Bosnian War factsThe Bosnian War was incredibly brutal and impacted millions of lives. Below are 10 important Bosnian War facts: how it began, what happened and how it ended.

Top 10 Bosnian War Facts

  1. In the 1980s the decline of the Yugoslavian economy began to affect the state of affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. People wanted to see the end of communism, and various ethnic groups were vying for control of the area. By the early 1990s, the Serbs, Muslims and Croats living in Bosnia each desired to appropriate Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territory for their own countries and take control of the government and political field.
  2. Bosnian Croats and Muslims feared that Serbian president Slobodan Milošević, the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, would take their land, so they called for the independence of Herzeg-Bosnia. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence on March 3, 1992. It was recognized by the U.S. and the European Community on April 7, 1992.
  3. On April 6, 1992, the Serbs began the Siege of Sarajevo, which lasted until Feb. 29, 1996. The Serbian paramilitary forces began the siege by holding positions inside the city and in the hills surrounding Sarajevo. By the first week of May, the Serbs had surrounded the whole city. This cut Sarajevo off from food, medicine, water, electricity, fuel and other supplies. The Serbs began firing on Sarajevo with advanced artillery but faced heavy defense from those mobilized with weapons within the city. Because the Serbs were facing opposition, they began to terrorize the city with intense gunfire and snipers. The Siege of Sarajevo lasted for 47 months and remains the longest siege in modern history.
  4. With Sarajevo, as well as several other cities isolated by force, the supply of food, utilities and communication became extremely limited and spread thin throughout the territory. This caused many cases of malnutrition and many citizens lost up to 33 pounds while some others lost their lives due to lack of access to supplies.
  5. Bosnian Serbs began the ethnic cleansing of large areas occupied by non-Serbs, primarily Muslims. The genocide destroyed entire villages and thousands of Bosnians were forced out of their homes and taken to detention camps where they were raped, tortured, deported or killed. The Serbians used rape in the Bosnian War as a tactic to increase terror.
  6. One of the most lethal Bosnian War facts came when Gen. Ratko Mladic led Serbian troops in capturing Srebrenica and killed more than 8,000 Muslims. Srebrenica had been previously declared by the U.N. as a safe area. The U.N. later indicted Radovan Karadžić, the orchestrator of the attack on Sarajevo, and General Mladic for genocidal war crimes.
  7. The Bosnian government was unable to access updated and necessary weaponry that the Serbian and Croatian armies maintained due to an international arms embargo imposed throughout the Bosnian War.
  8. Although the U.N. Protection Force occasionally sent troops to supervise humanitarian aid and protect declared safe areas, the U.N. overall refused to intercede in the Bosnian War.
  9. After NATO’s negotiations in Dayton, Ohio, in 1995, a final peace agreement was imposed and declared to bring an end to the Bosnian War. NATO enforced this through airstrikes until the leaders agreed to the ceasefire and signed the Dayton Peace Accords in Paris on Dec. 14, 1995.
  10. Throughout the Bosnian War, more than 250,000 people lost their lives and many more were displaced from their homes.

Even today, as a result of these Bosnian War facts, the territory remains highly divided between two sections: Muslim-Croat and the Serbian Republic. Both sections face a continuous fight against poverty, unemployment and ethnic discord.

Photo: Flickr

Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 Introduced in SenateSenator Ben Cardin (D-MD) launched the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 in June 2017. This bill would require a report from the United States on the accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Syria by the Syrian government.

Syria’s ongoing conflict has lasted over six years as of the year 2017. The war crimes committed in the nation have caused over 4,900,000 citizens to flee to neighboring countries, with another 600,000 living under siege. Evidence has been collected by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) declaring that the Syrian government has “committed the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforce disappearance and other inhuman acts.”

Furthermore, a report from 2016 stated that the Syrian government forces used chemicals in an attack in Idlib in 2015 in violation of a pact. The United States and Russia made an agreement requiring Syria to dispose of all chemical weapons to prevent further harm to the Syrian people. Because of these accounts, at least 12 other countries have requested assistance in investigating the ongoing conflict in Syria in order to prevent further war crimes.

Congress has taken initiative, urging all parties in the conflict to halt attacks on civilians and provide the necessary humanitarian and medical assistance in order to end the siege on all peoples. This is a result of another document reporting that, in February alone, the Syrian government prevented 80,000 medical treatment items from going into besieged areas. Syrian citizens now rely on interference from the United States to help provide for humanitarian needs.

Although Congress cannot prevent these sieges from affecting the Syrian people as of right now, the United States has taken action by accepting approximately 12,500 refugees from Syria with the goal of resettlement. This number exceeds the Obama administration’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrians, a huge accomplishment in itself.

The Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 would ensure a report is submitted to the appropriate congressional committees reporting on the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, and would not cease until the Secretary of State determined that the violence in Syria has ceased. It would also ensure that USAID, the Department of Defense and other programs within the government are held accountable for their participation in the war crimes that are occurring in Syria.

The United States is the world’s largest donor to the Syrian humanitarian response, donating a total of $5.9 billion. However, the passing of this bill would allow the United States to assist much more in the well-being of the Syrian people. The next step for the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017, since it has already passed the Senate, is to pass through the House of Representatives.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

Khmer Rouge leaders
Cambodia’s U.N. backed war crimes tribunal has sentenced the last two surviving Khmer Rouge leaders to life imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The now frail 88-year-old Nuon Chea and 83-year-old Khieu Samphan were leaders of the Khmer Rouge — a fanatic Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 causing the death of at least 1.7 million people from overwork, torture, starvation and execution.

Chea served as deputy to the leader Pol Pott who died in 1998 and was perceived to be the ideological mastermind behind the regime whose pet slogan was “To spare you is no profit; to destroy you, no loss.” Khieu Samphan was the Maoist regime’s head of state.

Until now, no senior leaders of the regime have ever been prosecuted.

The Khmehr Rouge took power in 1975 and, driven by Maoist Ideology, sought to create an agrarian society. Intellectuals, officials and minorities were executed as enemies of the state or worked to death at rural cooperatives. The capital city Phnom Penh was emptied and its residence were forced to work in the countryside and join the revolution.

Long before the Khmehr Rouge took power, Cambodia counted among the more prosperous countries of Southeast Asia, butdue to the extreme violence of the fanatical Khmehr Rouge, today it numbers among the poorest. The ideological attempt to remove the educated class has left its mark on modern Cambodia where agriculture is still the largest source of income. By the end of the Khmer Rouge regime, it is thought there were only fifty doctors left in the whole country for a population of 14 million.

The average annual wage in Cambodia is only US $256, and out of 187 countries Cambodia ranks 136th on the U.N. human development index.

Cambodia is still in a phase of recovery from the Khmer Rouge days and the first imprisonment of the regime’s leaders is a long awaited justice. Many Cambodians whose lives were destroyed and families split up due to the crimes of the Khmer Rouge are frustrated with the time it has taken to finally achieve some justice, which many feel is still not nearly enough.

Chea and Samphan will now serve the remainder of their lives in prison. A separate trail for genocide started a few days ago. The trials for crimes against humanity and genocide were split in order to bring the men to justice more quickly.

Charles Bell

Sources: Poverties, World Bank, Crimes of War, BBC, UNDP
Photo: Afghanistan Times

The United Nations Human Rights Council has just agreed to launch an investigation into violations that may have been committed by Israel during its last military offensive in Gaza.

The Gaza Health Ministry reported 664 Palestinian deaths from the attack; though it’s unclear how many of these were civilian, the United Nations estimates the count to be around 70 percent. With the country now under investigation, the Human Rights Council is pushing for increased precautions and an end to the blockade of Gaza, which is the underlying conflict between the two nations. Still, it’s unclear whether these actions from the U.N. will fix anything.

While Israel certainly holds more responsibility for the death count in the conflict (more than 550 Gazans were killed, compared to 25 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli citizens,) pressure from external forces is not changing the country’s stance on the issue.

“Israel must not agree to any proposal for a cease-fire until the tunnels are eliminated,” said Gilad Eran, the right-wing minister of communications. In fact, both sides remain adamant on their stance: while Israelis feel they withdrew from Gaza only to allow it to become a launching pad for rockets, Hamas refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

Israel’s envoy to the UNHRC, Eviatar Manor, responded to the HRC’s comments, stating that Hamas was in fact committing war crimes by using people as “human shields” and insisted that it was a terrorist group. “There can be no moral symmetry between a terrorist aggressor and a democracy defending himself,” Manor preached.

Nevertheless, the conflict’s lopsided death toll has raised skepticism from parties other than the United Nations. The United States’ Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently urged a cease-fire, as well. Yet the battle seems to only be half-finished.

“With Hamas there, there is no option for a political solution,” said Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “If anybody believes in peace negotiations, two-state solution, Gaza is clear proof we are far away.”

Nick Magnanti

Sources: The Guardian, CNN, The New York Times
Photo: Haaretz

According to a Politico article, a former Wisconsin senator ended a war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Russ Feingold, who lost his seat to Republican Ron Johnson in 2010, was appointed by John Kerry to help resolve a conflict involving the Congolese government and militia M23.

“Feingold’s assignment came just as a new group of rebels, trained and equipped by Rwanda, was gaining strength in the west and even threatening to take Kinshasa, the Congolese capital,” Politico reported.

The most important lesson behind the peace negotiations, Kerry told Feingold, is “that diplomacy works, and persistence pays off.”

Kerry became familiar with Feingold’s work ethic when they sat together for years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Russ and I served together in the Senate for some 18 years,” Kerry said during a United States Department of State press announcement in June 2013. “I have a lot of respect for a lot of qualities of Russ–his intellect, his courage, his passion–but with respect to this mission, chief among those qualities that are important right now is his expertise on Africa.”

The situation in the DRC has caused much concern for the international community lately. The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country has an annual cost of $1.5 billion and employs 20,000 troops. Moreover, a study by the American Journal of Public Health revealed that around 48 women are raped every hour throughout the country.

Human Rights Watch also released a report condemning the war crimes committed by Rwandan officials and General Bosco Ntaganda, the leader of M23.

“Field research conducted by (HRW) in the region in May 2012 revealed that Rwandan army officials have provided weapons, ammunition, and an estimated 200 to 300 recruits to support Ntaganda’s mutiny in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo,” HRW said.

Although Feingold was able to defeat M23 with diplomacy, Politico argues that his next big challenge is to make governance in the DRC more effective.

“Only once it gained control over, and legitimacy in, eastern Congo could there be permanent peace,” said Politico. “Until then, it would remain a place where armed militias could gang-rape women and girls in farm fields, abduct boys and turn them into child soldiers, and burn entire villages to the ground.”

Due to its weak infrastructure and widespread poverty, the DRC still has a long way to go before getting rid of these problems. However, Feingold’s accomplishment in the region may potentially guide the country towards the right direction.

– Juan Campos

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Politico, U.S. Department of State
Photo: Pulitzer Center

Starvation War Strategy
It is hunger, more than traditional warfare, that is taking the most lives and causing people to flee from Syria. Several parts of Syria have been cut off from food for several months and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that three million people are hungry. The WFP has been able to deliver food aid to two million people, but over one million people are trapped in areas where no food is getting in and people cannot get out. Civilians who are in areas under siege are starving; hunger is being used as a weapon of war.

Hunger in Homs

In the city Homs, which has been under siege for the 18 months people are surviving on olives, “water soup” made of water and spices and grass and weeds picked from the street.  As of mid-February, 1,300 people, including 500 children as well as and many women, elderly, and disabled persons fled the city with the help of Red Crescent and United Nations workers.

Men between the ages of 15 years old to 55 years old were forced to stay and fight.  A temporary evacuation was allowed, but many evacuees and aid workers were wounded and many civilians were too afraid to try and leave.

Hunger forced the people to leave; food has dwindled down to nothing in the city and a one kilogram bag of rice costs $50. People were fighting over the small amount of food the U.N. was able to get into the city.  Gerard Araud, France’s U.N. Ambassador was quoted saying “We are facing the worst humanitarian tragedy since the genocide in Rwanda in 1994…starvation is used as a weapon by the regime.'”

Children Starving to Death

CNN broadcasted video footage of an emaciated one-year girl at the National Hospital in suburbs of Damascus. The child’s organs were slowly deteriorating due to hunger and she reportedly died in hospital after her heart stopped. Her distraught mother reported that she had nothing to feed her child.

Doctors have told activists and journalists that this horror story is now happening frequently here. Starvation is being used as a weapon and infants are dying as their mother’s breast milk runs dry. The elderly, the sick and pregnant women are also especially vulnerable.

Parents are risking death by leaving their homes to look for food for their children. A nurse told Amnesty International that at least four people a day suffer gunshot wounds while picking plants and shrubs in the fields nearby the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in Damascus.

Starvation War Strategy is a War Crime

Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been starving his citizens and blocking access to humanitarian aid as a war strategy and this is considered a war crime. Reuters reports that one Syrian security official called the situation the “Starvation Until Submission Campaign.”

Save the Child recently released a report stating that parts of Homs, Aleppo, Idlib and Damascus have been besieged. Talks between the U.N. and large humanitarian organizations are underway to negotiate a way to end the suffering of civilians.

The chief of Amnesty International said that European nations are not doing their part by taking in refugees. The five countries surrounding Syria are taking in 97 percent of the refugees and they are collapsing and now in need of help themselves.  Wealthy European nations with space and resources need to step up to the plate.

Elizabeth Brown

Sources: CNN, BBC, Arutz Sheva, Reuters, Al Arabiya
Photo: Spillers of Soup

Male Victims of Sexual Violence During Conflict
When most people think of sexual violence during armed conflict, they picture the rape of women and girls. While sexual violence against women is an enormous human rights issue, sexual violence against men frequently occurs but is not often talked about.

Men all around the world suffer from sexual violence during war and conflict. Victims can be military or rebel groups, and perpetrators can be men or women. While men are sometimes raped, they are also subject to an array of other horrific indecencies.

Castration, beating and mutilation of the genitals, undressing men and making them remain naked while in prison and even forcing men to rape their own family members  have been documented.

The United Nation Commission of Inquiry reports that the extreme sexual violence against both men and women has occurred in detention centers during the current Syrian conflict. There have also been reports of sexual violence against men in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. An academic study found that that 23.6 percent of men in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had experienced sexual violence.

Another study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 32.6 percent of the males surveyed had been victims of sexual violence during the conflict in Liberia. While many people were aware of the rape of Bosnian women during the 1992 conflict in the former Yugoslavia, a report from the Peace Academy accounts that rape and sexual torture also happened to men during this war.

The extent of sexual violence in armed conflict varies significantly between regions and between armed groups. Some armed groups permit sexual violence in war and others do not. However, wartime sexual violence occurs across all geographic regions and ethnic groups. State forces are more likely to be named as perpetrators of sexual violence than rebel groups.

In addition, perpetrators of sexual violence are not always armed forces at all; often sexual violence is committed by civilians. Wartime rape and sexual violence is not often ordered or planned but rather tolerated by commanding officers.

Feminist and women’s rights groups have pushed for awareness, education and intervention around wartime sexual violence against women. Because of this there has been significant research and policy work into preventing sexual violence against women. There are also many organizations that exist to support and treat women who have been victims to sexual violence during armed conflict.

There has been little research on male victims of sexual violence in conflict, although it is increasing.

Few human rights groups openly speak about wartime sexual violence against men, this may be because of gender stereotypes and taboos such as the belief that “real men are unreadable.” It is important that researchers, practitioners and the public alike begin to realize that sexual violence is not gender-bias and that men and women can be both victims and perpetrators.

Is it urgent that organizations that support and aid female victims of sexual violence need to equally expand their services to include men.

Elizabeth Brown
Sources: CNN, Peace Academy, United States Institute of Peace
Photo: Tumblr

What Elections in Kenya Mean to the United States
Uhuru Kenyatta is slated to be the next President of Kenya. The elections in Kenya on Monday were a monumental and happy moment because they were one of the most peaceful elections the country has ever had. And now, as ballots are being counted, Kenyatta has the lead.

For the United States, while the peaceful elections are celebrated, Uhuru Kenyatta becoming President may lead to some serious problems. Kenyatta has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a long list of heinous crimes. He has been accused of stirring up the local militia to conduct retaliation attacks in the previous election that killed numerous people, including innocent women and children.

The United States has invested a lot in Kenya, serving as an important ally to the region. Even more, Kenya has become a crucial center on Terror.

Yet, the United States is dedicated to justice. And supporting or working with a president that has been indicted by the ICC for crimes against human rights, against women and children, would not be living up to this value. President Obama’s administration, as well as the administrations of many of its allies, are faced with the very tough decision to either completely distance themselves from Kenya, because even small things like diplomats shaking Kenyatta’s hand could be problematic, or figure out a way to work with Kenyatta and still put forth a message of justice.

Jendayi Frazer, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said, “This is going to pose a very awkward situation. Kenyatta knows he needs the United States, and the United States knows it needs Kenya.” Some even say that the United States needs Kenya more than Kenya needs the United States.

The Obama Administration has refused to talk about the situation, only saying, in the words of President Obama, “The choice of who will lead Kenya is up to the Kenyan people.” Once Kenyatta is announced President, the United States, and its allies must proceed very cautiously.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: NY Times, CNN
Photo: Forbes

Kenyan Elections Delayed, Recount Requested
The party of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for a cessation of vote counting, accusing the results of being “doctored.” Campaign officials are requesting a fresh count, with oversight on all parts of the tallying process. The final results were supposed to be transmitted electronically, but a server malfunction resulted in a complete failure of the digital voting system. As the results are now being tabulated by hand, citizens nervously await an official result in the Kenyan elections.

In Kenya’s first elections since 2007, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, is the front-runner, despite being accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC asserts that in the violent aftermath of the 2007 election, Kenyatta helped to organize attacks against members of different ethnic groups. If elected, his position as Head of State would make the ICC’s case all the more difficult to see through.

Though many politicians are calling for peace, there is no guarantee that peace will last. Violence has flared in recent months, although the overall level of fighting is far below where it has reached in the past. Further reforms, like the new constitution and election procedures instituted after the 2007 violence, are necessary to ensure that all Kenyans can vote freely and peacefully for whomever they feel best represents their interests in the Kenyan elections.

Jake Simon

Source: New York Times