The Security Council is determined to ensure there is no impunity for anyone who has committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region, its President for February said today as he announced that the situation in Africa's largest country will be the focus of at least two Council meetings this month.
As Council members study the report of a UN-appointed commission of inquiry into whether genocide has occurred in Darfur, Ambassador Joel W. Adechi of Benin, which holds the rotating presidency for this month, told reporters at a briefing that the 15-member body wants to deal with the situation in an "internationally recognized way."
The commission of inquiry found that while the Sudanese Government had not conducted a policy of genocide, both its forces and allied Janjaweed militias had carried out "indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement."
The panel also concluded that rebel forces in Darfur were responsible for possible war crimes, including murder of civilians and pillage, and recommended that the Council refer its dossier on the crimes to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Tens of thousands of people have been killed and up to 1.85 million others are internally displaced or have fled to neighbouring Chad since the conflict flared in early 2003.
Speaking to reporters today at UN Headquarters, Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated his support for the ICC option and for quick and decisive action by the Council. He also stressed that sanctions against the Khartoum Government must remain on the table.
"I was able to sit down with President Bashir and his Foreign Minister…to tell them exactly what we think should be done and the fact that the situation in Darfur was not getting any better and it was essential that they took every step to bring the situation under control," Mr. Annan said of his meeting with the Sudanese leaders at the African Union summit last weekend in Nigeria.
The Council will hold at least two meetings and possibly a third on Sudan this month, focusing on both the situation in Darfur – where violent clashes have been reported this week – and the proposal for the establishment of a UN peace-support mission in southern Sudan following the signing of a peace deal there last month.
Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, will brief the Council this Friday and again at a separate meeting next Tuesday on the proposal for the peace-support mission. Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and John Garang, leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), may brief the second meeting, along with representatives of the African Union.
Mr. Adechi said Council members could hold a third meeting on Sudan, this time focusing on the contents of the genocide inquiry report, as early as late next week.
Meanwhile, the UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) said reports indicate that on Monday violent clashes broke out between local tribes north of the town of Malha in North Darfur state. The dispute is believed to have been over long-standing tensions about the water shortage in the area, which has been ravaged by drought.
In South Darfur state, security and military officials from the capital Nyala have travelled to the town of Gereida to assess the situation following reports that militiamen attacked a group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) near there last week, killing six people and displacing more than 4,000 others from their homes.