(New York) - When Arab League members meet in Khartoum this week to discuss aid and development for Darfur, they should press the Sudanese government to end the massive human rights violations in the region, Human Rights Watch and other organizations said today in a letter to league members.
The meeting on October 30-31 will focus on humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, and development in Darfur. Human Rights Watch expressed concern that none of these goals will be achieved unless the Sudanese government ends attacks on civilians, brings the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice, and facilitates the deployment of an effective international peacekeeping force.
"Development in Darfur first requires protection for Darfuri civilians who continue to face violent attacks," said Gasser Abdel-Razek, Middle East advocate at Human Rights Watch. "Arab governments should support the 2 million people caught in Darfur's conflict by calling on all sides to end their abuses."
The human rights situation in Darfur remains dire. Throughout Darfur, civilians remain at daily risk of violence, even in designated camps for the internally displaced. Thousands of women have been raped and assaulted and risk further attacks whenever they leave their camps or villages to collect firewood or travel to markets. Violence in two camps from October 18-20 left at least two civilians dead and forced others to flee. Humanitarian workers and international peacekeepers are also at risk: 10 African Union peacekeepers were killed in Haskanita on September 29 when rebels attacked their base.
The Sudanese government has failed to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. It has refused to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, by, for example, failing to hand over two individuals subject to arrest warrants by the court. One of these, Ahmed Haroun, remains State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs in Darfur. The second, a militia leader known as "Ali Kosheib," was recently released from state custody for "lack of evidence."
Although a new United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur (UNAMID) is currently being assembled, it remains unclear whether donor governments will agree to supply critical equipment, including helicopters and land transport. The Sudanese government, which in the past has obstructed deployment of peacekeeping forces in Darfur, has recently prevaricated over the composition of the UNAMID force, and failed to allocate land urgently needed to begin construction of UNAMID bases.
Human Rights Watch urged Arab League members to help ensure that AMIS and UNAMID have adequate personnel, equipment, technical expertise, and other resources, noting that improved security in Darfur will be contingent upon their rapid response capabilities and patrolling activities.
Arab League governments should call on all parties in the conflict in Darfur to comply immediately with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. This includes ending attacks on civilians and the unlawful use on aircraft of UN and AMIS colors or markings, and stopping support to abusive militia/Janjaweed and initiating militia/Janjaweed disarmament programs.
The Sudanese government should end impunity and promote accountability by cooperating fully with the International Criminal Court and undertaking legal reforms and other steps to strengthen its justice system. It should also facilitate the expeditious deployment of AMIS and UNAMID and ensure they can carry out their mandate unhindered, including by having freedom of movement throughout Darfur.