UN report says Sudan government guilty of orchestrating Darfur crimes

Monday, March 12, 2007

Internally displaced persons use sticks and scraps of plastic to construct makeshift shelters at Intifada transit camp near Nyala in South Darfur.

A report from a United Nations Human Rights Council mission "concludes that the government of the Sudan has manifestly failed to protect the population of Darfur from large-scale international crimes, and has itself orchestrated and participated in these crimes." The mission urges the U.N. to take "urgent further action", for example by deploying the proposed U.N. and African Union peacekeeping forces, and co-operating with the International Criminal Court.

The report team, lead by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams, further urges Sudan to stop targeting civilians. The report also says the government is allowing militias such as the Janjaweed to act with impunity, and that government forces are even operating jointly with the militia. The militias themselves and the armed rebel groups aren't spared either; they are accused of serious violations of human rights and international law.

During their month of work, the researchers didn't actually get into Sudan because they were not given visas, but they interviewed hundreds of relevant people (such as refugees), and reviewed thousands of pages from documents on the humanitarian situation in Darfur.

Fighting between rebel groups and government-backed militia in the Darfur region has killed an estimated 200,000 and displaced 2.5 million.

To summarise the situation, the 35-page documents says: "Today, millions are displaced, at least 200,000 are dead, and conflict and abuse are spilling over the border into Chad." The report says that humanitarian and human rights workers are increasingly being targeted, especially during the past six months. "Killing of civilians remains widespread, ... Rape and sexual violence are widespread and systematic. Torture continues." The experts think the conflict could destabilise the region.

The mission advises the U.N. General Assembly to "request the compilation of a list of foreign companies that have an adverse impact on the situation of human rights in Darfur." The U.N. agencies should then cease to do business with these companies.

Sudanese officials declined to respond to the report immediately, saying that the response will be made in Sudan's address to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday. Just days ago, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir rejected an interim U.N. plan to bolster African Union peacekeeping forces in Darfur. Up to 24,000 troops were to replace the current 7,000 African Union peacekeepers in the western Sudan region.

The almost 4-year-old Darfur conflict is being fought between the Janjaweed militia (Arabic for "devils on horseback"; they are camel-herding Arabs) and a group of mostly land-tilling tribes. The Sudanese government in the past denied allegations against them, blaming the rebels who didn't sign the peace treaty of 2006. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has already summoned a junior minister of the Sudan, and a militia leader, to answer war crime charges. The government in Khartoum refused to extradite anyone, saying the people responsible would be tried in the Sudan itself.

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