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Unable to visit Darfur, UN Human Rights Council fact-finding team heads to Chad

Unable to visit Darfur, UN Human Rights Council fact-finding team heads to Chad

Ban Ki-moon responds to reporters questions
After a planned visit to Darfur fell through because of visa problems, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on the situation inside the strife-torn region of Sudan has travelled to neighbouring Chad to interview refugees who have fled the war-torn region.

The high-level, five-member team intends to complete its work on the ground by next week, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said today, in response to press questions at UN Headquarters in New York.

The mission is not going to Sudan as planned because of continued uncertainty over whether members could obtain visas for that country.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he was disappointed the team could not get into Sudan, and had raised the issue with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when they met last month on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“He said he would issues visas to the fact-finding mission,” Mr. Ban said. “He said he would have no problem. I am very much disappointed by the decision of the Sudanese Government. I urge again that the Sudanese Government fully cooperates with the unanimous decision of the Human Rights Council.”

The mission, which is headed by Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work campaigning against landmines, is expected to present its report on the trip in time for the Council’s fourth regular session next month.

The Council established the mission in December to probe the human rights situation in Darfur, which has been beset by countless instances of abuses, among them mass rape, abduction and forced relocation, since fighting broke out between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups in 2003.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes, and an estimated 4 million people now depend on aid to survive. Last month Mr. Ban called the situation “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”

Since the mission began its work in Geneva on 5 February, it has held dozens of meetings and interviews with human rights specialists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community representatives, UN staff members, AU officials and others.

Aside from Ms. Williams, the other members of the mission are: Mart Nutt, an Estonian parliamentarian and member of the Council of Europe’s European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance; Bertrand Ramcharan, the former Acting and Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Patrice Tonda, Gabon’s Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Geneva; and Indonesian Ambassador Makarim Wibisono, President of the 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights. The members are serving in their personal capacity.