(New York)- With attacks continuing against civilians in eastern Chad, the UN Security Council should approve the deployment of an international protection mission as soon as possible, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today. Next week the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is expected to brief the Security Council on options for a UN mission in Chad, after which the council will consider the proposed deployment.

In the last three weeks, attacks on civilians have intensified in eastern Chad, along the Chad-Sudan border. More than 120,000 civilians have been displaced as a result of violent attacks on villages in eastern Chad, mostly in the past six months.

“A UN mission could help stop attacks on civilians in Chad, but only if it’s given the means to act decisively,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Security Council needs to give any Chad mission real resources and political support, as well as a mandate to use force to protect civilians.”

Three, sometimes overlapping, patterns of violence figure prominently in Chad’s crisis and are leaving civilians at risk and without protection: internal armed conflict between the Chadian government and Chadian armed opposition groups; cross-border attacks by Darfur-based militia against civilians in Chad; and communal violence.

In the northeastern Guéréda area, where a December peace accord between the Chadian government and a Chadian rebel group may be unraveling, ethnic-based attacks against civilians by both rebels and local ethnic militias are taking place in a climate of near-total impunity. On February 20, an ethnic-Tama village 15 kilometers south of the town of Guéréda was reportedly burned by an ethnic-Zaghawa militia. Local officials reported that the attack is part of an on-going cycle of violence between ethnic militias against those suspected by each side of complicity in recent attacks against civilians in the area.

Amid ongoing attacks against villages, the government of Chad has devoted its energies to combating the threat posed by Chadian rebels based in Darfur. To this end the government had redeployed military forces away from remote border garrisons, leaving civilians in those areas increasingly vulnerable to militia attacks and cross-border raids from Sudan. Beyond its failure to protect civilians, the government of Chad may be worsening inter-ethnic tensions by distributing weapons to some civilians as part of its counterinsurgency strategy.

“The government of Chad isn’t protecting its civilians, it’s actually putting them at greater risk by creating a security vacuum along the border,” said Takirambudde. “With ethnic groups increasingly polarized and the government adding to the insecurity, civilians need an impartial, international presence to protect them.”

The proposed UN mission in Chad should be equipped with a mandate and sufficient resources to respond to attacks against civilians, secure humanitarian access, patrol the Chad-Sudan border and monitor the movement of arms and armed groups. Additionally, the proposed mission should include a strong human rights unit and a civilian police force tasked with building judicial and policing capacity and helping bring human rights violators to justice, which would help deter communal violence and inhibit the activities of local and community-based militias.

After considering the deployment options presented by DPKO, the UN Security Council should act quickly and decisively to take all necessary measures to protect civilians in eastern Chad, including adopting a Security Council resolution authorizing a UN mission in Chad.

“Security Council members must live up to their responsibility to protect civilians,” said Takirambudde, “They should fully and promptly support the urgent deployment of a robust, adequately equipped UN mission to protect civilians in eastern Chad.”

To read the Human Rights Watch briefing paper, “Ensuring Civilian Protection in Chad: The Proposed UN Mission,” please visit: https://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/chad0207/