evidence concerning death of Dag Hammar…


photo/UN photo

US Envoy Power Skeptical of Reported Homs Deal

Perm rep of the USA speaking to the press regarding the situation in Syria
Feb. 6, 2014 – Samantha Power on Thursday cast doubt on whether the reported deal to allow aid into, and civilians out of, Homs would result in an easing of the humanitarian situation in the besieged old part of the central Syrian city.

Earlier on Thursday, the UN issued a statement welcoming reports that a humanitarian pause had been agreed in Homs by parties to the conflict.

“Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, welcomed the news of the humanitarian pause agreed in Homs, which will allow civilians to leave and the delivery of essential, life-saving supplies for about 2,500 people,” the UN statement said. “She will continue to follow developments closely.”

Speaking to reporters outside the Security Council, US envoy Power said: ” I note regime statements this morning describing a willingness to evacuate ‘innocents.’ Given that the regime, up to this point, has described just about anybody living in opposition territory as a terrorist – and has attacked them as such – you know, we have reason on the basis of history to be very skeptical and, frankly, very concerned about anybody who falls into regime hands who comes from a part of the country that has been under opposition control.”

A similar deal was announced during the first round of Geneva II talks last month but failed to come to fruition.

There is further skepticism that Thursday’s announcement of a humanitarian pause in Homs is aimed at creating an appearance of progress ahead of the second round of Geneva II talks next week as well as responding to a draft UN Security Council resolution circulated among council members today that calls for unhindered humanitarian access in Syria.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Tuesday said Moscow would not support a humanitarian resolution.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo/UN Photo

UN: Cancer Rates Will Worsen With Poorest Hit Hardest

Feb. 5, 2014 –  Cancer rates globally are predicted to increase by about 70 percent in the next two decades and lower-income countries will be hit hardest.

Late diagnoses and the high cost of treatment place an undue burden on poorer patients and population growth, ageing and the spread of risk factors such as tobacco use will result in the situation worsening, according to the 2014 World Cancer Report, published by WHO.

“This divide between the experiences of individual cancer patients will only increase,” the report says. “Taken in isolation, this is a dark prediction.”

The report calls for much greater emphasis on cancer prevention as it is “implausible to treat our way out of cancer.” On a positive note, it says that there is enough information available to prevent 50 percent of cancers if prevention strategies are implemented.

It states that the decades-old perception of cancer as a disease of affluence is false as high-risk factors such as tobacco use, obesity, alcohol abuse, less exercise, sun exposure and pollution are not unique to rich countries.

More than 60 percent of cancer cases occur in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and these regions account for 70 percent of cancer deaths.

There were 14 million new cancer cases and 8 million cancer-related deaths in 2012, according to the report.

The five most common cancers for Women are: 1. Breast 25.2%; 2. Colorectum 9.2%; 3. Lung 8.7%; 4. Cervix  7.9%; 5. Stomach 4.8%, and for Men: 1. Lung 16.7%; 2. Prostate 15%; 3. Colorectum 10%; 4. Stomach 8.5%; 5. Liver 7.5%.

Lung, stomach and liver cancer have the highest mortality rates for men. Breast cancer, which has a survival rate of about 65 percent, still accounts for 14.7 percent of cancer deaths in women – because of its high prevalence – followed by lung cancer at 13.2 percent.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz