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IV. Mandate and Rules of Engagement

Military planners typically use three related but linked concepts: mandate, mission tasks, and rules of engagement. As of October 2004, AMIS’s expanded mandate was to monitor and observe compliance with the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement of April 8, 2004 and all such agreements in the future: to assist in the process of confidence building and to contribute to a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian relief and, beyond that, the return of IDPs and refugees to their homes, in order to assist in increasing the level of compliance of all parties with the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement and to contribute to the improvement of the security situation throughout Darfur.35

The mission tasks define the military activities required to give effect to the mandate.36 Rules of engagement are a means for providing guidance and instructions to the commanders and personnel within the framework of political and military objectives. They define the circumstances, degree, and manner in which force may be applied to accomplish the mission tasks, and are designed to ensure that the application of force is carefully controlled.37

Among the criticisms of the A.U. forces is that their mandate is insufficient to provide civilian protection on the ground.38  Such criticisms may reflect unrealistic expectations of what AMIS can do or a narrow view or misunderstanding that AMIS’s current mandate, tasks and rules of engagement do not permit proactive and aggressive action to protect civilians. Yet from the wide range of source documentation consulted by Human Rights Watch, it seems that the mandate is sufficiently open-ended to permit flexibility in mission tasking to permit robust protection of civilians and humanitarian operations. Such flexibility suggests that with good intelligence capabilities and high force mobility, and with AMIS forces operating under clear, well understood and widely disseminated rules of engagement that permit deadly force to protect civilians and political will, AMIS should be able to engage belligerents to prevent attacks against civilians rather than only reacting to them. It is notable that the mission tasks have been more proactive since the Assessment Mission in March 2005 and that AMIS II-E tasks could be further enhanced.

The current AMIS II-E operation does not require a change in mandate to permit the troops to provide robust civilian protection—AMIS can do that now with its current mandate.  A change in mandate might be necessary in the event that the mission was re-oriented to achieve broader goals, such as a peace enforcement mission under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter.39

It is the AMIS rules of engagement that need change—it is not so much a question of what can or cannot be done within the mandate, but rather that commanders at the lowest levels and their troops do not have clear instructions as to what they are authorized to do.  In particular, the rules of engagement need to be amended to clarify their applicability to the protection of civilians and humanitarian operations under imminent threat as stated in the mandate and to specifically permit the use of deadly force in the execution of these tasks. Political will is needed to effect such a change.

A. AMIS mandate and its perceived limitations

The Protection Force under the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement was initially deployed with the responsibility of protecting the ceasefire observers and ensuring that its protocols could be effectively monitored, allowing for the investigation of any alleged ceasefire violations.

In the more than a year-and-a-half since AMIS’s inception, it has been evident that while the negotiations of April 2004 anticipated good faith by all parties, such genuine respect for the ceasefire and its protocols has not actually materialized in the wake of these agreements.40 While AMIS may not be mandated with enforcing (rather than monitoring) peace in Darfur, it has the flexibility in its mandate to protect civilians suffering from the continued hostilities. However, such an opportunity has largely been hampered either by confusion surrounding the mandate (as detailed below), or by a lack of will and problems within the chain of command and communications on the part of commanders to implement the mission tasks and rules of engagement proactively for this cause.

One representative from the nongovernmental organization (NGO) community noted that “there is actually a lot of confusion among not only the Sudanese civilians but even humanitarian aid organizations about exactly what the role of the African Union mission is supposed to be.”41  Disappointment with the A.U.’s mandate and hence its performance on the part of both the protection force within AMIS and civilians, particularly with regard to violence in the camps, has been expressed. One DITF official told Human Rights Watch that “we don’t react, we don’t go proactively.”42 AMIS personnel reportedly told one independent assessment team that they wanted to protect civilians but under the current mandate this task was not practically possible.43 One commander told Human Rights Watch, “I need a stronger mandate, like a peace enforcement mandate.”44 In an El Geneina IDP camp, a resident reported that the A.U. presence is notable but that they “just come and write reports which don’t go anywhere,” leaving the residents still living in fear.45 These limitations are not derived from an insufficient mandate; rather, confusion is evident concerning how the A.U. role is determined by mission tasks and rules of engagement, as well as mandate.

Mission tasks

The mission tasks seemed well articulated when the mandate was revised in October 2004 (see Section III.B, above) and reiterated in the March 2005 assessment. However, from various reports (including some of those quoted above) there seems to be confusion over how AMIS troops are to react to civilian emergencies and where the priority of response rests, partly a result of several actual or suggested revisions to the task list in quick succession. The March 2005 assessment suggested a change in priorities principally by moving the task to “contribute to creation of a secure environment” to the top and placing monitoring of the ceasefire agreement (the top priority task for both AMIS and AMIS II) further down the list.46 A Military Concept of Operations drawn up for AMIS II-E in May 2005 gave the protection force a revised mission task list that elevated the protection of civilians and humanitarian operations but without the requisite capacity or clear and sufficient rules of engagement to successfully undertake that task.47

AMIS has reportedly encountered difficulties in fulfilling its mission tasks to monitor the ceasefire and to investigate alleged violations. One reason (stemming from the lack of commitment to the ceasefire by the warring parties) is that AMIS has been inundated by ceasefire violations overwhelming its institutional capacity to deal with the incidents and often only resulting in a simple condemnation or a partial investigation of the hostilities in question.

The procedures for conducting investigations, whereby each party to the ceasefire commission is represented in the team investigating ceasefire violations, are problematic.  A.U. officials were quoted as stating candidly that “all parties to the conflict were breaking the truce.”48 Investigating team members representing the group accused of a ceasefire violation have refused to sign reports, with the result being an atmosphere of non-cooperation at odds with the concept of a “confidence building” exercise foreseen in the ceasefire agreement.49 In an incident in which it was charged that the JEM had been involved in hostilities, the JEM representative refused to go to the investigation and “basically held the team hostage to that.” In addition, civilians being questioned about certain events feel intimidated by the presence of a member of the accused group on the team questioning them.50 The current structure effectively prevents the ceasefire commission from conducting serious investigations of ceasefire violations which is particularly troubling when evidence of abuses clearly exists but is unattainable because victims and witnesses are unwilling to testify.

 In view of the parties’ failure to comply with the ceasefire agreement, the composition of the ceasefire monitoring teams should be changed, with the parties no longer being a part of the investigative body. They should retain the right to see and comment on the commission’s findings before they are published, but within a limited (e.g. one-week) period. If any party disagrees with the final report it should file a dissenting report. However, these difficulties should not detract from AMIS’s other mission tasks, particularly those of higher priority, such as curbing abuses against civilians.

B. Rules of Engagement

No rules of engagement were drawn up for the earliest phase of AMIS, but rules of engagement were drafted in February 2005 for the mission tasks reflecting the mandate as expanded the previous October, including civilian protection.  To Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, these rules are still current and remain in draft form.51

AMIS troops are responsible for protecting the mission in all its manifestations and elements, in addition to protecting observer patrols during their operations. With regard to civilians, AMIS troops are to “be prepared to protect civilians under imminent threat in the immediate vicinity, within means and capabilities and in accordance with the Rules of Engagement.” Such protection responsibilities as outlined in AMIS’s mandate also apply to humanitarian agencies and their representatives while in operation.  Use of deadly force is authorized only for A.U. personnel for self-defense (including to resist abduction of oneself or detention of other A.U. personnel). Use of non-deadly force is authorized to protect A.U. installations and equipment, to protect (other unspecified) installations and goods, to prevent the escape of detainees, and to confront any party limiting or intending to limit freedom of movement.52

In addition to the right to self-defense, AMIS draft rules of engagement include provisions for military necessity, resolution of a situation by non-hostile means, the duty to warn before resorting to force, as well as other expected conditions for engaging another party in hostile action, such as the use of proportional force and avoidance of collateral damage (civilians and civilian objects).

The rules of engagement are ambiguous concerning the use of force to protect civilians, and are not sufficiently developed or detailed to allow for the reactive or proactive protection of civilians at sector and company level, where the patrolling Protection Forces encounter daily challenges. Specifically, the rules do not stipulate how they are to be applied to protect civilians and humanitarian operations “under imminent threat.”  There is no rule explicitly stipulating use of deadly force to protect civilians and humanitarian workers under such circumstances—only non-deadly force is mentioned. This gap sets up a serious dilemma for unit and sub-unit commanders about what they can and cannot do. Rule No. 5.2 states that “when competent local authorities are not in a position to render immediate assistance, detention of any person who creates or threatens to create civil unrest with likely serious consequences for life and property is authorized.” While the rules allow for the taking into custody of individuals who commit or intend to commit a hostile act, they do not specify what level of force is permitted unless the act is committed against A.U. personnel or A.U. installations and goods. The rules of engagement also empower the designated AMIS personnel to search individuals or groups “for weapons, ammunition and explosives” and to disarm individuals “when so directed by the Force Commander.”53 As far as the unarmed civilian police are concerned, the relevant rules governing their actions do not provide them with “executive powers of arrest and capacity for criminal investigation.”54

The draft rules of engagement delegate authority and discretion over the use of force to commanders under a system of command responsibility, and place control of the decision to use deadly force with the Force Commander (based in Fashir).55 While there is a mechanism that allows the Force Commander to delegate or amend the rules of engagement, it presupposes that good information and flow of communications down below sector level exist, but communications are still a work-in-progress in AMIS. Without good communications in place throughout AMIS’s area of operations, it is not possible to delegate in critical situations or where time is of the essence.  In practice, battalion, company and platoon commanders may not be able to seek clarification of the rules or get permission quickly enough to act.  The national characteristics of sector command and control superimposed over the AMIS command and control structure also serve to exacerbate the problems with the application and use of the rules of engagement by soldiers.

Lack of understanding of the rules of engagement

The February 2005 rules of engagement state that commanders “must seek clarification” if the rules are unclear or inappropriate. Additionally, all commanders of national contingents must ensure that those under their command understand the rules of engagement. Finally, commanders are responsible for training in the rules of engagement on a regular basis (at a minimum of once per month), particularly when reinforcements and replacements are deployed.56

However, difficulties faced in applying the rules to attacks on civilians and on AMIS itself suggest greater clarity is needed. In one incident in August 2005, still under investigation, it appeared that one group of soldiers abandoned a comrade who was shot presumably by rebels and fell off their AMIS vehicle near Nyala. The soldier was not dead, as they thought, and his captors released him. There was consternation within AMIS about the seeming failure to act vigorously in self-defense, and concern that if AMIS troops could not protect themselves, they certainly could not protect civilians.57  On October 8, during two robbery incidents near Nyala, AMIS engaged the assailants, sustaining five AMIS dead and several wounded, its largest casualties to date. Two civilian drivers belonging to an AMIS contractor were also killed. One attacker was believed wounded.58

As the force becomes more experienced and procedures develop, it is likely that sector commanders and the troops below them will become more comfortable with their various roles and better utilize the rules of engagement, especially with more delegation by the Force commander. Nonetheless, the rules of engagement need to be more explicit, better communicated, and all troops need to be trained on them.59Human Rights Watch was told by A.U. military officers that each individual soldier has, or is supposed to have, in his possession laminated rules of engagement that fit into the pocket,60 but mere possession of a pocket card is insufficient to properly guide the individual soldier, if untrained in the rules of engagement. Other sources however indicate that not all soldiers have ROE cards nor know how to rely on them. The rules of engagement remain in draft form and need to be approved for troop contributing countries and AMIS Headquarters to make proper use of them61. The draft rules of engagement are five pages long plus annexes, a total of twenty pages in all, some written in technical legal language.

[35]  See Annex at the end of this report for the mandate of AMIS.

[36]  For each task, there is an identified force package (such as infantry unit armored detachment or aircraft support) which provides the military capabilities to carry out the task.

[37]  See, for example, the rules on use of force for the Canadian Forces:

[38]  See, for example, Opheera McDoom, “Darfur Refugees Say Arab Militias Attack Camp Daily.” AlertNet, October 6, 2005. [online]

[39]  See Charter of the United Nations, available at

[40]  A mandate expansion to embrace full peacekeeping functions was mooted almost from the beginning: When the P&SC in July 2004 requested the CFC assessment and recommendations that led to the transition to AMIS II with its expanded mandate, it had instructed that the assessment should consider the “possibility of transforming the said mission into a full-fledged peacekeeping mission with the requisite mandate and size, to ensure the effective implementation of the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement of 8 April 2004.” African Union, Communiqué (PSC/PR/Comm.XIII), African Union Peace and Security Council 13th Meeting, July 27, 2004, Addis Ababa [online]és/Communiqué%20_Eng%2027%20july%2004.pdf.

[41]  “The African Union in Darfur: A NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript,” Interview of Sally Chin and Jonathan Morgenstein of Refugees International (RI) by Ray Suarez, Public Broadcasting Station,  October 5, 2005, [online]

[42]  Human Rights Watch interview at DITF, Addis Ababa, June 27, 2005.

[43]   “The African Union in Darfur: A NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript,” Interview of Sally Chin and Jonathan Morgenstein of Refugees International (RI) by Ray Suarez, Public Broadcasting Station, October 5,2005,

[44]  Human Rights Watch interview, AMIS sector commander, July 22, 2005.

[45]  Opheera McDoom, “Darfur Refugees Say Arab Militias Attack Camp Daily,” October 6, 2005.

[46]  The March list prioritized tasks as follows: 1) Contribute to creation of a secure environment; 2) Establish confidence building measures; 3) Conduct monitoring; 4) Provide Force Protection; 5) Protect civilians in imminent danger; 6) Coordinate with CivPol; 7) Conduct patrolling.

[47] The May AMIS II-E CONOPS list prioritized tasks as follows: 1) Protect MilObs; 2) Protect civilians in imminent danger; 3) Provide area security for humanitarian operations; 4) Escort humanitarian convoys as necessary; 5) Provide secure environment through establish temporary outposts and intense patrolling; 6) Provide secure environment for return of IDPs; 7) Provide secure environment for CivPol; 8) Secure lines of communications; 9) Carry out preventative deployments as necessary; 10) Prepare to deploy between belligerent parties.  A.U. Military Concept of Operations, AMIS II Expansion May 2005, confidential A.U. memorandum, reviewed by Human Rights Watch.

[48]  Tsegaye Tadesse, “AU Says Has Film of Sudanese Security Force Attacks,” AlertNet, October 5, 2005, [online]

[49]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Addis Ababa, September 13, 2005.

[50]  “The African Union in Darfur: A NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript,” Interview of Sally Chin and Jonathan Morgenstein of Refugees International (RI) by Ray Suarez, Public Broadcasting Station, 5 October 2005.

[51]  Rules of engagement are kept confidential. Human Rights Watch received a copy of the draft rules of engagement (dated February 2005) from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa in September 2005 that was current at that time.

[52]  Rule No. 1.14 of the African Union Rules of Engagement for AMIS reads: “Use of non-deadly force against any person and/or group that limits or intends to limit freedom of movement is authorized.”  This rule means that a fighting force or group of belligerents that hinders freedom of movement could be subject to the use of non-deadly force to clear the blockage.  For example, if AMIS was escorting a humanitarian convoy that was stopped by belligerents it could use non-deadly force (including negotiation and non-deadly forms of force) to secure movement of the humanitarian convoy.

[53]  “Rules of Engagement for the Military Component of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS),” African Union, February 2005.

[54]  African Union, Conclusions of the Third Meeting of the Military Staff Committee, Third Meeting of the Military Staff Committee of the Pace and Security Council, April 25, 2005, Addis Ababa  [online]

[55]  “Rules of Engagement for the Military Component of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS),” African Union, February 2005.

[56]  “Rules of Engagement for the Military Component of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS),” African Union, February 2005.

[57]  Human Rights Watch interviews, Addis Ababa, September 12-16, 2005.

[58]  Press release, AMIS, Khartoum, October 9, 2005. The A.U. initially condemned the SLA for the deaths of the AMIS personnel in the October 8 attack, but then stated that the circumstances of the incident and the identity of the perpetrators were still under investigation. “AU will seek Security Council action on Darfur security,”  Associated Press, October 10, 2005, [online]

[59]  There is another variable, however: In a multinational mission, each nation interprets the rules of engagement in its own way, and its own rules of engagement take precedence in practice, although this is not desirable in theory. In the absence of national rules of engagement in AMIS, the AMIS February 2005 rules of engagement would be used but interpreted by the national troops in their own way. The October 8 skirmish, involving Nigerians, indicates that the Nigerians interpret the rules of engagement to allow them to engage with deadly force.

[60]  Human Rights Watch interview, Addis Ababa, September 15, 2005. Other sources however indicate that not all soldiers have ROE cards nor know how to rely on them.

[61]  Human Rights Watch interview with EU officials in Addis Ababa, December 15, 2005.  According to military sources, the AMIS rules of engagement should be approved by the AU Peace and Security division. Troop contributing countries are to translate the rules into national languages, print and disseminate rules of engagement cards and train their troops on the rules.  Since the AMIS rules of engagement are in draft form, it is possible that each troop contributing country is using national rules of engagement (based on national requirements and laws) if they have them in addition to or in place of the AMIS rules of engagement.  Without formal approval of the AMIS rules of engagement by the A.U., either no rules of engagement exist for some soldiers and commanders leaving them uncertain on how to use force and react to threats and/or some troops and commanders are using national rules of engagement (which take precedence where no rules of engagement exist for the multilateral force they are contributing to) that may not be consistent with AMIS’ mandate and missions tasks.

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