We are writing to you in advance of your meeting with President Omar el-Bashir at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa on January 31. The issue of Sudan's ongoing and deliberate obstruction of the UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping force (UNAMID) will be a major concern, and rightly so. President Bashir must be urged to end his ongoing efforts to undermine the peacekeeping force through the staggering array of hurdles he has placed in its path, including his rejection of critical troops and attempts to insert unacceptable provisions into the Status of Forces Agreement.
Human Rights Watch supports your efforts to address these critical issues. However we write to you now to encourage you to also press President Bashir on his refusal to provide justice for the victims of Darfur's worst atrocities. The Sudanese authorities are obstructing both peacekeeping and justice, and both are to the detriment of the people of Darfur and in direct opposition to efforts of the United Nations. Downplaying justice to appease Khartoum in the hope of securing progress on the UNAMID deployment has failed to secure progress in deployment. Instead it has emboldened the government to place persons implicated in war crimes in prominent official positions.
Sudanese authorities have continued to refuse to hold accountable those responsible for serious international crimes in Darfur. Instead, President Bashir recently selected Musa Hilal-widely regarded as the most senior figure in the notorious Janjaweed militia and one of only four individuals in Darfur subject to UN sanctions-as a special advisor. President Bashir defended his promotion of Hilal by saying he had "contributed greatly to stability and security in the region." This is in direct contradiction to the findings of the UN Sanctions Committee's Panel of Experts and Security Council who sharply criticized Hilal's role in Darfur, imposing sanctions on him on the basis that he fulfilled at least one of the requirements of: impeding the peace process; violating international humanitarian law; or violating human rights law.
President Bashir has shown similar disregard for Sudan's legal obligations under Security Council resolution 1593 to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. Government officials have repeatedly reiterated their refusal to cooperate with the court or to hand over the two individuals subject to arrest warrants. One, Ahmed Haroun, remains state minister for humanitarian affairs in Darfur, responsible for the welfare of the very victims of his alleged crimes. He also acts as the liaison with the UNAMID force tasked to protect civilians against such crimes. The other, Ali Kosheib, was in custody in Sudan on other charges, but was released in October. His release, like Hilal's promotion, belies any claims that Sudan is interested in pursuing accountability domestically.
As you noted in your remarks to the Sixth Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, peace and justice "go hand in hand." Should President Bashir succeed in promoting men such as Musa Hilal and Ahmed Haroun without public comment or condemnation from the United Nations, this can only reinforce his belief that there will be no consequences for other calculated affronts to the international community, including the deliberate obstruction of a UN mandated peacekeeping force.
Acting Director, Africa Division
Director, International Justice Program
Director, United Nations Advocacy