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Sudan should assist in deployment of Darfur force ‘without delay’: UN rights mission

Sudan should assist in deployment of Darfur force ‘without delay’: UN rights mission

Sudan’s Government should fully cooperate with the immediate deployment of a United Nations-African Union (AU) hybrid force for Darfur and end the targeting of civilians, while all armed rebel movements must also strictly observe human rights laws, the UN Human Rights Council’s high-level mission to the region said in its report published today.

Despite failing to get into Darfur because of visa restrictions, the mission met hundreds of relevant people and reviewed thousands of pages of documents relating to the human rights situation in the troubled region during its month of work from 5 February to 5 March in Geneva, Addis Ababa, N’Djamena, Abeche and the refugee camps of Eastern Chad.

“The situation is characterized by gross and systematic violations of human rights and grave breaches of international humanitarian law. War crimes and crimes against humanity continue across the region,” the mission said in its 35-page report to the Human Rights Council, which begins its fourth session in Geneva today.

“The principal pattern is one of a violent counterinsurgency campaign waged by the Government of the Sudan in concert with Janjaweed /militia, and targeting mostly civilians. Rebel forces are also guilty of serious abuses of human rights and violations of humanitarian law.”

The report says the Sudanese Government “has manifestly failed to protect the population of Darfur from large-scale international crimes, and has itself orchestrated and participated in these crimes.”

Underscoring the “solemn obligation of the international community to exercise its responsibility to protect,” the report details the grim situation in Darfur, highlighting that killing of civilians remains “widespread,” along with the systematic use of rape and sexual violence. It also makes recommendations to the Council itself, the Sudanese Government, the various armed rebel movements and the international community.

“The Government of the Sudan should cooperate fully in the deployment of the proposed UN-AU peacekeeping/protection force without further delay,” the report states. “Sudan should end the targeting of civilians in Darfur, cease all support for Janjaweed/militia forces, and proceed with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of such forces.”

The mission also called on the Government to remove all obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the millions in need in the region. The UN says more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others forced to flee their homes since 2003, while in total, some 4 million civilians need assistance to survive in Darfur, which is in the west of Sudan.

The report also calls on all armed rebel movements operating in the region to strictly observe and respect international law, and ensure the free and safe access and movement of humanitarian personnel. It also urges them to “cooperate in good faith” in the pursuit of peace.

In addition, it calls on the Security Council to take “further action” to ensure the protection of civilians in Darfur, including through the deployment of the proposed UN-AU force, while recommending that the Human Rights Council should help set up an independent national rights commission for Sudan “to address the grave situation.”

Meanwhile on Saturday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir, and informed him of the choice made along with AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konaré, of a UN-AU joint Special Representative and a Deputy Special Representative for the Darfur region, as well as the force commander for the joint mission, according to a UN spokesperson, who told reporters today that Mr. Ban would discuss the Darfur situation with the Security Council on Thursday.

On Thursday last week, the Secretary-General received a letter from Sudan’s President replying to his earlier correspondence detailing the proposed UN-AU force of up to 24,000 personnel. The letter was accompanied by a 14-page annex in Arabic.