The U.N. Security Council must ensure the urgent deployment in Darfur of a strong U.N. mission authorized to use force to protect civilians, said Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Crisis Group, in a joint letter to Security Council member states today.
“The Security Council must fulfill its ‘responsibility to protect’ Sudanese civilians from further attacks by insisting Khartoum stop stalling and accept a robust U.N. force,” said Gareth Evans, president of the International Crisis Group. “In the meantime, the African Union’s efforts in Darfur must be supported and reinforced so it can better protect civilians.”
On April 28, the Security Council endorsed resolution 1674, which emphasizes the responsibility of states to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Darfur is a key test of the Security Council’s commitment to the concept of “responsibility to protect.” Tens of thousands of people have been killed, raped, and assaulted and almost two million people forced from their homes by a Sudanese government counter-insurgency campaign that has resulted in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“Overcoming Khartoum’s objections to a U.N. force is the first hurdle,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “The next challenge is to ensure the U.N. troops are authorized to halt attacks on civilians, not just stand by and watch the killings continue.”
Khartoum continues to resist a U.N. force despite the May 5 Darfur peace agreement, which it set as a pre-condition for deployment of U.N. troops in Darfur. The Security Council approved a resolution calling upon the Sudanese government to facilitate the access of U.N. planners by May 23, a deadline that has passed. The U.N. secretary-general appointed Lakhdar Brahimi as U.N. special envoy, and on May 25 Brahimi announced that the Sudanese government had agreed to the entry of the U.N. planning team, but offered few details on the outcome of his talks with Sudanese officials.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Crisis Group said that if Khartoum does not abide by the Security Council resolution, the council must consider applying further sanctions on Sudanese officials who are blocking the U.N. transition.
The joint letter also called for donor governments to immediately provide funding, and logistical and technical support to the African Union mission in Darfur (AMIS). On May 15 the African Union Peace and Security Council approved the transfer of its 7,000-member Darfur mission to a U.N. force on or before October 1, 2006.
“It may be months before the U.N. is fully deployed, so immediate support to the African Union is essential,” said Irene Khan, secretary-general of Amnesty International. “Donor governments must show they are ready to protect the people of Darfur by publicly pledging funds and the military resources that the African Union – and the U.N. – desperately need.”
The African Union’s mission has struggled with the deteriorating security situation on the ground. Since late 2005, attacks on civilians, aid workers, and AMIS personnel have increased. As of April 2006, the U.N. estimates that at least 650,000 needy civilians are not receiving humanitarian assistance because aid workers cannot reach them.