Your Excellency

You now have before you a draft resolution on the situation in Darfur, circulated by the United States. It proposes that the Security Council invoke Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter as the basis for its authority to act in Sudan. We urge you to take this important step. We believe that this is one of those rare occasions when vigorous and extraordinary action must be taken.

The lives of almost two million Sudanese are at stake. Since early 2003, Sudanese government ground and air forces and their militias, known as the Janjaweed, have carried out attacks in Darfur on civilian populations associated by ethnicity with two rebel groups. More than one million people have been internally displaced and another 158,000 persons have fled to Chad as refugees. These actions have led to the humanitarian and human rights disaster that is Darfur today, where thousands have already died from direct violence, and the lives of hundreds of thousands are imminently threatened by continuing violence, disease and famine.

In view of the gravity of the current situation, we urge you to strengthen the proposed resolution through the inclusion of the following items:

Set a deadline for the protection of civilians and other measures

The Sudanese government has twice promised to “neutralize” the Janjaweed (in the April 8 ceasefire agreement) and to “disarm” them (presidential statement of June 18), but has taken no discernible steps to that end. To the contrary, reports from Darfur indicate that the Sudanese government continues to recruit and arm new militia members in Darfur. The continuing impunity of government forces and allied militias remains the most important obstacle to the protection of civilians. The resolution should emphasize that if the Sudanese government fails to take immediate steps to disarm and “neutralize” the Janjaweed and protect civilians within a specific timeframe, within days, then the Security Council will authorize an international force to provide that protection.

Extend sanctions to Sudanese government officials

The Council must make clear to the Government of Sudan the consequences of its continued failure to live up to its commitments and responsibilities. The draft resolution in paragraphs 6-8 proposes sanctions to be imposed upon the Janjaweed militia, including travel bans and an arms embargo, but omits any mention of sanctions on Sudanese government officials. Yet the relationship between the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militias is clear. The testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses—including refugees, displaced persons, aid workers, and U.N. officials—and evidence contained in government documents obtained by Human Rights Watch provide irrefutable evidence of the Sudanese government’s responsibility in recruiting, arming and otherwise supporting the militia forces. By treating the Janjaweed militias as a force separate and independent from the Sudanese government, the Security Council would be wrongly accepting the government’s denial of any links to and support for the Janjaweed. In addition, the sanctions as currently envisioned will likely have little impact, as the Janjaweed leaders are not known to travel internationally and are unlikely to have any foreign assets.

However, such sanctions may have an impact if they are imposed on Sudanese officials, particularly the army and air force chain of command, as well as other key government officials implicated in the military campaign in Darfur. For instance, the governors of North and South Darfur and other state officials and key officials in Khartoum, should be included on the sanctions list given that they bear responsibility for creating and supporting the Janjaweed militia.

Establish an international commission of inquiry

The draft resolution does not establish an independent international commission of inquiry into the abuses committed in Darfur by all parties to the conflict, as recommended in the report of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other reports. Instead, it provides for the representative of the Secretary-General to work closely with the Sudanese authorities on accountability. This proposal is unlikely to produce any real deterrent or remedial result given that the Sudanese government has yet to pursue any serious investigations of crimes committed by its forces in Darfur or other parts of Sudan. Not a single Janjaweed member or government commander has been charged with any crime, despite accounts of widespread killings and rape, the looting of hundreds of thousands of cattle, and destruction of hundreds of villages—the latter corroborated by satellite photographic images. An international commission of inquiry should be established with the aim of investigating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and making recommendations for accountability.

Reverse “ethnic cleansing” and withdraw the Janjaweed

The resolution should explicitly state that the goal of the Security Council is to achieve a reversal of the effects of ethnic cleansing, in other words, the voluntary return of refugees and the displaced to their homes in dignity and safety. This cannot be achieved until the Janjaweed militia is disarmed and withdrawn from the rural areas it has occupied by force and crimes against humanity. The Security Council should condemn any efforts to forcibly return civilians to areas where they continue to face attacks by Janjaweed militias.

Ensure Humanitarian Relief

Particularly given the rainy season, the immediate delivery of humanitarian supplies is of the utmost urgency. If the international community is to prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the current resolution must be amended to more firmly and expansively require the Government of Sudan to open Darfur to international humanitarian efforts and provide safety and security throughout areas of need in Darfur.

Urge the African Union to actively monitor the human rights situation

The Security Council should urge the African Union monitoring mission to proactively investigate attacks on civilians and monitor the Sudanese government’s actions to disarm and disband the Janjaweed militia, and their withdrawal from the rural areas they have occupied. We urge the Security Council to state in paragraph 2 of the draft resolution that the international monitors to be deployed to Darfur are human rights monitors.

The Security Council must not delay in taking these actions. There is ample information, provided by frequent briefings by U.N. officials and others, of what is occurring in Darfur, and of the Sudanese government’s responsibility for the crisis. The World Health Organization estimates that 10,000 Sudanese could die in the next month unless a military-backed relief effort is implemented immediately.

The Security Council is asked to take on the most important activity in which it can engage: protecting the lives of nearly two million civilians at risk. Its response should be commensurate with the urgency and gravity of this historic time.

Sincerely,

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director

Joanna Weschler
U.N. Advocacy Director