Background Briefing

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AMIS and Humanitarian Access

As of March 10, 2006, a total of 7,031 personnel had been deployed to Darfur as part of AMIS (4,915 protection force members, 726 unarmed military observers and 1,390 unarmed civilian police officers)102 to monitor an April 2004 humanitarian ceasefire agreement, and protect civilians and humanitarian operations. 

AMIS has been tasked with opening humanitarian corridors, and claims that it covers 50 percent of Darfur’s area,103 but it is limited in how effectively it covers that area by its lack of mobility, communications, and other equipment—as well as its interpretation of its mandate for civilian protection and its rules of engagement. 104

Although AMIS was charged with protecting civilians and humanitarian workers, AMIS found that they were not the only ones in danger: AMIS itself was attacked, sometimes while guarding humanitarian convoys. AMIS’s casualties began to mount in the second half of 2005 as various armed parties, who were often unidentified, carried out attacks on AMIS forces. For instance, on August 25, 2005, an AMIS soldier was shot and wounded in South Darfur by unknown assailants.105 

The amended November 2005 AMIS rules of engagement make it clear that AMIS soldiers are to use deadly force if necessary in self-defense and to avoid detention. Commanders on the ground have the possibility, under certain circumstances, to use deadly force to protect AMIS troops, international personnel, A.U. facilities, civilians, humanitarian workers, and others.106

Not all international NGOs seek direct AMIS protection of their convoys. Some on principle refuse armed protection.107 Others say that an AMIS escort is more of a risk than a deterrent in Darfur.108 Even when agencies seek AMIS escort, however, there are practical obstacles because of AMIS’s limited capacity. One logistics officer with a relief organization in West Darfur had to wait three days for AMIS to reshuffle personnel just to free up enough vehicles to accompany the officer on a short stretch of road.109

While a stronger and larger protection force could attempt to secure the main roads for humanitarian and civilian traffic, the Sudanese government has vehemently opposed the transfer of AMIS military operations in Darfur to what would be a better-financed, equipped, and larger force under the United Nations.

[102] African Union, “Report of the Chairperson of the Commission Pursuant to Paragraph 5 of the PSC Communiqué, PSC/PR/COMM (XLV) of 12 January 2006 on the Situation in Darfur,” Addis Ababa, March 10, 2006, [online]

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with diplomatic official, Addis Ababa, February 21, 2006.

[104] The revised AMIS mandate of October 2004 included “[p]rotecting civilians whom it encounters under imminent threat and in the immediate vicinity, within resources and capability.” The mandate and the February 2005 rules of engagement are discussed in detail in Human Rights Watch, “Sudan: Imperatives for Immediate Change.”

[105] United Nations Security Council, “Monthly Report of the Secretary-General on Darfur,” September 19, 2005, [online]

[106] “Rules of Engagement (ROE) for the Military Component of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS),” African Union Commission, Addis Ababa, November 2005, A.U. Restricted. These rules of engagement are superior to those of February 2005, which were analyzed in Human Rights Watch, “Sudan: Imperatives for Immediate Change.”

[107] The use of armed escorts is considered to be contradictory to the fundamental principles of humanitarian action. These principles are humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality.  For further discussion of this issue see www.

[108] Refugees International, “No Power to Protect: The African Union Mission in Sudan,” November 9, 2005, [online]

[109] Human Rights Watch confidential interview, March 23, 2006.

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