Your Excellencies:

Human Rights Watch respectfully requests that the Assembly of African Heads of State and Government at the Seventh Summit of the African Union (A.U.) on July 1-2 in Banjul, The Gambia, follow up on its demonstrated commitments to the protection of African civilians and the fight against impunity. In this regard, Human Rights Watch draws the Assembly’s attention to two issues: the continuing deterioration in security and the need for greater civilian protection in Darfur and Chad, and Senegal’s obligation to bring to trial the former Chadian president Hissène Habré, accused of numerous crimes in violation of international law.

The situation in Darfur is worse than ever for millions of civilians and has spread through cross-border raids to Chad. The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), despite its intentions, has insufficient resources and capabilities to meet the pressing need to protect the civilians who continue to be attacked by Sudanese government-backed militias. The A.U. should ensure that AMIS take strong measures to increase the physical security of more than 2 million displaced persons and civilians at risk in Darfur and eastern Chad. The A.U.'s Peace and Security Council (P&SC) said on May 15 that the mandate of AMIS needs to reviewed and AMIS needs to be strengthened, particularly in light of the additional tasks to be performed in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). The P&SC also said that AMIS needs to be enhanced in terms of additional troops and civilian police personnel, logistics and overall capacity. The states of the A.U. and the A.U.'s partners should respond to these requests promptly, and to provide all other resources AMIS needs to better protect civilians, particularly helicopters and rapid reaction units, pending a transition to a U.N. force/mission in Darfur later in 2006.  
 
After Senegal refused to prosecute Mr. Habré, he was indicted by a Belgian judge for his alleged role in thousands of political killings, torture and serious crimes directed against various ethnic groups in Chad, and Belgium asked Senegal for his extradition. Senegal then asked the African Union to recommend the "competent jurisdiction" for Mr. Habré's trial. In May, the U.N. Committee against Torture then condemned Senegal for failing to bring Mr. Habré to justice and said it was required either to prosecute Mr. Habré or to extradite him to Belgium or any other country that makes a legitimate request. Human Rights Watch believes that Belgium provides the most concrete, realistic, and timely forum for ensuring justice and urges the African Union to recommend to Senegal that it extradite Mr. Habré to Belgium. If an "African" mechanism is desired, the African Union should call on Senegal to reverse itself and allow Mr. Habré to stand trial there.  
 
The African Union Mission in Sudan and its Transition to a U.N. Force  
 
Human Rights Concerns  
After more than a year of difficult peace negotiations in Abuja, A.U. mediators scored a signal success on May 5 when they brought together the Sudanese government and the largest rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) under Minni Minawi Arkau, to sign the DPA. The culmination of the A.U. peace mediation was planned to usher in a new era in Darfur, with the U.N. taking over AMIS civilian protection and other duties. But the Sudanese government has refused the A.U. request that the U.N. assume its mandate-although the same government previously said that U.N. peacekeeping forces could serve in Darfur, as in southern Sudan, after a peace agreement was reached.  
 
Strengthen Civilian Protection  
More than 7,000 African personnel-mainly from Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal-are deployed in Darfur yet the estimated 2 million civilians have remained-for the past two years-unable to reclaim their farms, confined by violence to camps and isolated locations. Another 1.3 million persons (totalling more than half Darfur's population) have been so deeply affected by the three-year violence that has destroyed the regional economy that they require billions of dollars in emergency assistance.  
 
"Ethnic cleansing" and its steady consolidation in Darfur have been the work of the Sudanese government and its abusive "Janjaweed" militias, which the government agreed in the DPA to disarm and neutralize. Increasingly AMIS has been challenged by rebels of the SLA/M and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) as they, and unidentified forces, have stepped up attacks on humanitarian convoys and other civilians in violation of international humanitarian law.  
 
The A.U. must focus on bolstering the civilian protection work of AMIS by urgently requesting the additional troops needed from African Union countries and the funding and logistics needed to support these troops from the A.U.'s partners. It must assure that aggressive steps to protect civilians are put into place, such as the creation of rapid reaction units, that are capable of ending the violence against civilians.  
 
The Peace and Security Council of the A.U. will be considering an enhanced mandate for AMIS. This mandate should reiterate that AMIS has the authority and duty to use deadly force to protect civilians from attack or threat of violence, specifying "use of all necessary means to protect civilians, including humanitarian workers."  
 
The Peace and Security Council should require AMIS to publish ceasefire monitoring commission reports promptly, and abandon the practice of consensus by allowing the parties to the ceasefire to have their objections and additions to the findings published simultaneously with the report.  
 
The mandate needs to state clearly that AMIS is authorized to support efforts to disarm and demobilize and neutralize all armed groups and to perform other tasks agreed to in the DPA.  
 
Implement the DPA Tasks Essential to Civilian Protection  
AMIS should take immediate steps to implement those parts of the Darfur Peace Agreement that are within its responsibilities, particularly those in the comprehensive ceasefire and permanent security arrangements designed to end the violence in Darfur. Two smaller rebel groups have not signed the DPA: the JEM and the Abdel Wahid Mohamed Nour faction of the SLA/M. The SLA/M group that signed, however, represents the largest rebel military force. The A.U. and its member states must prod the SLA/M and the government to implement what they agreed on at Abuja on May 5 without further delay and according to the carefully-negotiated timetables. The longer they wait to comply with the DPA, the more the momentum from the signing of that agreement will dissipate-and insecurity will remain the order of the day in Darfur.  
 
The A.U. states must insist that the two parties meet certain DPA ceasefire and security deadlines that have already passed: for instance, the parties were to submit to A.U. Mediation their forces dispositions and a list of all armed groups and militias aligned to them as well as known Janjaweed locations before May 16, which was designated "D Day." These are essential steps prior to disarming and neutralizing the Janjaweed and others threatening civilians.  
 
AMIS established the Ceasefire Commission on June 13 and now needs to move forward to complete its work by establishing an Implementation Team and Logistics Coordination Committee to collect logistics data from the rebels (both past the May 21 deadline); develop, with the Ceasefire Commission, a plan for policing control areas, buffer and demilitarized zones (to have been completed by May 22); and verify party forces' positions on the ground including their strengths (deadline from May 23 to June 22).  
 
There is also crucial work for the A.U. to do pursuant to the February 2006 Tripoli Agreement between Chad and Sudan to refrain from harboring or assisting those rebelling against the other state. Under that agreement, A.U. monitoring forces were to be deployed, fifty on each side of the 500-kilometer border between Chad and Sudan. Before this could happen, both countries continued their support for the others' rebels: Chadian rebels reportedly backed by the Sudanese government launched a military campaign from Darfur into Chad and on April 13 reached the capital, N'Djamena. Although the Chadian rebels were defeated by forces loyal to Chad's government, Sudanese Janjaweed and Sudanese government-backed Chadian rebels continued attacking Chadian citizens inside Chad, including massacring more than one hundred people in a cluster of Chadian villages in April. Chadian individuals and groups in or close to the Chadian government continue to support rebel Darfur factions, despite the A.U.-brokered peace agreement.  
 
In order to carry out the increased responsibilities in the Darfur Peace Agreement, AMIS needs much greater backing and financial, logistical, personnel, and other support from the international community. The African Union therefore should not hesitate to make whatever requests it needs to accomplish the mission.  
 
Recommendations to the African Union and AMIS:

  • Work with donors and national and multinational forces urgently to secure logistical and financial resources to support an increased force posture, including by  
    -Calling on Member States to contribute more troops and on A.U. partners to provide logistical support for robust civilian protection while the transition to the U.N. takes place;  
    -Clearly requesting the international community to take stronger and more urgent diplomatic and other steps to secure the necessary consent and cooperation from the Sudanese government to U.N. deployment;  
  • Proactively and aggressively protect civilians and humanitarian operations pending the U.N. deployment, including by deploying in each sector fully equipped rapid reaction forces to respond immediately to imminent threats to civilians and humanitarian relief providers;  
  • Station fifty troops on each side of the Chad-Sudan border as contemplated in the Tripoli Agreement, to actively patrol the areas of Darfur where the cross-border raiders are present and in Chad where such attacks have taken place; more forces should be deployed on each side of the border if the cross-border raids do not cease forthwith; and  
  • Press forward with full implementation of the DPA, particularly the aspects designed to protect civilians through identification of forces and creation of protected zones.

The Case of Hissène Habré  
 
Human Rights Concerns  
Hissène Habré stands accused of massive atrocities. A Chadian Truth Commission estimated that Mr. Habré's regime was responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 Chadians and the systematic practice of torture. Mr. Habré periodically targeted various ethnic groups such as the Sara (1983-6), Chadian Arabs, the Hadjerai (1987), and the Zaghawa (1989-90), killing and arresting group members en masse. The files of Mr. Habré's political police, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), provide a meticulously detailed account of Mr. Habré's repression. A total of 12,321 victims of abuse are mentioned in the documents, including 1,208 individuals who died in detention.  
 
In February 2000, a Senegalese judge indicted Mr. Habré on charges of torture and crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, after political interference, Senegal's courts then ruled that they were not competent to prosecute crimes committed outside of Senegal. Habré's victims searched elsewhere for justice and found a Belgian court to take the case under that country's now-repealed long-arm "universal jurisdiction" law. Chad, which does not want Mr. Habré back and could not offer him a fair trial, invited the Belgian judge to Chad to carry out his investigation and waived Mr. Habré's immunity of jurisdiction.  
 
Last year, after a four-year probe, the Belgian judge indicted Mr. Habré and Belgium requested his extradition from Senegal. After a Senegalese court refused to rule on the request, the Senegalese government asked the African Union to "indicate the competent jurisdiction" to try Mr. Habré.  
 
In January, the African Union decided to create a committee of legal experts to recommend what to do with Mr. Habré, taking into account , among other things, "fair trial standards," "efficiency in terms of cost and time of trial," "accessibility to the trial by alleged victims as well as witnesses," and "priority for an African mechanism." The jurists will report back to the African Union summit in July.  
 
In May 2006, in a case brought by Chadian victims, the UN Committee against Torture ruled that Senegal had violated the UN Convention against Torture by failing to prosecute or extradite Mr. Habré to justice and requested that Senegal ensure Mr. Habré's trial or extradition.  
 
Whatever the outcome of the African Union review, Senegal is under a legal obligation to prosecute or to extradite Hissène Habré. It did not escape this obligation by referring the case to the African Union.  
 
Options for the trial of Hissène Habré  
Mr. Habré's extradition to Belgium is the most efficient, realistic, and timely option for ensuring that Mr. Habré is able to respond to the charges against him with all the guarantees of a fair trial. Belgium is ready, willing and able to give Hissène Habré a fair trial. If the ready available option of extradition to Belgium is not chosen because the African Union wishes to pursue the possibility of an African mechanism, it should propose that Mr. Habré be tried in Senegal, giving Senegal a limited time to make the necessary legislative changes to allow such a trial. Creation of a new African tribunal to try Mr. Habré is too distant, too contingent, and too costly.  
 
Some have argued that Hissène Habré can only be tried in Africa. Of course, this was precisely what the victims had in mind when they filed complaints against Mr. Habré in Senegal in 2000. However Senegal refused to prosecute Mr. Habré in 2000 when it had the opportunity to do so, Chad has never sought Mr. Habré's extradition (and could not guarantee him a fair trial), and in the 15 years since Mr. Habré left power no other African country has asked for Mr. Habré's extradition.  
 
Recommendation to the African Union:  

  • Call on the government of Senegal to meet its international obligations and comply with the ruling of the U.N. Committee against Torture and either prosecute Mr. Habré or extradite him to Belgium.

In conclusion, we believe that the African Union Mission in Sudan has been a worthy one. We urge you to assure that the accomplishments of the A.U. in mediating the Darfur Peace Agreement and in protecting civilians in Darfur not be diminished by failure to provide the strong international support needed to implement the agreement and improve civilian protection pending transition to a U.N. mission in Darfur. We also urge you to call on the Senegalese government to either prosecute former Chadian president Hissène Habré or extradite him to Belgium.  
 
Sincerely,  
 
Peter Takirambudde  
Director, Africa Division