Dec 9, 2006 (NEW YORK) — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nations was failing to live up to its responsibility to protect human rights in Darfur, as it has often failed in the past.
- UN SG Kofi Annan
Speaking with unusual candor, Annan said he feared the U.N. was once again not fulfilling its promise to "never again" stay silent in the face of genocide and war crimes.
"Sixty years after the liberation of the Nazi death camps, and 30 years after the Cambodian killing fields, the promise of ’never again’ is ringing hollow," he said in a speech Friday to mark International Human Rights Day, which is Sunday.
In a reference to the protracted negotiations between the United Nations and the government of Sudan, Annan said blame for the continuing "horror" of Darfur could be shared among "those who value abstract notions of sovereignty more than the lives of real families, those whose reflex of solidarity puts them on the side of governments and not of peoples."
In August, the Security Council called for more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace an overwhelmed African Union force, but made their deployment contingent on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s assent.
Last month, al-Bashir agreed in principle to allow a "hybrid" AU-U.N. operation, though he later reiterated his opposition to U.N. troops in Darfur.
Many have criticized the international community for inaction in responding to the crisis in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced by three years of fighting between rebels and government forces.
Annan reiterated that the Sudanese government’s failure to protect its own citizens, and its resistance to external offers of help, is "placing the government in a very difficult situation."
"In time they may have to answer collectively and individually for what is happening in Darfur," he said.
In one of his last public speeches as secretary-general, Annan, whose term ends Dec. 31, said he was also disappointed that the Human Rights Council, which replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission in June, had only recently agreed to take up the issue of Darfur.
"I hope against hope that it will find an effective way to deal with this burning issue," he said. Annan expressed concern with the council’s "disproportionate focus on violations by Israel," the only country it has criticized in its six-month tenure.
On Monday, Annan is scheduled to visit the Truman Museum in Independence, Mo., to pay homage to one of the U.N.’s founders, former President Truman. He will make his last speech as secretary-general to an American audience there, a spokesman said.