(New York)- Sudan government documents incontrovertibly show that government officials directed recruitment, arming and other support to the ethnic militias known as the Janjaweed, Human Rights Watch said today. The government of Sudan has consistently denied recruiting and arming the Janjaweed militias, including during the recent visits of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Human Rights Watch said it had obtained confidential documents from the civilian administration in Darfur that implicate high-ranking government officials in a policy of militia support.
“It’s absurd to distinguish between the Sudanese government forces and the militias—they are one,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division. “These documents show that militia activity has not just been condoned, it’s been specifically supported by Sudan government officials.”
Human Rights Watch said that Sudanese government forces and government-backed militias are responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes and “ethnic cleansing” involving aerial and ground attacks on civilians of the same ethnicity as members of two rebel groups in Darfur. Thousands of civilians have been killed, hundreds of women and girls have been raped and more than one million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes and farms in Darfur.
In a series of official Arabic-language documents from government authorities in North and South Darfur dating from February and March 2004, officials call for recruitment and military support, including “provisions and ammunition” to be delivered to known Janjaweed militia leaders, camps and “loyalist tribes.”
A particularly damning February directive orders “all security units” in the area to tolerate the activities of known Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal in North Darfur. The document “highlights the importance of non-interference so as not to question their authority” and authorizes security units in a North Darfur province to “overlook minor offenses by the fighters against civilians who are suspected members of the rebellion….”
Another document calls for a plan for “resettlement operations of nomads in places from which the outlaws [rebels] withdrew.” This, along with recent government statements that displaced persons will be settled in 18 “settlements” rather than in their original villages, raises concerns that the ethnic cleansing that has occurred will be consolidated and that people will be unable to return to their villages and lands.
Human Rights Watch called for Sudan government officials implicated in the policy of militia support to be added to the U.N. sanctions list included as part of a pending U.N. resolution. It also called for international monitoring of the disarmament of the militia groups and the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into the abuses committed in Darfur by all parties to the conflict.
“Sudan has launched a major public-relations campaign aimed at buying more time for diplomatic initiatives to work,” said Takirambudde. “But at this point and with our new evidence, Khartoum has zero credibility. To date, the government of Sudan has only used more time to consolidate the ethnic cleansing in Darfur.”
While the government has committed itself to disarming “outlawed” groups, including the rebel insurgency, it is unclear whether the government considers the Janjaweed militias it has supported as among the groups to be disarmed. There are increasing reports that Janjaweed militia members are being absorbed into the new police forces deployed by the government to “protect” civilians in Darfur.
Human Rights Watch said that under no circumstances should Janjaweed members who have participated in attacks, murders and rapes of civilians in Darfur be included within the police and military forces the government is now using to protect the population.
Human Rights Watch called for an immediate, strongly worded U.N. resolution that sanctions Khartoum and government officials responsible for crimes against humanity.
“The ambiguity in the government’s statements shows that independent monitoring of the disarmament process is crucial,” said Takirambudde. “The African Union and other international monitors must pay close attention to resettlement plans and ensure that militias are not only disarmed, but withdrawn entirely from the civilian areas they took over.”
The documents showing Sudan government-Janjaweed ties are on file with Human Rights Watch.