International prosecutions are needed to deter ongoing atrocities in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today in a report documenting crimes the Sudanese government and its allied militias have committed with complete impunity.
On Tuesday, the U.N. international commission of inquiry on Darfur is expected to report its findings to the U.N. Secretary-General. In September, Resolution 1564 mandated the commission to investigate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Darfur, to determine whether genocide has occurred, and to identify perpetrators with a view to holding them accountable.
“Regardless of whether there has been genocide, the scale and severity of the ongoing atrocities in Darfur demand an urgent international response,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch. “Given Sudan’s continuing failure to prosecute the perpetrators, the Security Council needs to refer the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court.”
The 22-page report, “Targeting the Fur: Mass Killings in Darfur,” documents in detail how the Sudanese government and its allied Janjaweed militias have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur with impunity. These crimes include the round-up, detention and execution in March of more than 200 Fur farmers and community leaders in West Darfur’s Wadi Saleh and Mukjar provinces.
Human Rights Watch documents how, in the same period, thousands of Fur men, women and children in the South Darfur province of Shattaya were attacked by Janjaweed militias and detained, raped, tortured and kept in inhuman conditions in Kailek camp. In both West and South Darfur, local government officials were deeply implicated in these crimes.
“Sudanese government officials were clearly involved in the atrocities in Darfur, but the government has made no serious attempt to hold anyone accountable,” Takirambudde said.
In Sudan last week, a presidential inquiry into abuses in Darfur disputed evidence of widespread and systematic crimes. Instead of prosecutions, the inquiry recommended the formation of a committee.
“It is clear that the Sudanese government is unwilling to hold perpetrators of atrocities to account,” said Takirambudde. “The International Criminal Court was created to address situations like Darfur. It should be given the authority to open investigations into crimes committed there.”
The brutal attacks on the Fur in Wadi Saleh and Shattaya stand out for the extraordinary level of brutality demonstrated by the perpetrators. In Darfur’s two-year conflict, government soldiers and allied militias have killed tens of thousands and forcibly displaced almost two million people.
An overwhelming majority of the tens of thousands of displaced Fur in these areas remain all but imprisoned in the larger government-held towns due to continuing violence in rural areas. Despite the fact that there is no active conflict in the area, government-backed militias on almost a daily basis continue to attack and rape women and girls when they leave towns to work in the fields or in search of firewood.
Human Rights Watch called on the African Union to base troops not only in major towns but also in key rural towns in Darfur. AU troops need to actively patrol the rural areas and protect civilians.
“Each month that passes without action condemns hundreds more civilians to death and leaves millions of traumatized people in camps at the mercy of their tormentors,” Takirambudde said. “It’s time for the Security Council to ensure justice and protection for the people of Darfur.”
This conflict in Darfur that erupted in February 2003 was not included in negotiations to end the 21-year civil war between the government and the southern-based rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). That war was ended with the Naivasha peace agreement signed on January 9.
AU-sponsored negotiations to resolve the Darfur conflict resulted in a ceasefire agreement signed on April 8, 2004 by the Sudan government and the main Darfur rebel forces, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). This ceasefire agreement is in tatters as all sides continue to commit violations, and the peace talks have made little progress.
The African Union has been mandated by the parties to deploy up to 3,300 troops in Darfur, including its ceasefire monitors, and to protect civilians in imminent danger. So far, however, only 1,400 AU troops are on the ground, and logistical support has been a problem despite EU and U.S. funding.
For a map of the areas mentioned in the report, see the Draft West Darfur Field Atlas by the Humanitarian Information Center for Darfur.