UN rights official calls for greater international presence in Darfur, Sudan

28 September 2004
Louise Arbour

Back in Geneva following a weeklong visit to the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today said the external security and humanitarian presence there should be quickly expanded.

Louise Arbour said she will advocate that the international presence be enlarged "in all its manifestations" when she meets Secretary-General Kofi Annan at UN Headquarters in New York later this week to discuss the visit she made with Juan Méndez, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

While praising the work of the African Union (AU), which has monitors deployed in Sudan, she said their work is hampered by a "deficit in political will, deficit in logistical capacity, deficit in funding, to meet a crisis of this magnitude."

"We have to mobilize on all these fronts," she told reporters.

Mrs. Arbour and Mr. Méndez, along with the Secretary-General, are slated to brief the Security Council on Thursday on the latest situation in Darfur, where about 1.45 million people are internally displaced and another 200,000 have had to flee to neighbouring Chad.

Most are escaping attacks by the Janjaweed militias, which are accused of killing or raping thousands of civilians and destroying homes, cropland and wells. Many are also fleeing fighting between Sudanese Government forces and two rebel groups.

Mrs. Arbour said there has been "considerable progress" in meeting the immediate humanitarian concerns of the displaced, especially for food and relief assistance. But she said all of those she spoke with still live in fear, and pointed to a "disturbing disconnect" between the Government's portrayal of the situation and the reality on the ground.

The core crisis of safety and security must be addressed "with great urgency and seriousness," she said.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, has arrived in Khartoum on the last leg of a five-day visit to Chad and Sudan to talk to officials and aid agencies and to inspect the camps in both countries.

Later today, Mr. Lubbers was scheduled to meet senior Sudanese Government officials to press the need to end all violence in Darfur and to rebuild trust between the authorities and the displaced.

UNHCR has opened its 10th camp in eastern Chad to house the vast population of Sudanese refugees that have crossed the border. The first 205 refugees arrived in Treguine camp, near the town of Adré, yesterday and another 200 people are scheduled to reach the camp today. By early November about 15,000 people are expected to be living in Treguine, many from the currently overcrowded nearby camp of Breidjing.

In other developments:

UN Special Representative for Sudan Jan Pronk is in Brussels today to discuss the Darfur crisis with senior officials of the European Union. Mr. Pronk is expected to arrive in New York later this week.Mr. Pronk's Deputy for Humanitarian and Development Affairs, Manuel Aranda Da Silva, told a two-day donors' meeting in Oslo that, even in a best-case scenario, the situation in Darfur is so dire that international donors will have to maintain their current level of support until at least the end of next year.UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Yakin Ertürk is midway through a weeklong visit to Sudan. After holding meetings and consultations in Khartoum, she is scheduled to travel to Darfur today to inspect the situation there.


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