Monday, March 12, 2007

Darfur update

Sudan orchestrated Darfur crimes, U.N. mission says By Richard Waddington
Mon Mar 12, 3:39 PM ET

A U.N. human rights mission accused Sudan's government on Monday of orchestrating and taking part in gross violations in Darfur and called for urgent international action to protect civilians there.

The team, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams, was dispatched by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate charges of widespread abuse in Sudan's vast western region, where observers say some 200,000 people have been killed since a revolt broke out in 2003.

"The situation is characterized by gross and systematic violations of human rights and grave breaches of international humanitarian law," the mission said in a report to the Council.

"The mission further concludes that the government of 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 35-page report said.

While rebel groups were also guilty of serious abuses, the "principal pattern is one of a violent counterinsurgency campaign" being waged by government forces and their militia allies, the so-called Janjaweed, the report said.

The mission, which was refused entry to Sudan, urged the U.N. Security Council to take "urgent further action" to protect civilians, including through the deployment of peacekeepers.

The Sudanese government denies responsibility for abuses and blames them on rebel groups which refused a 2006 peace deal.

The Darfur violence, described as genocide by Washington, has killed tens of thousands of people and driven 2.5 million from their homes as rebels, charging the government in Khartoum with neglect, battle pro-government Arab militias.


Britain called a letter from Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir contesting a plan for U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur "a major setback" that the Security Council needed to discuss.

Bashir objected to indications the U.N. would share control with the African Union which has 7,000 under-financed troops in Darfur. Bashir's letter dashed hopes U.N. peacekeepers could be deployed soon, even in auxiliary functions, in Darfur.

"The letter is very disappointing," British U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said. "It's a major setback, and is tantamount to a requirement for a renegotiation of some of the points in the ... package."

The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) has summoned a junior government minister and a Darfur militia leader to answer war crimes charges in a first step toward bringing to trial those deemed responsible for atrocities, including mass rape and murder of civilians.

Khartoum, which says it will hold trials of its own, is adamant that it will not hand over anybody to face the court.

The decision to send the six-person team to Sudan was taken by the U.N.'s human rights watchdog only after a bitter debate. Some Arab and African countries on the 47-state body were unhappy at singling out Sudan for special attention.

The Sudanese government, which is resisting calls for a U.N. force, at first agreed to cooperate but then refused to issue visas to the mission.

The team traveled to Chad's border with Sudan, where the conflict in Darfur has spilled over, and to Addis Ababa, headquarters of the African Union.

One team member, Indonesia's ambassador Makarim Wibisono, withdrew when it failed to get access to Darfur.

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