(New York) - The United Nations Security Council should address protection of civilians, justice, and human rights during its upcoming visit to Africa from June 1-10, 2008, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the council. Human Rights Watch highlighted critical issues that needed to be addressed at each of the stops on the council’s tour.

The Security Council will visit Sudan, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nairobi, where it will address issues in Somalia. In all of these countries, Security Council action is urgently needed to ensure an end to persistent abuses by all parties to the conflict, to protect civilians still at risk of violence, and to help bring to justice those responsible for serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Security Council’s itinerary takes it to five nations in which millions of people are suffering the effects of armed conflict,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Killings, rape, abduction, and displacement are going on right now. The council should address these issues head-on.”

Human Rights Watch called on the Security Council while in Sudan to condemn the attacks by government forces and allied militia against civilians in West Darfur in February 2008, and ongoing indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilians. The council should also insist that the Sudanese government account for the whereabouts of the more than 100 detainees held following a rebel attack on Khartoum on May 10, and urge the government to arrest and surrender the two suspects wanted for more than a year by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

“The council should insist on accountability for crimes committed during Khartoum’s scorched-earth campaign,” said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch.

The Security Council will also be visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire. In the last eight months, much progress has been made towards establishing peace in eastern Congo, but serious human rights abuses continue. Human Rights Watch urged the council to take concrete action to tackle the humanitarian and human rights crisis in eastern Congo, and to call on all parties to the Goma agreement to uphold their commitments to respect human rights.

In Côte d’Ivoire, Human Rights Watch warned that upcoming elections are overshadowing the issue of impunity for human rights violations, and called on the council to address this. It also reiterated calls for the immediate publication of a report on human rights violations in the country submitted to the Security Council by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in December 2004, which remains unpublished. Also, Ivorian authorities should be pressed to facilitate a mission by the ICC to assess a possible investigation into crimes committed in Côte d’Ivoire.

“Justice cannot be set aside,” said Dicker. “Ending impunity is critical to prospects for peace and stability.”

On Chad, Human Rights Watch called for the Security Council to address the ongoing use of child soldiers by all sides of the conflict, in particular urging the Chadian government to demobilize children from its armed forces, criminalize the use of child soldiers under domestic law, and rigorously investigate and prosecute those who commit crimes against children.

On Somalia, Human Rights Watch called for the council to call on all parties to secure humanitarian access and to end attacks on aid workers, as well as to emphasize the need for an end to impunity. Somalia should be supporting the urgent establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate reports of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Somalia since January 2007 by all parties.

“Somalia is one of the world’s starkest and most neglected tragedies,” said Gagnon. “Yet the international community’s response has been myopic at best. The council should use this moment to correct that.”

On northern Uganda, in connection with stalled peace talks in Juba, and new reports of abuses by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Central African Republic and southern Sudan, Human Rights Watch called for the Security Council to make a full inquiry into the alleged LRA abuses, as well as to discuss ways to effectively execute the outstanding ICC arrest warrants.