(New York) - The U.N. Security Council should take immediate steps to protect civilians in Darfur and impose sanctions on Sudanese officials as well as government-backed militias, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Security Council members ahead of a resolution on the crisis in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
A draft resolution proposed by the United States considers the situation in Darfur to be a threat to international peace and security under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. The text calls on the Sudanese government to disarm the Janjaweed militias it has armed and supported. It also imposes travel and arms sanctions on members of the Janjaweed, but fails to extend these sanctions to the government officials backing these militias.
“Disarming the Janjaweed would be a crucial step in protecting civilians in Darfur, but Khartoum has flagrantly broken its earlier promises to neutralize them,” said Jemera Rone, Sudan researcher for Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division. “The Sudanese government continues to use these militias to carry out ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Now the Security Council must be prepared to intervene with more muscle.”
In Darfur, Sudanese government forces and Janjaweed militias are responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes and “ethnic cleansing” that have driven more than one million civilians from their homes since the conflict began in February 2003. While more than 150,000 people have taken refuge in neighboring Chad, the vast majority of the internally displaced civilians remain in Darfur, where they are confined in camps and settlements under government control, and continue to be raped, attacked and preyed upon by government soldiers and Janjaweed militia attacks alike.
Although the Sudanese government continues to deny its role in arming and supporting the militias, the evidence of hundreds of eyewitnesses and government documents testify to official responsibility for their recruitment, arming and coordination with government troops and air support.
“Sudanese government officials should also be subject to travel and arms sanctions,” said Rone. “The Janjaweed are not an independent body, but a tool created by the Sudanese government. The Security Council must place the responsibility for the crimes against humanity and humanitarian disaster squarely with the Sudanese government.”
The Human Rights Watch letter also calls for an international commission of inquiry into the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have occurred in Darfur, and for active monitoring by African Union monitors and international human rights monitors of ceasefire violations, including attacks on civilians. Human Rights Watch called on the Security Council to explicitly seek the reversal of ethnic cleansing and the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes.