(New York) - As the United Nations and African Union prepare to deploy the world’s largest-ever peacekeeping mission to Darfur, Sudanese government forces, allied “Janjaweed” militia, rebels and former rebels have free rein to attack civilians and humanitarian workers in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The situation in Darfur has evolved from an armed conflict between rebels and the government into a violent scramble for power and resources involving government forces, Janjaweed militia, rebels and former rebels, and bandits. But these complexities should not deflect attention from Khartoum's responsibility for indiscriminate aerial and ground attacks, complicity in Janjaweed attacks against civilians, failure to hold rights abusers accountable, and its unwillingness to establish a policing force that can protect civilians.
"The new peacekeeping mission in Darfur will need the resources and political support to protect civilians," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Targeted sanctions should be imposed on Sudan if it obstructs peacekeepers and allows attacks on civilians."
The 76-page report, "Darfur 2007: Chaos by Design - Peacekeeping Challenges for AMIS and UNAMID," describes the current human rights situation in Darfur. Recent case studies from across Darfur illustrate how the proliferation of armed actors and the government's failure to strengthen the rule of law - particularly the police - are contributing to the abuses.
After civilians are displaced from their homes, they find themselves trapped in camps for the internally displaced. If they venture outside to farm, collect firewood, or return home, they risk being beaten, raped, robbed, or murdered - usually by Janjaweed and former rebels. Outsiders who are now occupying their land block prospects for sustainable peace and their return. Inter-tribal Arab fighting has left hundreds of more people dead and thousands displaced.
The report describes the critical ways in which the new peacekeeping mission, the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), and the international community must provide better civilian protection and address the shortcomings that have hampered the African Union's current mission, the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS).
Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations and African Union to deploy UNAMID widely and strategically, and to give it strong rapid-response capabilities. UNAMID will need to carry out regular day and night patrols (including firewood and market day patrols), employ well-trained and well-resourced policing units, and contain human rights officers who can publicly report on their findings (including experts in sexual and gender-based violence as well as children's rights).
The full deployment of UNAMID may take many months. In the interim, support that the international community promised to AMIS must be delivered. Peacekeepers in Darfur must immediately resume protection activities, such as firewood patrols. Such patrols can help deter abuses, but in many places have been suspended for over a year.
Human Rights Watch called on the UN Security Council, the African Union, and the international community at large to impose targeted sanctions against the Sudanese government and other parties to the conflict if they fail to meet key benchmarks for improving the human rights situation in Darfur.
Specifically, all parties to the conflict should end attacks on civilians. The Sudanese government should end its unlawful use of UN and AMIS colors or markings on aircraft. The government should also end support to abusive Janjaweed militias and initiate programs to disarm them.
Khartoum should facilitate the expeditious deployment of AMIS and UNAMID, and all parties to the conflict should ensure that peacekeepers can carry out their mandate unhindered. The government, militia, rebels, and former rebels should increase humanitarian access, and the government should end the consolidation of ethnic cleansing in land use and occupation.
Finally, the Sudanese authorities should end impunity through full cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC), including the carrying out of arrest warrants. It should promote accountability by undertaking legal and other reforms to strengthen Sudan's justice system.
In early September, however, the Sudanese government audaciously nominated an international war crimes suspect to co-chair a committee to hear human rights complaints in Darfur. Ahmed Haroun, who also serves as the state minister for humanitarian affairs, is one of two men facing arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC.
"People in camps across Darfur have told us that they don't feel safe to return home," said Takirambudde.