Home | News    Sunday 26 February 2006

Leaked names highlight Sudan’s failure to protect - HRW

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Feb 26, 2006 (NEW YORK) — The names of high-level Sudanese officials identified for their involvement in gross human rights abuses on a leaked U.N. sanctions list underscore Sudan’s manifest failure to protect civilians in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today.

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The village of Um Ziefa burns on Dec. 12 last year. (Photo Brian Steidle).

On Monday, the Security Council is scheduled to consider the report of its Panel of Experts on Darfur, including the report’s confidential annex, which was leaked to the press in mid-February.

The report itself was made public on January 30. But, when the Panel submitted the report to the Sudan Sanctions Committee of the Security Council on December 9, it kept confidential the annex listing names of specific individuals recommended for U.N. travel bans and asset freezes on account of human rights and other violations of Security Council resolutions.

“The names on the U.N. sanctions list underscore how top Sudanese officials have been responsible for ongoing atrocities in Darfur,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Since Khartoum will do nothing to protect them, civilians in Darfur urgently need a U.N. force with a strong mandate and the capacity for protection.”

Among the names listed in the confidential annex are Sudanese Defense Minister Major General Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein, and National Security Director Salah Abdalla (known as “Gosh”).

In a report released in December, Human Rights Watch outlined why the International Criminal Court should investigate both of these officials and others for their role in coordinating the atrocities in Darfur.

In addition, the annex listed several Sudanese military and police commanders, two Janjaweed militia leaders and five rebel commanders.

“The Security Council needs to impose sanctions on those responsible for human rights crimes in Darfur, and the international community should ensure that they are brought to justice,” Takirambudde said.

The Panel of Experts designated a total of 17 individuals for sanctions and five others to be considered for possible future designation.

Among the five listed for future action are two top commanders of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) who may be considered for sanctions if their ongoing leadership struggles impede the peace process. They were also cited for various human rights abuses, including using child soldiers and summary executions of captured combatants.

The Panel of Experts noted multiple violations in each of the three factual areas it was asked to examine: the movement of arms into Darfur and offensive military overflights, impeding the peace process, and violating international humanitarian or human rights law.

Discussions at the Security Council on follow-up to the Panel’s recommendations for sanctions are apparently stagnating, however. Instead, negotiations at the Council have been focused on the mandate and timing of the new U.N. force to replace the African Union (A.U.) mission in Darfur, which has been responsible for both ceasefire monitoring and civilian protection.

The Sudanese government is faced with Security Council action on two fronts, U.N. peacekeeping forces as well as sanctions. It has publicly rejected proposals for a transition in Darfur from the 7,000 A.U. military monitors to U.N. peacekeepers. Sudanese authorities also disputed the findings of the Panel of Experts on Darfur in a rebuttal of more than 100 pages.

While action on sanctions has been delayed since December, discussions of a transition from the A.U. mission to a U.N. peacekeeping force surfaced in February. The A.U. is expected to give its official approval to a transition to a U.N. peacekeeping mission in March, paving the way for Security Council action.

The Sudanese government cannot fend off both moves, U.N. observers predict, and is likely to acquiesce to a U.N. mission. Greater personal stigma would come from the Security Council’s naming of individuals, however.

“Sudan’s allies on the Council need to encourage Khartoum to accept the inevitable transition to a robust U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur,” Takirambudde said. “The Sudanese government’s protest that it does not want any non-African troops in Darfur is preposterous. The U.N. has already deployed thousands of Asian troops in southern Sudan, with no protest from Khartoum.”

Along with China and Russia, Qatar is currently one of Sudan’s strongest allies on the Security Council. Diplomatic sources told Human Rights Watch that Qatar’s representatives on the Security Council and its sanctions committee have repeatedly stalled progress in implementing targeted sanctions since the country took its seat in January. Qatar and others may engage in actions aimed at delaying the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur.

The under-resourced African Union Mission in Sudan has faced substantial obstacles from Sudanese government officials, who most recently imposed a curfew on nighttime patrols and have prevented A.U. forces from entering a Darfur airport to monitor illegal arms flows.

According to the Panel’s public report, the Sudanese government defied the explicit arms embargo provisions of resolution 1591. The Panel found that the government officials shipped arms, trucks, attack helicopters, and other military materiel into Darfur without seeking permission from the Sanctions Committee. Khartoum also used attack helicopters in support of offensive ground operations, which the Security Council resolution forbids.

The Panel’s report also named the Darfur rebel movements, particularly the SLA, for violating the arms embargo and attacking civilians, including killing captured government combatants, who have protection under international law. The report detailed the summary execution of 20 captured government soldiers during the fighting in and around Sheiria, South Darfur, on September 19-22. The SLA commander considered responsible is named in the annex to the report, as are four other rebel commanders in different parts of Darfur.

Today in Darfur, more than two million people remain forcibly displaced from their homes and farms in what Human Rights Watch has described as a government campaign of crimes against humanity and “ethnic cleansing” that began in early 2003.

Since December, Human Rights Watch researchers have documented escalating cross-border attacks by Sudanese and Chadian militiamen operating with Sudanese government support. The U.N. Panel noted that the borders between Sudan, Libya, and Chad are “very porous” and recommended strengthening the arms embargo by extending it to the entire territory of Sudan.

“The Security Council must not be passive in the face of growing regional instability,” said Takirambudde. “If the Security Council does not want to be seen as a toothless institution, it must mandate a robust peacekeeping operation in Darfur.”

(HRW/ST)

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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