Conflict & Justice

Talking Peace: This week in global diplomatic negotiations

Diplomats around the world are calling out for peace and meeting for negotiations this week on human rights issues and transitioning states out of violence.

The UN has stepped into political tensions in the Central African Republic, two American congressmen call for renewed talks with Iran, the UN congratulates the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asks Syrians to drop their weapons for Ramadan.

Here are some of this week’s updates on important peace talks and developments to keep an eye on:


Democratic congressmen Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) on Monday called on the US to seize new opportunities presented by the recent Iranian presidential election and “reinvigorate diplomatic engagement” with the country.

The representatives announced their request in a co-authored op-ed for Politico, insisting that now is the time for President Barack Obama and the Congress to alter the dialogue surrounding Iran and adopt a fresh approach.

“Reinvigorated diplomatic engagement remains the best option to achieve two goals that are critical for U.S. interests in the Middle East: preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and preventing a military strike against the country that could escalate to a wider war,” they wrote.

On June 14, following a Human Rights Watch warning that human rights abuses during a pre-election crackdown by the Iranian government could damage any possibility for free and fair elections, Iran elected the most moderate candidate to presidency. Hassan Rouhani, who campaigned on a platform of improving ties with the West, has been called a sign for the allowance of “casual optimism.”

Not reaching out to Iran, and instead imposing harsher sanctions on the country, would be a mistake, the representatives said.

“Additional sanctions now would offend the majority of voters who chose moderation over extremism and could jeopardize a crucial opening for moderate Iranian leaders,” the article read. “The message to them would be that no matter what you do, the United States will respond only with more crippling pressure.”


The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) released a statement yesterday welcoming the progress made in the fight against torture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, following the first convictions of state agents who participated in or encouraged torture.

A law criminalizing torture in the Congo was enacted on July 9, 2011. At least five soldiers of the Congolese armed forces, five agents of the Congolese National Police, one agent of the national intelligence service and one administrative official have so far been convicted for their actions.

“International human rights law implies an absolute and non-derogable ban on the use of torture as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Juan E. Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and punishment.

Sentences for participation in or encouragement toward such acts range from sixth months to life imprisonment.

“The UNJHRO has spared no effort to support investigation missions conducted by judicial authorities, as well as the holding of mobile courts, some of which have resulted in the conviction of perpetrators of torture,” the news release said.

The statement added that the UNJHRO organizes outreach activities, which continue to register cases of torture in all provinces throughout the country.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s new top envoy to the Central African Republic arrived yesterday in the country’s capital of Bangui, with the goal of setting the necessary groundwork for peaceful development, according to a statement released by the UN News Centre.

The envoy, General Babacar Gaye, who is also head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office for the Republic, called this moment a crucial one for the African country, and reaffirmed his commitment to “the necessary assistance to the Central African people to put in place needed priorities.”

Gaye noted that the UN has four main priorities for its intervention: restoration of security, respect for human rights, humanitarian assistance and a restored political dialogue.

“I intend to meet in the coming days with political stakeholders, civil society and representatives the Central African Republic’s partners,” he said. “I also intend to make contact with the authorities of neighboring countries and religious and international partners.”

Since an offensive launched by the Séléka rebel coalition in December 2012, which led to a March 2013 presidential coup, 1.2 million people have been cut off from essential services and human rights violations have been extensive. Rights groups have released reports of rampant abuses and burned villages. Violence in just the last four months has led more than 37,000 people to flee the country.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed yesterday to all parties involved in Syrian civil conflict to put halt all violence through the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Ban reminded Syrians that Ramadan is one of four months in the Islamic calendar that call for a cessation of fighting, saying that he hoped this gesture might also aid in building a momentum toward a peaceful resolution.

“For the sake of the Syrian people, therefore, I would like to call on all parties in Syria to respect this religious obligation for at least, at a minimum, one month,” Ban said. “I am not calling for a contractual cease-fire or a negotiated truce. Nor am I referring to a measure limited to any one area. I am calling for every military unit of the regular army and the Free Syrian Army, for every person holding a gun, to stop fighting and offer this month of peace as a collective present to their people – and to do so across Syria.”

Ban also requested the release of detainees by Government forces and opposition groups, citing reliable reports of hundreds of women and children being detained in various facilities, both official and non-official, throughout Syria.

This is the third Ramadan since the beginning of fighting in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups. Since then, up to 100,000 people have been killed, almost 2 million have fled the country and 4 million have been internally displaced.