Human Rights Watch calls on the Commission on Human Rights to re-establish the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights for Sudan, and condemn gross abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by the government of Sudan, its allied Janjaweed and other militia, and rebel groups in Darfur.
Since February 2003, in the context of a counter-insurgency campaign against two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the government of Sudan and government-backed ethnic militias known as "Janjaweed" have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and "ethnic cleansing" in the Darfur region of Sudan. Throughout 2004, Human Rights Watch documented how the government of Sudan conducted, in joint military operations with Janjaweed militias, widespread and systematic attacks against civilians in Darfur. The government has used aerial bombardment and ground attacks to forcibly displace more than 1.8 million civilians, whom they accuse of supporting the rebels. The total number of conflict-related civilian deaths-including mortality from violence as well as from disease and malnutrition related to displacement-is likely to surpass 100,000. The Janjaweed militias continue to kill civilians and rape women and girls as they burn and loot villages. Despite several demands from the United Nations Security Council to disarm and bring to justice those responsible for these crimes, the government of Sudan has failed to conduct any credible investigations or prosecutions. Human Rights Watch researchers have found that the rebel movements have abducted civilians, detained aid workers, attacked police stations and other government institutions, and raided and looted substantial numbers of livestock and commercial goods from trucks and vehicles traveling on roads in Darfur. The rebels have also been responsible for some direct and indiscriminate attacks that have resulted in deaths and injuries to civilians as well as for the use of child soldiers.
The government of Sudan and the rebel groups in Darfur continue to violate a humanitarian ceasefire signed on April 8, 2004. The African Union-mediated peace talks on Darfur in Abuja, Nigeria have led to the signing of security and humanitarian protocols on November 9, 2004, but these agreements have not brought about a cessation of violence in Darfur. Suffering from a weak mandate, large shortfalls in the number of troops on the ground in Darfur, and logistical capacity, the African Union ceasefire monitors and their protection force have been unable to prevent or deter attacks against civilians, or numerous violations of the ceasefire agreement. Villagers who have attempted to return home or who have ventured outside of camps have been repeatedly attacked by Janjaweed militias who continue to commit abuses with full impunity. The government's failure to disband, disarm and prosecute the Janjaweed has been a major factor in the consolidation of ethnic cleansing.
The International Commission of Inquiry report of January 25, 2005 on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur "found that Government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, and destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur." The report recommended that the Security Council immediately refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), stating that the Sudanese justice system is unable and unwilling to address the situation in Darfur. The Commission of Inquiry also recommended that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report publicly and periodically on the human rights situation in Darfur.
A Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed by the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on January 9, 2005. However, this agreement failed to include accountability for past violations of human rights that were committed by both sides during the twenty-one-year war in southern Sudan or meaningful human rights monitoring for the future. The absence of accountability undoubtedly led government officials in Khartoum to believe that they could wage war against civilians in Darfur with impunity. The implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement must include a transitional justice strategy to address accountability, reparations, and truth and reconciliation.
The re-establishment of the Special Rapporteur for Sudan is necessary given the continuing violations of human rights in Darfur and throughout Sudan, including in the Shilluk area of southern Sudan. The Special Rapporteur would contribute to efforts to protect civilians and reverse ethnic cleansing by monitoring, investigating and publicly reporting on the human rights crisis in Darfur. It is particularly important for a Special Rapporteur to work alongside the peace negotiations in Darfur and on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to ensure that human rights and justice are addressed adequately in both these processes.
The Commission on Human Rights should:
- Re-establish the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights for Sudan and request that his or her report be submitted to the General Assembly as well as to the next session of the Commission on Human Rights;
- Condemn the gross abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law by the government of Sudan and its allied militias, and rebel groups in Darfur;
- Call on the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court in accordance with the January 25 report and recommendations of the International Commission of Inquiry for Darfur.