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The Human Rights Council should take strong and immediate action to address the human rights crisis in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today. Germany and Algeria yesterday tabled draft resolutions on the situation.

The draft resolution put forward by Germany – in an apparent effort to achieve consensus – is carefully worded and presents only a small step forward. The council could, and should, do much more to end abuses in Darfur. In contrast, however, the Algerian draft is a shameful attempt to deny the horrific situation in Darfur and delay any action by the council to address it.

“The Human Rights Council cannot be afraid of naming the abuses which the people of Darfur experience daily,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. “Further delay and half measures are inexcusable in the face of the daily nightmare of the Darfur conflict.”

The Algerian draft resembles the earlier German text, but guts the substance of the resolution through several changes. Algeria’s text adds a paragraph which “welcomes the readiness of Sudan to improve the Human Rights situation in Darfur,” despite the huge weight of evidence to the contrary, including President El Bashir’s March 6 letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Algeria also deleted references to bombing of villages and widespread sexual violence, apparently disclaiming the importance of those well-documented abuses. Most significantly, rather than create a panel to ensure the effective follow-up and implementation of existing human rights recommendations, the Algerian text establishes a panel to review those recommendations “to ensure their consistency and their current relevance” and to recommend measures in a report to occur next September which could be implemented “if need be” in a “phased approach.”

There is no room for such obstruction and delay. Sudan’s claim that the situation has improved since the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed is proven false on a daily basis by the growing toll of newly displaced people. Reports by both the African Union and the UN missions in Sudan confirm the government’s continuing responsibility for armed attacks on civilians, whether through indiscriminate aerial bombing or targeted ground attacks.

The council requested a High-Level Mission to assess the human rights situation in Darfur at a special session last December. Although Sudan refused to grant visas to the mission, the team traveled to Addis Ababa and Chad, and prepared an extensive report on the situation in Darfur. The mission report confirms the deteriorating situation in Darfur and calls for urgent action by the council. When the council considered the mission’s report last Friday, Algeria (on behalf of the Arab Group) argued that the report was illegitimate, Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference) said “doubts have been raised about [the report’s] status” and Sri Lanka (on behalf of the Asian Group) contended the outcome of the mission was “incomplete.”

Fortunately, other states took a more principled stand. Zambia made an impassioned plea for action, noting that “the only interpretation that the people of Darfur will give to our prolonged discussion of technicalities and not of substance is that we do not care about them,” while Nigeria echoed those views by calling for the international community “to stir from its inertia and act in favor of peace and human rights.” Ghana, Mauritius, Senegal, and Cameroon, also urged the council to consider the report and act on its findings.

In considering the resolutions tabled yesterday, Human Rights Council members from all regions must stand together to put the needs of human rights victims before political concerns. States that spoke favorably about the mission report last week should endorse the draft resolution put forward by Germany, and work to ensure its adoption. States such as South Africa, India, Morocco, and the Philippines, which have so far sent mixed messages about their support for council action on Darfur, should live up to their stated commitments to human rights by acknowledging Sudan’s role in ongoing abuses in Darfur and by supporting real steps to address the situation, not another delaying tactic.

“The Human Rights Council will rightly be judged on how it responds to the Darfur crisis,” Hicks said. “Soft-pedaling regarding mass atrocities in Darfur is insulting to victims and calls into question the council’s competence. But states should keep in mind that it is not only the council’s credibility that is at stake; it is their own.”

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