In today’s world, many innocent lives are lost every year as a result of armed conflict. Together with HRN, HRN-NY investigates and reports on the violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed on the ground during armed conflicts, and it urges the international community to prevent further human rights violations by raising alarms and condemning them, as well as by taking steps towards justice and accountability by creating independent commissions of inquiry and bringing cases before the ICC. Moreover, we condemn the use of inhumane weapons and calls for their abolishment.
PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT
Despite significant progress in the areas of international humanitarian and human rights law in past decades, cruel and indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians continue to be carried out in many parts of the world. For instance, in Iraq — which was the subject of a recent investigation by Human Rights Now — the toxic remnants of decades-long conflict continue to cause serious health problems, particularly for children: HRN’s fact-finding mission found reports of increased birth deformities, cancer, and illnesses associated with exposure to toxic substances in conflict areas since 2003. This is just one example of the many ongoing gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law affecting civilians in armed conflict around the world.
We believe that the international community must spare no effort to protect civilians and urge states to make a clear, collective commitment to this critical humanitarian issue. In addition to our investigative and advocacy work on human rights violations against civilians in Iraq, HRN is a member of The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), an NGO partnership “calling for immediate action to prevent human suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas”. Accordingly, HRNNY has been closely monitoring UN meetings and events related to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as other issues pertaining to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
TOTAL ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945 killed an estimated 140,000 people immediately in the blast. By the end of the same year, about 60,000 more people died from radiation-related injuries and illnesses.
Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. The catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of the use and testing of nuclear weapons pose a serious threat to our right to life. We firmly believe that the only way to eliminate nuclear risks is to eliminate all nuclear weapons from our planet.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, was adopted on July 7, 2017 at United Nations headquarters in New York and entered into force on January 21, 2021. These historic moments are products of long-standing efforts of civil society and the international community. Together with many other organizations and activists around the globe, including ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize recipient), we will continue to strive for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
The recent escalation of violence between the Israeli military and Gaza in May of 2021 was the latest incident in a long history of armed conflict surrounding the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). At the root of this violence is a pattern of systemic discrimination against Palestinians, including forced displacement, apartheid conditions, discriminatory laws, widespread poverty and hunger, a water supply crisis, and an Israeli blockade that has led to a collapse in infrastructure and blocked access to vital goods.
We strive to end the systemic discrimination against Palestinians and put an end to the violence by utilizing our special consultative status at the United Nations to actively engage in the UN decision-making process. Accordingly, we call upon state and non-state actors to abide by their obligations under international human rights law and urge U.S. leadership to take action to help bring an end to Israel’s institutionalized domination and oppression of the Palestinian people and protect their fundamental human rights.
On February 1st, 2021, Myanmar’s armed forces, the Tatmadaw, staged a coup by announcing the imposition of a one-year state of emergency, seizing control as a junta over the government, and detaining officials from the National League for Democracy (NLD), including their leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Since the coup occurred, the Tatmadaw has committed numerous human rights violations, including (a) serious transgressions that may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes and (b) infringements of the rights to liberty, security of person, and voting and the freedom of expression, association, and access to information.
In conjunction with other NGOs from around the world, we urge Myanmar’s military to end the violence against civilians and respect the results of the last election. Furthermore, we issue a call to governments to implement targeted sanctions against the Tatmadaw and, along with international corporations, cease any activities or associations that may support it.
Human rights violations continue to occur in Iraq, including violence against civilians by ISIS remnants and US-led coalition airstrikes which cause a heavy toll of civilian casualties. Moreover, Iraqi citizens continue to be seriously threatened by airstrikes, torture, or execution by Iraqi Security Forces.
We strongly urge the Iraq government to spare no effort to cease all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, protect non-combatant citizens, and restore justice and accountability. We also urge the Human Rights Council to immediately call for all parties to cease attacking civilians and request the UN special rapporteurs on execution, torture, counterterrorism, and human rights to conduct official visits to Iraq to prevent further violations.