We write to urge Security Council members to make the situation in Darfur, Sudan a top priority in the coming weeks. As Secretary General Kofi Annan has recently said, “a major new international effort” is needed to save lives in Darfur. Such an effort will require the Security Council to take decisive and immediate action and will demonstrate the Council’s commitment to the international responsibility to protect civilians from massive human rights abuses.
We greatly appreciate the steps the Council has taken on Sudan, from the establishment of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, to the support provided to the African Union forces in Darfur.
But the killing of civilians and destruction of homes and villages in Darfur continue. More than two million people – half the population of Darfur – remain vulnerable in displaced person camps, unable to go home for fear of being raped or murdered by Sudanese government forces and its Janjaweed militias. While the ultimate solution may be negotiations leading to a political settlement, the vulnerable people of Darfur should not be asked to wait for that uncertain process to achieve results. They need protection now just to stay alive until peace comes to Darfur. And while the African Union forces have done much to provide security and have acted with great courage and resolve, they have been unable to protect civilians throughout Darfur – because they have lacked the manpower and resources and because the Sudanese government has not cooperated with their mission.
We therefore ask that the Security Council authorize, on an urgent basis, a transition of the African Union force in Darfur to a U.N. mission under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. Such a mission should have a strong and clear mandate that will allow it to protect itself and civilians by force if necessary, and to disarm and disband the government-sponsored Janjaweed forces that have confiscated land or pose a threat to the civilian population. The mission should also be specifically empowered to provide appropriate assistance to the International Criminal Court's investigations in Darfur including the arrest of individuals indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes. As Jan Pronk, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan has recommended, it should be a force large enough to provide security throughout Darfur – some 20,000 strong – with capabilities that, realistically, only countries with significant military assets and mobility will be able to provide. If the government of Sudan resists the introduction of such a force, the Security Council should impose additional targeted sanctions until Khartoum assents – above those sanctions the Security Council has already agreed to impose, which it should in any case promptly enforce.
In the meantime, we urge the Council to take appropriate steps to bolster the existing African Union force in Darfur, through the deployment of additional personnel, equipment, logistical support, funding and other resources from national and multilateral forces (including NATO and the European Union), including attack helicopters to enhance its capacity to protect civilians.
These measures should be part of a larger strategy that includes support for the International Criminal Court investigation in Darfur (as the Security Council has already agreed), assistance to help displaced people in Darfur rebuild their communities (perhaps through a compensation fund funded by a set percentage of the Sudanese government’s revenues), and increased diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. But the urgent, immediate task must be protecting the lives of vulnerable civilians.
We recognize that it will take time to transition fully to a strong U.N. force in Darfur and that political obstacles exist. But that is all the more reason to act now, so that planning and deployment can begin as soon as possible, and to make the issue a high and visible priority, so that the obstacles can be overcome. We urge the Council to provide the leadership necessary to ensure the effective protection of civilians in Darfur.
President and CEO
International Crisis Group
Human Rights Watch