(New York) - The nationalities of troops should not impede the urgent establishment of the most effective peacekeeping force possible for Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today in letters to the chairman of the African Union Commission and to the United Nations under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations. The new African Union-United Nations hybrid peacekeeping force must have military and civilian components, including police, that are experienced, well-trained and well-equipped if it is to deliver on its promise to protect civilians in Darfur.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement from the African Union that African countries have pledged troops for the force, but warned that the difficulties the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) has faced indicate that it may not be possible to source from Africa the full range of skills, expertise and experience required for either the military or the civilian contingent, and particularly for the police.

The Human Rights Watch letter states: “The priority must be to ensure that a well-trained, well-equipped force is in place as quickly as possible to stem the numerous and widespread human rights violations continuing in Darfur.”