A High-Level Mission on the human rights situation in Darfur presented a critical report 15 March, on the role of the Sudanese Government to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In a separate development Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York that a letter he received from Sudan’s President, Omar Hassan Al Bashir, dated 8 March, was “not satisfactory”.
Bashir´s letter was a reply to Mr. Ban´s correspondence detailing a proposed hybrid force of the United Nations and the African Union (AU). The deployment of this peacekeeping mission of up to 24,000 personnel was supposed to help resolve the deadly conflict in the Darfur region which has killed over 200,000 people and uprooted 2.5 million more. The hybrid force represents the final phase of a three-phase plan agreed upon last year by the UN, AU and the Sudanese Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to help end the fighting which broke out in 2003 between the Sudanese Government, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy.
On 24 January, Mr. Ban and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Alpha Oumar Konaré, sent identical letters to the Sudanese President Bashir, transmitting details of the hybrid force for Darfur, but received no response.
The present response from Mr. Bashir came shortly after the Secretary-General wrote a second letter to the Sudanese President.
Even though the response contained some positive elements, Mr. Ban told reporters in New York on 15 March that he had informed Sudan’s President that his reply to UN calls for speedy deployment of the United Nations-African Union (AU) hybrid force for Darfur was “not satisfactory”.
Mr. Ban told reporters that in a telephone conversation with President Bashir he “expressed regrets that the president made a number of reservations on ideas that were jointly proposed by the United Nations and the African Union”, adding that he had urged Mr. Bashir to accept the proposals for the hybrid force.
“There is growing frustration among the members of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council,” the Secretary-General said in response to questions. “What is important at this time, even though we are frustrated, is that the political process has to go on”.
High-level mission report
The UN Human Rights Council’s high-level mission to the region presented its report on Darfur to the Human Rights Council on 12 March. The Council began its fourth session in Geneva the same day. 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.”
Despite failing to get into Darfur because of visa restrictions, the mission met hundreds of relevant people and reviewed thousands of pages of documents related 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.
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 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.
UN’s new humanitarian chief John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, departed on a two-week mission to Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic on 20 March.
Mr. Holmes begins his trip in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, before heading to Juba in southern Sudan, and then to Darfur in the country’s west. The next leg will be in eastern Chad, with the final stage in northern CAR and that country’s capital, Bangui.
“I want to get onto the ground soon to see for myself what is happening in some of the critical areas,” John Holmes told reporters in his first press briefing since taking office.
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor on 27 February named a Sudanese minister and a militia commander as the first suspects he wants tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s conflict-wracked Darfur region.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo presented evidence showing that Ahmad Muhammad Harun, former Sudanese Minister of State for the Interior, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, “jointly committed crimes against the civilian population in Darfur”. ICC judges will now review the evidence and decide whether the two individuals committed the alleged crimes and, if so, how best to ensure their appearance in court.