We write to urge the Security Council, in view of the recent horrific attacks carried out by the government of Sudan on civilian villages in West Darfur, to strongly and clearly respond to the government's continuing flagrant disregard for the lives of its population, for its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, and for its responsibilities to abide by Council resolutions. We are calling on the Security Council to immediately issue a presidential statement condemning the attacks and to impose targeted sanctions on those responsible for the ongoing atrocities.
The situation in Darfur has become increasingly bleak in recent months. However, the attacks during the past two weeks - which the UN secretary-general has condemned - have been reminiscent of the worst periods of the conflict in 2004. On February 8 the Sudanese armed forces backed by Janjaweed militia carried out attacks on three villages in West Darfur that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, and the displacement of tens of thousands more. They also constituted a blatant breach of the ban on offensive military overflights imposed by the Security Council under resolution 1591, and underline the government's failure to disarm the Janjaweed militia, as they are obligated under resolution 1556.
The attacks marked the beginning of a campaign of aerial bombardments and ground attacks that continues today, which includes the bombing of a recently emptied refugee camp at Aro Sharrow in West Darfur. The attacks have left at least 20,000 civilians on both sides of the border cut off from life-saving humanitarian assistance.
Other manifestations of the government of Sudan's disregard for its international legal obligations include:
- Persistently and knowingly violating the Security Council's arms embargo, including the ban on offensive military overflights and the ban on the provision of heavy artillery, small arms and ammunition to militia in Darfur.
- Failing to implement the targeted sanctions imposed on four individuals under resolution 1591; instead in January 2008 appointing one of them - Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal - as presidential advisor.
- Contrary to resolution 1769, persistently obstructing and delaying deployment of the United Nations/African Union hybrid peacekeeping force, UNAMID, so that it is barely a third of its authorized strength and unable to adequately protect civilians, such as those affected by the government attacks in February in West Darfur.
- Contrary to resolution 1593 which referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC), persistently and outspokenly refusing to cooperate with the court; instead retaining one person under ICC warrant as State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, and releasing a second from jail.
We believe that these recent abuses demonstrate how far Khartoum has been emboldened by the failure of the international community to impose real consequences for such actions in the past. Previously the Council showed an inexplicable reluctance to address large-scale killing of civilians, contributing to the intractable problems of the past four years. It is now well past the time for the Council to confront the government of Sudan's undisguised contempt with real action. We call on the Council to take action on two fronts as follows:
First, the Security Council should promptly issue a presidential statement condemning the government of Sudan's violations of international humanitarian law in West Darfur, the appointment of Musa Hilal, and the refusal to cooperate with the ICC.
Second, in accordance with the Council's own criteria, the Sanctions Committee should impose targeted sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes on individuals who impede the peace process, constitute a threat to stability in Darfur and the region, commit violations of international humanitarian or human rights law or other atrocities ... or are responsible for offensive military overflights. Human Rights Watch recommends that the Council immediately task the Panel of Experts to investigate the attacks on February 8 in West Darfur as well as the other actions listed above and to report, promptly and publicly, to the Sanctions Committee with a list of those who are responsible.
Individuals to be investigated should include:
President Omar El Bashir
Second Vice-President Ali Osman Taha
Maj. Gen. Abduraheem M. Hussein: Minister of Defense
Maj. Gen. Bakri Hassan Salih: Minister for presidential affairs
Abbas Arabi: Chief of Staff of the Sudanese armed forces
Gen. Salah Abdallah Ghosh: Director of Security and Military Intelligence
Ahmed Haroun: Former state minister of the interior, responsible for Darfur portfolio within the Ministry of the Interior, now state minister for humanitarian affairs
Abu Algasim Ajrass: Governor of West Darfur
Farah Mustafa Abdallah: Deputy Governor of West Darfur
Senior commanders of the Sudanese armed forces (Western Region) and the Sudanese Air Force
The long-running tragedy of Darfur has been an important test of the credibility of the Security Council. It is extraordinary and shameful that the government of Sudan has been allowed for so long to commit repeated violations of international law with little meaningful action from this most important of international bodies. The Council should take this opportunity to prove that it is prepared to take real measures to end the ongoing suffering of those living in Darfur.
Director, Africa Division