Thank you Mr. Chairman,
I speak on behalf of Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights, International Service for Human Rights and in association with the Sudan Association against Torture and Amnesty International.
Darfur, in western Sudan, is a region that is suffering one of the most serious human rights disasters in the world. For the past two years, Sudanese government forces and government-backed ethnic militias known as "Janjaweed" have committed attacks of extraordinary brutality against civilians in Darfur. More than two million people have been directly affected by attacks on villages, killings, rape and other forms of sexual violence, looting of livestock and household goods, destruction of property and other abuses. The international commission of inquiry concluded that these crimes may amount to crimes against humanity and recommended the referral of Darfur to the International Criminal Court. Just a week ago, the U.N. Security Council did indeed refer the situation in Darfur to the Court, and we welcome this historic step towards justice for the many victims of the atrocities in Darfur.
Much more action is needed, however, to end the ongoing violence, provide security to the people of Darfur, and reverse the ethnic based massive forced displacement that has taken place. The situation is currently at a critical juncture. Although incidents of large-scale fighting between the warring parties have lessened over the past two months, the violence has not ended. On the contrary, more than two million people in Darfur are living like prisoners in towns and camps for the internally displaced. They are unable to return to their villages, unable even to leave these camps to collect firewood or water due to the continuing attacks, rape, and assault by government-backed militia members and other forces.
The Sudanese government, which refuses even to acknowledge the scale of the problem, has consistently denied its responsibility for the abuses and has taken no meaningful action to end them. Other armed groups, including members of the rebel movements, are also committing abuses, including abductions and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Humanitarian aid workers are under threat, with serious implications for the lives of the almost four million people of Darfur who currently depend on humanitarian relief.
The Commission on Human Rights should firmly condemn the gross abuses of human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur. These abuses require close scrutiny, and we urge the Commission to call for an immediate increase in the number of human rights monitors deployed by the United Nations in Darfur, and periodic, public reporting on the human rights situation by these monitors.
In addition and in line with the international commission of inquiry's recommendation, the Commission should re-establish the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Sudan. The re-establishment of the Special Rapporteur for Sudan is essential given the continuing violations of human rights in Darfur and throughout Sudan.
The Special Rapporteur would contribute to efforts to protect civilians and reverse forced displacement 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.