Dear Foreign Minister:

We write to you on the occasion of the visit by Sudanese presidential assistant, Nafi Ali Nafi, to Tokyo. We understand that Japan wishes to support a swift resolution to the crisis in Darfur, and we welcome in particular the support you have given to ensuring consultation among Darfurians. However we wish to highlight that the political process will not provide protection for civilians who are today under attack in Darfur, nor will it provide justice for the victims of atrocities and abuse perpetrated over the last five years.

The government of Sudan continues to carry out massive direct attacks on its citizens in Darfur. On February 8, 2008 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. Since then the government has continued to bombard the area, ensuring at least 20,000 civilians on both sides of the border are cut off from life-saving humanitarian assistance, and on one occasion destroying an IDP camp from which the residents had only recently fled.

The government of Sudan has also actively obstructed those who could protect these people. Japan has repeatedly voiced its support for the United Nations/African Unions peacekeeping force (UNAMID), which would, at full strength, be the largest ever peacekeeping operation. Sadly Khartoum has thrown up endless barriers to deployment of the force and today UNAMID is barely one third of its authorized strength. Even now the government of Sudan continues to delay assignment of land and delivery of equipment for the force, as well as refusing non-African units. The government argues that it will accept these only after deployment of all African units, but this misses the critical point that these units are so important precisely because they have capacities not currently available in Africa, and are ready to deploy immediately.

Meanwhile other governments have also weakened the force by failing to provide vital equipment, particularly helicopters and other transport. We do not take any position on the interpretation of the Japanese Constitution regarding the Self Defense Force's involvement in peacekeeping operations, but we would urge Japan to consider whether it is able to provide its transport helicopters to UNAMID in accordance with the Constitution.

The government of Sudan has also perpetuated an environment of impunity for crimes in Darfur. The national courts have failed to prosecute any person for serious crimes in Darfur. In April 2007 the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued warrants for two men for atrocities carried out in West Darfur. However Khartoum has repeatedly reiterated its 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. The other, Ali Kosheib, was in custody in Sudan on other charges, but was released in October.

As a new state party to the Rome Statute, and with the appointment of Judge Fumiko Saiga to the ICC, Japan has shown its commitment to the Court and to international justice. You now have an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of that commitment by calling on Sudan to cooperate fully with the court and to immediately hand over Haroun and Kosheib.

There can be no trade off between civilian protection, justice and the political process. The ongoing attacks on civilians and the refusal to provide any accountability for grave international crimes can only damage the prospects for peace in Darfur. Japan should use this opportunity to call on the government of Sudan to immediately end the attacks, to end its obstruction of UNAMID, and to fully cooperate with the ICC. In addition Japan should consider whether it is able to reinforce its commitment to an effective peacekeeping force by providing transport helicopters to UNAMID.

Yours sincerely,

Georgette Gagnon
Director, Africa Division