On December 11, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) is due to consider the final report of the Group of Experts (GOE) appointed on Darfur. As its mandate required, the GOE has focused on the implementation by Sudan of some 70 detailed recommendations on Darfur, many of which require extensive and long-term reforms within Sudan.
In September, Human Rights Watch proposed that the HRC should focus on a shorter list of ten key actions that could contribute to immediate changes on the ground. These steps were drawn from the GOE's June report, and most were actions the government of Sudan said it was already taking or was committed to take. Human Rights Watch proposed these steps in the hope that by concentrating attention on a small number of concrete actions that could be accomplished in the short term, the HRC would be able to encourage the government of Sudan to act before its final report. We also emphasized that - failing such action - the ten steps would serve as a useful basis for evaluating Sudan's cooperation with the GOE process.
The Group of Experts approach is a new model for engagement by the HRC, and this exercise has shown the potential merits of an approach that moves beyond making statements to a constructive dialogue with the responsible government on implementation of recommendations. However, as the GOE's December report demonstrates, Sudan has not yet made significant progress in any of the following ten critical, time-sensitive steps. The HRC should extend the mandate of the GOE to continue to urge and monitor Sudan's implementation of the recommendations.
- Publish and disseminate orders prohibiting the targeting of civilians and civilian property and indiscriminate attacks
GOE assessment of implementation: In October 2007 the government indicated it had issued and circulated rules to enforce discipline in the armed forces. A code of conduct that was circulated partially implements the recommendation. It prohibits attacks on civilians, but does not specifically prohibit indiscriminate attacks or state that attacks can amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It was addressed to the Sudanese Armed Forces and Popular Defence Forces but does not refer to other militias that might operate under the control or in cooperate with the government of Sudan.
- Enforce orders prohibiting targeting of civilians and civilian property and indiscriminate attacks
GOE assessment of Implementation: It is premature to assess whether the rules issued to armed forces in October are having any real impact at ground level. Between June and September, at least 15 land and air attacks on civilian centers were carried out by government, allied militia, and rebel factions signatory to the Darfur Peace Agreement between June and September 2007, resulting in at least 170 civilian deaths.
With regard to accountability for attacks, the recommendation was partially implemented. Limited investigations were conducted into three incidents: attacks in Bulbul area, South Darfur, in January to March 2007; attacks on the village of Deribat and eight other villages along the road from Kutur to Deribat in late December 2006; and into killing of civilians in the area of Buram, South Darfur, in October 2006. The work of investigation committees was not made public, however, and so far no perpetrators have been prosecuted. The GOE did not receive any information on disciplinary measures taken against officials who failed in their responsibility to protect civilians, or on compensation and rehabilitation of victims.
- Vet all appointments to public office on human rights grounds, and remove Ahmed Haroun, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, from all posts
GOE assessment of implementation: Insufficient action has been taken to vet militia and security forces such as the Popular Defence Forces, Border Intelligence Guard, Central Reserve Police, Popular Police or Nomadic Police to exclude members who have committed serious human rights violations.
HRW additional comment: The GOE report does not specifically refer to Ahmed Haroun. Haroun remains in his post as state minister of humanitarian affairs. He also serves as co-chair of a security committee whose mandate was extended in September to allow it to hear complaints regarding human rights abuses in Darfur.
- Publicize and enforce a policy of zero tolerance for violence against women
GOE assessment of implementation: Some action has been taken to denounce crimes of sexual violence, and a number of public statements have been made. There have been a number of reported rape cases followed by investigation and prosecution of perpetrators. However, there still appears to be a gap between the number of reported cases and much lower number of cases of prosecution for rape and other forms of sexual violence. A strong pattern of underreporting of cases of sexual violence continues because of a general lack of confidence in the police and prosecutor's office. The information submitted also indicates that no compensation has been provided for the victims.
- Provide an up-to-date list of detainees and where they are held, and ensure that UN agencies and humanitarian organizations have confidential access to all detainees
GOE assessment of Implementation: A list of detainees was provided by the government, but it was not clear whether information was shared with families of detainees. Also, no information was provided whether civilians were detained in military installations or elsewhere. The information did not indicate precisely the place of detention. Regarding the recommendation to provide access to detainees by UN human rights monitors, it appears some steps have been taken toward implementation but actual access was still impeded.
- Cease any use in Darfur of military airplanes, helicopters, or vehicles painted white or otherwise mimicking UN or humanitarian organizations
GOE assessment of implementation: There were no reported instances since 20 June 2007 of markings that blur the distinction between military and humanitarian operations.
- Issue a blanket waiver of legal immunities for war crimes and serious violations of human rights
GOE assessment of implementation: Immunities have not been lifted. The government has published procedures on how immunities may be lifted for police and National Intelligence and Security Services personnel, but these do not facilitate waiver in cases of war crimes and serious violations of human rights. Moreover, new legislation currently pending on police and armed forces will not change the discretionary nature of decisions to lift immunities even in cases of serious violations of human rights.
- Fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court, and surrender two suspects now subject to arrest warrants
GOE assessment of implementation: The recommendation was not implemented.
- Fully cooperate with the African Union mission and deployment of the new UN-AU force, including issuance of expedited visas and clearance for vehicles and equipment
HRW assessment of implementation: This was not a recommendation included in the GOE report, but is an important indicator of Sudan's willingness to address the human rights crisis in Darfur. Sudan is hindering full effective deployment of the force at the highest level. Despite receiving a list of proposed troop contributions on October 2, the government has failed to approve any troops, indicating only that it would not accept troops from Thailand, Nepal and Scandinavian countries. The government also delayed in responding to requests by UNAMID to allocate land for bases, and has yet to approve land in Al Geneina and Zalingei. The government is also continuing to refuse permission for UNAMID to fly at night.
- Issue a standing invitation to all UN human rights mechanisms and give these mechanisms full and unimpeded access
GOE assessment of implementation: The recommendation was not implemented.