It is more imperative than ever that Canada and other members of the
international community take the measures necessary to protect the people of
Darfur in Sudan.
Since the signing of the flawed Darfur Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government and one rebel group almost a year ago, no improvement has been made on any of the key benchmarks for progress in Darfur: protection of civilians, accountability, and the reversal of the “ethnic cleansing” that has taken place since 2003.
While Canada has been working together with other members of the international community to resolve the crisis in Darfur, we urge you, on behalf of all Canadians concerned about Darfur, to immediately take further action to end the abuses and suffering of the people of Darfur.
Civilian Protection: the Need for Immediate Action to Deploy an Effective
Over the past year, the human rights and humanitarian situation in Darfur has sharply deteriorated. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been newly or repeatedly displaced by violent attacks by the warring parties, but particularly by attacks of the Sudanese army and its militias. Thousands of civilians are victims of attacks including rape and sexual violence, killings, forced displacement and looting of civilian property from various armed elements. In April 2007, seven African Union peacekeepers were killed by unidentified armed men.
Reports of the African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS), the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the March 2007 United Nations Human Rights Council High-Level Mission confirm the Sudanese government’s continuing responsibility for armed attacks on civilians whether through indiscriminate aerial bombardment or targeted ground attacks. The High-Level Mission concluded that the Sudanese government has manifestly failed to protect the population of Darfur from large-scale international crimes and has orchestrated and participated in these crimes.
The UN Panel of Experts on Sudan in its third report released on April 18, 2007 also confirmed that the Sudanese government is responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law including attacks on civilians and perfidy (painting vehicles and aircraft white to disguise them as UN or humanitarian transport) which puts humanitarians and civilians in even greater jeopardy. In addition, the Panel reported that the Sudanese government has been bringing heavy weapons and other military equipment into Darfur in violation of the UN arms embargo on Darfur, and that rebel groups are also violating the embargo.
The Panel’s report further reinforces a point that Human Rights Watch has repeatedly made regarding the situation in Darfur: condemnation of violations is not enough, the Sudanese government’s abusive policies will continue until concerned states and members of the UN Security Council take appropriate action to penalize violations such as effectively enforced sanctions on key individuals responsible for abusive policies.
Despite its utter failure to protect civilians in Darfur, the Sudanese government continues to resist international attempts to improve protection of civilians. After months of delay and protracted negotiations, the Sudanese government on April 17, 2007 reportedly agreed to the second phase of a proposed three-stage African Union-United Nations protection force for Darfur. The second phase includes 3,000 military police and additional equipment to support the 7,000 strong AMIS force while the third stage – the full hybrid force – would include 20,000 additional troops, as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1706. While Sudan’s agreement for only part of the protection force is welcome, it is too little, too late, and is aimed at defusing international pressure and heading off targeted sanctions. All concerned governments including Canada should increase the pressure on Sudan to secure its consent to the urgent deployment of the full international force which could significantly help to protect civilians in Darfur.
Human Rights Watch urges the Canadian government to use its influence with the Contact Group on Sudan, members of the UN Security Council, the African Union and the Arab League to:
- Put all possible pressure on the Government of Sudan to accept the full deployment of the proposed African Union-United Nations protection force in Darfur through the application of targeted sanctions and other economic measures, and ensure through contributions from Canada that the force has the capacity and resources to robustly protect civilians.
- Build international support for effectively enforced sanctions against Sudanese leaders identified by the UN Panel of Experts and the UN Commission of Inquiry as responsible for serious human rights violations in Darfur, and for other economic measures. Such sanctions and measures could include: travel bans and asset freezes; specifically targeting revenue flows from the petroleum sector (with the possible establishment of a UN-administered international compensation and recovery fund for victims from oil revenue, excluding the portion committed to the Government of South Sudan under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement); targeting foreign investment in, and the supply of goods and services to, the petroleum and associated sectors; and identifying and targeting offshore assets of businesses affiliated with the National Congress Party (government majority party), a main conduit for financing abusive government-backed militias.
- Support extending the UN arms embargo as authorized under UN Security Council Resolution 1591 to all of Sudan and contribute to improved monitoring and enforcement.
- Urge the Security Council to effectively enforce its 2005 demand in UN Security Council Resolution 1591 that the Sudanese government cease ‘offensive military flights’ over Darfur.
The Urgent Need for Accountability
The Sudanese government has not made any serious effort to end the impunity of perpetrators of international crimes in Darfur. No senior or mid-level officials or military commanders have been prosecuted for serious crimes in Darfur on the basis of command responsibility. The Special Courts on the Events in Darfur established by Sudan in 2005 to handle prosecutions domestically have only dealt with a handful of ordinary crimes, such as sheep stealing, and not the large scale attacks on civilians characterizing the conflict. In addition, the Sudanese government adds to the culture of impunity by using legislation and presidential decrees to confer amnesties upon the perpetrators and, in sexual violence cases, by actively discouraging those who would seek judicial remedies. Ethnic cleansing cannot be reversed in Darfur until widespread impunity for serious crimes ends.
In February 2007, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) asked pre-trial judges to issue summonses to appear for a Sudanese state minister and a leader of the government-backed “Janjaweed” militia. The court’s action is a welcome first step in ending the impunity associated with horrific crimes in Darfur. However, as Human Rights Watch has documented, officials at the highest levels of the Sudanese government are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. While the individuals identified to date are important, the ICC prosecutor should move up the chain of command to target those senior Sudanese government and military officials responsible for the most serious crimes in Darfur.
Human Rights Watch appreciates the support Canada has provided to the ICC’s efforts to investigate the most serious crimes in Darfur. As part of Canada’s support for ending impunity in Darfur, we ask the Canadian government to:
- Urge the Government of Sudan to cooperate fully with all ICC requests for assistance with its investigations including by providing access to all documents requested and interviews with all persons as requested. The Government of Sudan should also be urged to comply promptly with any summons or warrants of arrest that may be issued by the court.
- Use Canada’s influence with the African Union and other countries to encourage prompt and effective assistance in investigating and prosecuting crimes. Canada should call on the African Union to conclude the draft Memorandum of Understanding with the ICC which will provide a framework for future cooperation.
- Provide strong public support for speedy and effective trials of those individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed in Darfur.
- Provide support for public information initiatives to help Sudanese people understand the ICC process when it moves to publicly issues summons and/or takes other action on Darfur.
- Provide increased financial support to the International Criminal Court’s Victim Trust Fund.
We urge you to act firmly on behalf of all Darfurians who are now at greater risk of violence than they have been since they were driven from their homes three years ago and who are in dire need of international protection. The actions we are asking you to take will serve as an important signal to the international community that Canada is fully prepared to act decisively on its responsibility to protect. It’s time for Canada to set an example in this regard that other states can follow.
Nur Muhammed-Ally, Co-Chair
Teja Rachamalla, Co-Chair
On behalf of the Human Rights Watch Toronto Network
Hon. Peter McKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Member of Parliament for Central Nova Scotia
Hon. Josée Verner, Minister of International Cooperation, Member of Parliament for Louis-St- Laurent
Mr. Ujjal Dosanjh, Member of Parliament for Vancouver South
Mr. Michael Ignatieff, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore
Mr. Jason Kenney, Chair of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on International Human Rights and Member of Parliament for Calgary Southeast
Ms. Francine Lalonde, Member of Parliament for La Pointe-de-l'Île
Mr. Keith Martin, Member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
Ms. Alexa McDonough, Member of Parliament for Halifax
Mr. Kevin Sorenson, Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Member of Parliament for Crowfoot
Mr. Bryon Wilfert, Member of Parliament for Richmond Hill
Mr. Irwin Cotler, Member of Parliament for Mount-Royal
Mr. Romeo Dallaire, O.C., C.M.M., M.S.C., C.D., LL.D.