In advance of the mission by members of the Security Council to Africa from June 14-21, we are writing to urge you to confront some key issues. This letter addresses important concerns regarding Sudan/Darfur, Côte d'Ivoire, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in connection with your visits to Khartoum, Abidjan, and Kinshasa respectively. It also addresses important issues in Chad, Somalia, and northern Uganda, especially in connection with your African Union meetings in Addis Ababa and Accra.

Sudan/Darfur

Protection of civilians

Ensuring civilian protection in Darfur should be a top priority for the Security Council. In the past year, the human rights and humanitarian situation in Darfur has sharply deteriorated, with continuing 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 (AU) 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 UN 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.

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 appeared to agree to the second phase of a proposed three-stage African Union-United Nations protection force for Darfur. Given the recent agreement of the AU and UN on the command structure for the hybrid force, the second and third phases of the force, which would bring the total number of troops to more than 20,000, must be expedited.

It is likely that Sudan will continue to resist these efforts, and Security Council members must be prepared to 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.

Accountability

Khartoum's continuing failure to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes in Darfur in Sudanese national courts underscores why Sudan should fulfill its obligation to hand over indicted suspects to the International Criminal Court (ICC). 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.

Following the prosecutor's application for summonses, on May 2 the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC issued international warrants of arrest for two individuals: Janjaweed leader Ali Kosheib and Ahmed Haroun, the state minister for humanitarian affairs. To date the Sudanese government has refused to hand over the two suspects to the ICC. It is imperative that Security Council members insist that the Sudanese government immediately comply with the arrest warrants, and hand over Kosheib and Haroun to the ICC authorities.

The Security Council should:

  • Insist that the Government of Sudan accept the full deployment of phases two and three of the proposed African Union-United Nations protection force in Darfur through the application of targeted sanctions and other economic measures, and ensure that the force has the capacity and resources to robustly protect civilians.
  • Put in place 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; 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.
  • Consider specifically targeting revenue flows from the petroleum sector, with the possible establishment of an international compensation and recovery fund for victims from oil revenue that would be administered by an independent UN-designated financial institution and would exclude the portion committed to the Government of South Sudan under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; Human Rights Watch laid out this proposal in its letter to the Council of May 31.
  • Support extending the UN arms embargo as authorized under Security Council resolution 1591 to all of Sudan and contribute to improved monitoring and enforcement.
  • Effectively enforce the 2005 demand in UN Security Council resolution 1591 that the Sudanese government cease "offensive military flights" over Darfur.
  • 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 the warrants of arrest that have been issued by the court.

Côte d'Ivoire

The March 2007 signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement, the latest of several peace accords intended to resolved Côte d'Ivoire's protracted political-military stalemate and lead to presidential elections, has resulted in a much-needed thawing of tensions between the Ivorian government and the New Forces rebels.

While both sides have taken encouraging steps towards implementation of the Agreement, many of the issues which have in the past caused the breakdown of the peace process and served to sustain the conflict, such as identification of Ivorian citizens, disarmament of rebel forces and pro-government militias, and impunity for human rights abuses by all sides, have yet to be resolved. The most difficult work lies ahead, and the United Nations has a critical role to play, especially in ensuring civilian protection and ending impunity for human rights abuses.

The importance of civilian protection and the crucial role international peacekeepers can play in ensuring it, has been evident in the surge in criminal violence and attacks on civilians in the volatile western region following the April dismantling of the Zone of Confidence.

In May 2007, a pro-government student group, FESCI, attacked and ransacked the headquarters of two human rights organizations. This group and others similar to it, such as the Young Patriots militia, have in the past been responsible for violent attacks, including on the United Nations, and disruption of the citizen identification hearings that are critical to the peace process, all without any kind of official government investigation or sanction. Given Côte d'Ivoire's recent history of ethnic violence and rights abuses-and the fact that these abuses have very often escalated during periods of heightened political tension-it is critical that the United Nations peacekeeping mission maintain a significant presence throughout Côte d'Ivoire for the immediate future.

Human Rights Watch would also like to underscore the danger that impunity presents in this stabilizing but volatile climate and urge the Security Council to send a clear message that the era of impunity in Côte d'Ivoire is over. In this regard, Human Rights Watch would like to express its concern that the Security Council has yet to make public or discuss the findings of a report analyzing serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated in Côte d'Ivoire done under the auspices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This report was transmitted to the Security Council two and a half years ago. The failure to discuss this report and its recommendations publicly, much less act on them, sends the wrong signal to abusers, both past and potential. The same can be said of the Security Council's near-total failure to apply sanctions against individuals responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as provided for by Security Council resolution 1572 (2004), and subsequently renewed under 1727 (2006).

The Security Council should:

  • Publish the report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law submitted to the Security Council by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in December 2004, but not made public.
  • Act on the recommendations of the OHCHR report.
  • Apply sanctions to those responsible for such violations, as provided for by existing Security Council resolutions.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Congo's election in 2006, which brought Joseph Kabila to power as the first elected president in over 40 years, was an important moment. But the first six months of Kabila's presidency have been marred by violence and repression. Insecurity in the east of the country, repressive tactics against opposition members and other critics, and a pervasive culture of impunity threaten the stability of the DRC. The commitment shown by millions of Congolese voters and the international community to bring about change risks failure if representative institutions are not permitted to develop.

The new Congolese government is demonstrating a repressive and authoritarian style with little respect for human rights. According to information collected by HRW, more than 100 protestors were brutally killed by the army and police in the province of Bas Congo on January 31 and February 1 during demonstrations against election corruption. In Kinshasa at least 150 people linked to the opposition have been arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned since November 2006, frequently on trumped up charges of espionage, insurgency, or possession of weapons; some have been tortured. In March, hundreds of civilians and soldiers were killed in clashes in Kinshasa between the army and the bodyguards of opposition leader, Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba. In the eastern province of North Kivu, attempts to integrate combatants loyal to former general Laurent Nkunda have led to scores of killings, rapes, and disappearances. The authors of the crimes have not been arrested, despite strong evidence in a number of the cases identifying those responsible.

In a flagrant violation of international law, the Congolese army has failed to demobilize more than 300 children who are in the ranks of newly mixed brigades in North Kivu. Child protection workers from the United Nations and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been prevented from identifying and demobilizing the children, and have themselves been threatened by senior army officers.

The Security Council should:

  • Demand that the Congolese government immediately demobilize all children under the age of 18 from army brigades in North Kivu and to halt any new recruitment of children. Advise the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) to suspend all military cooperation with the Congolese army until these children have been demobilized.
  • Demand an end to the repression of the political opposition. Stress the importance of respecting political space including a vibrant opposition, free press, and an active civil society.
  • Reiterate that those responsible for serious human rights violations must be held to account. Request the Congolese government to establish a vetting process to ensure that those accused of serious human rights violations are not integrated into the army until accusations against them have been investigated, as part of a broader strategy on security sector reform.
  • Urge the government to establish a joint commission of civilian and military justice officials led by the state prosecutor and the military prosecutor to carry out an urgent and transparent investigation on the abuses committed in North and South Kivu. Request that this commission reports on their work to national and relevant provincial assemblies.

Chad

Eastern Chad remains dangerous and volatile as the unrest that displaced more than 100,000 civilians in 2006 has continued into 2007. In light of the ongoing activities of armed groups, including a direct clash between Chad and Sudan in West Darfur in April, inter-communal tensions, and the ready availability of firearms, civilian protection needs in eastern Chad are dire. Human Rights Watch recognizes that the UN Security Council has been actively engaged in exploring civilian protection needs in Chad, including studying the feasibility of dispatching a UN protection mission to the region. However, a number of urgent concerns remain.

The Security Council should:

  • Take all necessary measures to ensure the deployment of a robust international presence of military personnel and human rights monitors along the Chad/Sudan border equipped with a mandate and sufficient resources to protect civilians, secure humanitarian access, patrol the Chad-Sudan border, monitor the movement of weapons and armed groups, and support efforts to ensure accountability for human rights violations.
  • Ensure that efforts to secure consent from the Chadian government for the deployment of a robust international presence are accompanied by calls for the Chadian government to uphold international human rights and humanitarian law.
  • Recognize the interconnected nature of the conflicts in Darfur, Chad, and the Central African Republic, and urge the states of the region to cooperate with a view to ensuring their common stability.

Somalia

Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned by recent events in Somalia and their impact on civilians. In recent months, our researchers have documented serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by most of the armed groups engaged in the conflict in Somalia as well as by allied governments.

Since Ethiopian troops and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces ousted the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from Mogadishu and other areas of south-central Somalia, the security situation in Mogadishu has deteriorated. Instead of increased stability, the past five months have seen a massive surge in indiscriminate attacks on civilians by all the main warring parties.

Recent fighting in Mogadishu was described by some observers as "the worst in fifteen years" and some of the crimes may amount to war crimes. Hundreds of civilians were killed and injured by the shelling. At least 300,000 civilians were forced to flee the indiscriminate shelling of residential neighborhoods of the capital. Thousands of people were subjected to looting, harassment, and sexual violence by abusive militia forces as they fled the town. Tens of thousands were denied access to humanitarian aid for weeks due to arbitrary restrictions by the TFG.

All of the warring parties are responsible for abuses and the use of types of weaponry that are entirely inappropriate for urban warfare. Armed groups associated with the insurgency have launched mortar attacks from densely populated residential areas of Mogadishu, sometimes indiscriminately hitting civilians. Ethiopian forces have responded with intense, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas with Katyusha multiple rocket artillery and mortars, in violation of fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, such as the principles of distinction and proportionality. TFG officials have failed to give effective warning to civilians living in targeted areas of the city and have arbitrarily obstructed the delivery of humanitarian aid to displaced persons. TFG forces have routinely looted civilian property and harassed civilians.

Against this background of appalling human suffering, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers in Mogadishu have had little or no effect in improving protection or preventing these abuses, partly because their mandate is narrowly defined and does not even include civilian protection. This omission should be urgently rectified in the case of AMISOM, and any future mandate for a UN force must include civilian protection as a priority.

While the Security Council should ensure that civilian protection is paramount among the tasks for AU or UN peacekeepers, it is equally important that the existing dominant military force on the ground-the Ethiopian military-and the allied forces of the TFG are held accountable for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Security Council must publicly place protection of Somali civilians as a top priority, condemn past crimes, and support efforts to investigate abuses and hold accountable those responsible for international crimes in Somalia.

The Security Council should:

  • Support inclusion of civilian protection in the AMISOM peacekeepers' mandate and ensure that any future mandate for a UN force includes civilian protection as a priority.
  • Insist that the Ethiopian military and the allied forces of the Transitional Federal Government are held accountable for violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Northern Uganda

In northern Uganda, more than a million people remain displaced in dire conditions as a consequence of the 20-year conflict between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). An August 2006 agreement to cease hostilities in connection with ongoing peace talks between the parties in Juba, Sudan has improved security in northern Uganda, but the LRA remains a destabilizing force in the region. The civilian population of southern Sudan is at particular risk, with alleged LRA activities in 2007 leading to civilian deaths, mass displacement in Eastern Equatoria, and the disruption of humanitarian operations. Human Rights Watch recognizes the UN Security Council's support for a negotiated settlement to the conflict and its support for the activities of President Joaquim Chissano, the UN Secretary-General's special envoy for the LRA-affected areas, but additional steps are needed.

The Security Council should:

  • Insist that any outcome in northern Uganda include both peace and justice. This is essential to both accountability and establishing a durable peace. Justice should be comprised of prosecutions in accordance with international standards for the most serious crimes committed and also broader accountability measures for lesser offenses.
  • Through the UN Mission in Sudan, and in partnership with the African Union, ensure that assistance is provided to the Cessation of Hostilities Monitoring Team (CHMT). The CHMT is charged with investigating alleged breaches of the cessation of hostilities agreement, including attacks on civilians, but requires additional capacity to carry out this mandate.
  • Press the government of Uganda-with the assistance of the international community and consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement-to carry out relief and reconstruction efforts in northern Uganda.

Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We stand ready to assist you with any further questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Peter Takirambudde
Executive Director, Africa Division

Steve Crawshaw
UN Advocacy Director