International responses to the February attacks have not helped to improve the safety of tens of thousands of civilians at risk, and remain insufficient to protect civilians who remained or returned to the northern corridor and Jebel Mun. UNAMIDs mandate includes protection of civilian populations under imminent threat of physical violence and prevent attacks against civilians, within its capability and areas of deployment, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan.83 On February 8, 2008, UNAMID officials urged the parties to the conflict to cease hostilities and show restraint.84 Two weeks later, after receiving news of aerial bombing in Jebel Mun, UNAMID called on the government and rebels to allow civilians to leave safely.85
However, the international peacekeepers have not physically intervened to protect civilians by, for example, creating humanitarian corridors to help civilians in Jebel Mun reach safety. UNAMID authorities have stated the mission lacked the sufficient resources to be effective.86 Five months after UNAMID took over the mandate of the African Unions peacekeeping mission on January 1, 2008, it has received just over one-third of its authorized 26,000 personnel and still lacks key equipment such as helicopters and transportation units. The Sudanese government has also obstructed the mission by objecting to the inclusion of non-African troops and delaying allocation of land resources for UNAMID bases.
Following the February attacks, UNAMID and aid agencies accessed Abu Suruj, Sirba, and Silea and agencies provided humanitarian assistance to civilians who stayed or returned. Ongoing fighting between government and rebel forces near Jebel Mun prevented the agencies from reaching civilians who may have stayed or have since returned.87 The continuing insecurity around Jebel Mun underscores the urgent need for peacekeepers to access and patrol that area. The closest UNAMID base is at Kulbus, about 50 kilometers away. Although UNAMID is able to send ground patrols to the northern corridor from Kulbus and Al Geneina, a permanent base in Silea would enable the peacekeepers to patrol areas closer to Jebel Mun where civilians remain vulnerable to attack.88
In March 2008, based on the work of UNAMID human rights monitors, OHCHR issued a report documenting the governments violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in attacks on civilians in Saraf Jidad, Abu Suruj, Sirba and Silea in January and February. The report urged all parties to the conflict to take specific actions to end international law violations.89 To date, Sudan has not acknowledged any wrongdoing or taken steps to promote accountability for serious international crimes its forces committed against civilians. It continues to disregard its obligations under international law and those set out in numerous UN Security Council resolutions.
Meanwhile, the UN has taken no meaningful action against Sudan. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the February 8, 2008 attacks in the strongest possible terms and said the governments bombing of Aro Sharow IDP camp was unacceptable.90 The UN Security Council expressed its concern over the security and humanitarian situation in West Darfur in a press statement.91 But it stopped short of a presidential statement condemning the attacks or imposing targeted sanctions on those responsible.92
To comprehensively address Sudans disregard for its international obligations, the UN Security Council should establish and monitor a set of benchmarks applicable to all parties to the conflict. The benchmarks should include ending attacks on civilians and offensive military over-flights, ending support to Janjaweed militia, facilitating UNAMID deployment and freedom of movement, and promoting accountability in meaningful ways. Crucially, UN member states should ensure UNAMID has appropriately trained and equipped troops with all necessary equipment and logistical support needed to respond rapidly and effectively to civilian protection threats.
83 See UNAMID mandate documents, http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unamid/mandate.html (accessed May 9, 2008).
84 UNAMID Force Commander expressed concern over reports of attacks in West Darfur, UN News, February 8, 2008, http://unamid.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=55&ctl=Details&mid=376&ItemID=74 (accessed May 4, 2008) and UN-AU Joint Special Representative concerned over ongoing military activity in West Darfur, UN News, February 9, 2008, http://unamid.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=55&ctl=Details&mid=376&ItemID=81 (accessed May 4, 2008).
85 Statement by JSR Adada and UN Humanitarian Coordinator Ameerah Haq, UN News, February 24, 2008, http://unamid.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=56&ctl=Details&mid=393&ItemID=91 (accessed May 4, 2008).
86 See, e.g., Thousands of Darfur refugees trapped by fighting, CNN, February 20, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/africa/02/20/darfur.fighting.ap/index.html (accessed April 6, 2008).
87 UNAMID visited Goz Minu briefly on March 9, 2008, but nearby clashes between government and the JEM prompted them to return.
88 UN Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, April 14, 2008, para. 8.
89 OHCHR, Ninth Periodic Report, March 20, 2008.
90 Office of the Secretary-General, Secretary-General condemns in strongest possible terms Fridays attacks on West Darfur civilians, reported to have included air strikes by government forces, SG/SM/11406-AFR/1655, February 11, 2008, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sgsm11406.doc.htm and Office of the Secretary-General, Secretary-General extremely concerned by renewed violence in West Darfur, SG/SM/11431-AFR/1660, February 19, 2008, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sgsm11431.doc.htm (accessed May 4, 2008)
91UN Security Council, UN Security Council Press Statement on Darfur, SC/9272-AFR/1667, March 11, 2008, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sc9272.doc.htm (accessed May 4, 2008)
92 Human Rights Watch called on the UN Security Council to take these steps shortly after the attacks. Letter from Human Rights Watch to the UN Security Council, Security Council: Condemn Attacks in West Darfur, February 27, 2008, http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/02/27/sudan18168.htm.