Entrenching Impunity
Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur

X. The Response of the International Community

In July 2004, a year after the first major Sudanese government offensives bombed and burned out tens of thousands of villagers from rural areas in North Darfur, the U.N. Security Council passed the first of four resolutions concerning Darfur.249 Resolution 1556 called for the Sudanese government to “fulfill its commitments to disarm the Janjaweed militias and apprehend and bring to justice Janjaweed leaders and their associates who have incited and carried out international humanitarian law violations and other atrocities.”  The resolution continued by threatening further action, “including measures as provided for under Article 41 of the Charter of the United Nations…”250

The Sudanese government did nothing to implement the resolution, and the situation worsened. Despite two further resolutions, including one which established the international Commission of Inquiry into the crimes in Darfur, it took nine months for the Security Council to act again with any concrete penalties on the Sudanese government. Resolution 1593 of March 31, 2005, referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC.251 This referral came as a serious shock to the Sudanese leadership, who expected that Security Council allies would veto the move. The referral to the ICC, following the report by the Commission of Inquiry, was perhaps the only significant effort by the U.N. Security Council to signal that the crimes committed in Darfur would not be ignored.  To date, however, Sudan has not indicated its willingness to cooperate with the ICC, and there appears to have been little political pressure from other states to do so.

Resolution 1591 of March 29, 2005, was also worrying to the Sudanese government. It imposed individual travel sanctions and asset freezes on those identified who “impede the peace process, constitute a threat to stability in Darfur and the region, [and] commit violations of international humanitarian or human rights law or other atrocities.” The sanctions were also aimed at individuals who violated the arms embargo or who were responsible for “offensive military overflights.” The sanctions did not apply retroactively, however, only to actions following the passage of the resolution, and were therefore imposed as a threat of consequences for future misdeeds rather than as a penalty for past abuses.252  However, the sanctions resolution also risks amounting to little more than a symbolic gesture given the divisions on the Security Council. The Sanctions Committee, which will approve the imposition of sanctions on individuals based on recommendations from the Panel of Experts, is so divided—with Sudan’s allies China, Russia, and Algeria creating obstacles—that it is possible no individuals will ever be sanctioned.

As of December 2005, the situation in Darfur is critical and “ethnic cleansing” will certainly be consolidated unless substantial international pressure is put on the Sudanese government. The divided international community, and particularly the U.N. Security Council, must take further action and increase the pressure on the Sudanese government if Darfur—and the wider region—are to avoid continued widespread and serious violations of human rights.

Three elements are essential for civilian protection, security, and the eventual return of displaced people to their homes: establishing a realistic mechanism for disarmament of the government-backed militias and other armed groups responsible for rights violations; ending impunity and ensuring accountability for the abuses; and providing compensation or equitable redress to those whose rights have been violated. The Sudanese government is obligated to address these concerns, whether or not a peace agreement is concluded with rebel forces.

[249] The U.N. Security Council authorized six resolutions dealing with Sudan between July 2004, and March 2005. Two of the resolutions primarily concerned the north-south peace negotiations and the peacekeeping force for that agreement (Resolutions 1574 (November 2004) and 1590 (March 2005)) and mentioned Darfur only in passing. The resolutions dealing specifically with Darfur were: 1556 (July 2004), 1564 (September 2004), 1591 and 1593 (March 2005).
[250] S/RES/1556 (2004).
[251] S/RES/1593 (2005).
[252] S/RES/1591 (2005).

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