As European leaders gather in Berlin to celebrate the European Union’s golden jubilee, Human Rights Watch urged that they finally agree to take concrete actions against those responsible for on-going war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

“While it is surely a time for celebration, it is also a time to reflect on one of the underlying reasons for the formation of the EU: the commitment of the nations of Europe to the prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity,” said Lotte Leicht, Human Rights Watch’s EU director. “After the horrific crimes of the Holocaust, the world vowed ‘never again.’ But that vow seems terribly empty in view of what is happening today in Darfur.”

In Darfur, at least 200,000 people have been killed, more than 2 million have been forced to leave their homes by violence, and some 4 million are dependent, either wholly or in part, on humanitarian assistance. According to the United Nations, 78,500 people fled their homes in January and February of 2007, most to escape attacks from government forces and “Janjaweed” militias. Relief camps are no sanctuary and are increasingly coming under attack. International humanitarian relief, for which more than half the population of Darfur depends on for survival, is being threatened by escalating armed conflict and direct attacks on aid workers. Over the past year, humanitarian organizations have lost their access to hundreds of thousands of people across Darfur.

The responsibility for the atrocities in Darfur lies very squarely with the regime in Khartoum, and to a lesser extent, with the rebels in Darfur. Khartoum has the responsibility to protect its people against war crimes and crimes against humanity, yet it has been the prime mover behind the campaign of ethnic cleansing, and it is responsible for unleashing the “Janjaweed” militias on the people of Darfur.

“Until significant costs are imposed on it, Khartoum has no incentive to stop its current campaign of atrocities, let alone comply with a ceasefire, disarm the ‘Janjaweed’ militias, or accept the deployment of a more robust peacekeeping force,” said Leicht.

Human Rights Watch said that as the current holder of the presidency of the EU and the G8, Germany is uniquely positioned to assume a concrete leadership role and to rally EU member states and others in the international community to assert direct and intense pressure on the Sudanese government.

“Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated that no one can afford to turn a blind eye to the conflict in Sudan, particularly in the Darfur region,” said Leicht. “Yet Germany and the EU, for all their rhetoric about the need to end the crisis in Darfur now, have still not imposed any of the measures that might be expected to change Khartoum’s calculations.”

Human Rights Watch stressed the importance of changing the calculus of self-interest for the Sudanese government and significantly increase the costs for its policy of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Human Rights Watch urged the EU to immediately impose visa bans and travel restrictions on the individuals involved in serious human rights and humanitarian law violations in Darfur, as well as freezing assets and blocking access to European banking systems.

“The EU could begin with sanctioning top Sudanese policymakers in the UN’s own Panel of Experts’ reports,” said Leicht.

Human Rights Watch also called on the EU to authorize a forensic investigation identifying offshore assets and businesses affiliated with the Sudanese National Congress Party, the main conduit for financing government-backed abusive militias, with a view toward imposing further targeted punitive sanctions.