Mr. Abdullah Gul
President of the State
Mr. Koksal Toptan
President of the Parliament
Mr. R. Tayyip Erdogan
On January 21, 2008 President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan will pay an official visit to Turkey – the first such visit in more than two decades. We understand he will be greeted with a full military ceremony and will be a guest at the Camlý Köþk.
The government of Sudan has played, and continues to play, a direct role in the suffering and abuse of millions of people in Darfur as well as elsewhere in Sudan, and has indicated recently by its actions that it has no intention of ending these policies. We are surprised at the timing of this visit, and the fact that the leader of such a government will be lauded with full ceremony by the government of Turkey.
The government of Turkey has instigated important reforms in the past six years that have contributed to the strengthening of human rights protection within Turkey. We now urge you to contribute to the protection of those beyond Turkey’s borders, by calling on the government of Sudan to end its abusive policies, support the deployment of a peacekeeping force able to protect civilians from ongoing attacks, and hold those responsible for past and continuing abuses to account.
The conflict in Darfur has now continued for five years. During that time an estimated 2.4 million people have been displaced, and at least four million people now rely on humanitarian assistance for their survival. Even in the last weeks there have been new bombardments of villages in West Darfur, and civilians are at great risk from ongoing clashes as all sides fail to respect international humanitarian law. Throughout Darfur civilians are also at daily risk of violence that keeps them trapped in camps and villages, unable to move freely or return to their homes. Women and girls continue to be raped or beaten when they carry out daily activities such as gathering firewood or going to market.
The government of Sudan is directly responsible for attacks on civilians, and for arming and supporting the ‘janjaweed’ militia responsible for much of the violence. As the conflict has become more complex and all sides carry out abuses, the government has also shown it is unwilling or unable to provide protection for its citizens. In these circumstances, the United Nations/African Union hybrid peacekeeping force (UNAMID) is absolutely critical, but instead of proactively facilitating the force as it is obliged to do by Security Council Resolution 1769, the government of Sudan has striven to obstruct and undermine the force at every opportunity. The government delayed for more than three months the allocation of land for bases in some parts of Darfur. Despite receiving a list of proposed troop contributions on October 2, the government of Sudan has yet to formally respond, but has outright rejected absolutely essential units from Nepal and Thailand, for which there are no substitute forces ready to deploy. The government continues to insist on provisions in the Status of Forces Agreement that would make it impossible for the force to operate effectively, including requiring prior notification of all movement, allowing night flights only for medical evacuation, and retaining the right to suspend the force’s communications network.
There continues to be almost complete impunity for the crimes carried out in Darfur. There have been no effective prosecutions at the national level for the most serious crimes. The International Criminal Court has issued warrants for the arrest of two suspects, Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kosheib, but President al-Bashir has repeatedly and openly stated his refusal to cooperate with the Court and hand over the two suspects. Instead Haroun remains State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, responsible for the very victims of his alleged crimes. Kosheib had been held on unconnected charges in Sudan, but was released in October 2007. In a further affront to the victims of atrocities in Darfur, Musa Hilal, a key leader of the Janjaweed militia whose crimes have been well documented by Human Rights Watch and others, was reportedly this week appointed advisor to President al-Bashir.
The government of Turkey should make it clear to President al-Bashir that he must end the atrocities and abuses continuing in Darfur. He must end direct or indiscriminate attacks on civilians, take immediate steps to reign in and disarm the janjaweed militia, and immediately and proactively facilitate deployment of the hybrid peacekeeping force. He must also ensure those responsible for past and continuing crimes are brought to account, including Haround, Kosheib, and Hilal. If you fail to do so then you are failing in your responsibilities to those suffering in Darfur.
Executive Director, Africa Division