UPI U.N. Correspondent
Geneva (UPI) Switzerland, March 12, 2007
The U.N. Human Rights Council High Level Mission to Sudan, mandated to assess the situation in the nation's western Darfur region, delivered a critical report back to the council's fourth session beginning Monday in Geneva, Switzerland. The five-member panel, despite being unable to visit Darfur, also delivered an assessment of what was needed.
"The situation of human rights in Darfur remains grave, and the corresponding needs profound," the report concluded.
"The principal pattern is one of a violent counterinsurgency campaign waged by the government ... in concert with Janjaweed militia and targeting mostly civilians," the report said. "Rebel forces are also guilty of serious abuses of human rights and violations of humanitarian law.
"All parties to the conflict must recognize ... human rights and humanitarian law standards must be respected during internal armed conflict and that the 'fog of war' is not an acceptable justification for violating these standards," the conclusion and recommendations section read.
"The needs identified by the mission include immediate, effective protection of civilians, renewed progress toward peace, expanded humanitarian space, increased accountability for perpetrators, action to address root causes, meaningful compensation and redress for victims, and concerted efforts to implement the many existing recommendations of 'responsibility to protect' authoritative international human rights bodies."
The mission further concluded Khartoum "has manifestly failed to protect the population of Darfur from large-scale international crimes and has itself orchestrated and participated in these crimes.
"As such, the solemn obligation of the international community to exercise its responsibility to protect has become evident and urgent."
It was not a surprise. The world has for long been hearing the woes of civilian victims of the conflict begun four years ago.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the weekend received a letter from Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir replying to his earlier correspondence detailing a proposed African Union-U.N. hybrid force of up to 24,000 personnel to help resolve the conflict. Ban received the letter in English Thursday afternoon, along with a 14-page annex in Arabic.
It was translated over the weekend, said Ban's spokeswoman Michele Montas and was being sent to U.N. Security Council members Monday, adding the letter contained "some positive elements," including a strong expression of support for the joint AU-U.N. efforts to re-energize the political process and some assurances with regard to humanitarian assistance.
But, the letter was described Friday as also containing "some elements which seem to challenge the agreements reached last November in Addis Ababa and Abuja on peacekeeping in Darfur."
Saturday, Ban telephoned Bashir. The secretary-general is expected to report to the council on the conversation in the coming days.
The September 2005 World Summit Responsibility to Protect decision reached at U.N. World Headquarters in New York, apparently had not been taken seriously by the Khartoum government, despite protests from various governments around the world, whether voiced in their capitals or at the United Nations.
"The international community, building on the obligations of member states under the U.N. Charter, formally embraced the principle of the responsibility to protect," said the mission's 33-page report.
"In doing so, it declared that every state has the responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and that, where a state is unable or unwilling to do so, it is the responsibility of the international community to take action to ensure effective protection," the report said.
"In assessing the human rights situation in Darfur ... we considered that the effective protection of civilians in Darfur was the central issue at hand."
Millions of people have been displaced from their homes the report said and "at least 200,000 are dead and conflict and abuse are spilling over the border into Chad."
The mission said, "Rape and sexual violence are widespread and systematic. Torture continues. Arbitrary arrest and detention are common, as is repression of political dissent, and arbitrary restrictions on political freedoms. Mechanisms of justice and accountability where they exist are under-resourced, politically compromised, and ineffective."
The mission recommended the council voice its regret to the Khartoum, the government, rebel movements and the international community at the situation and called on the Security Council to act "to ensure the effective protection of the civilian population of Darfur, including through the deployment of the proposed U.N./AU peacekeeping/protection force and full cooperation with and support for the work of the International Criminal Court.
Now, the question is will the Security Council be fed up with Khartoum's foot dragging and move in with its hybrid force plan or continue to allow the current to and fro to continue.
The latter is more likely considering the panel previously said it would only send invited troops, plus the fact veto-wielding permanent council members China and Russia are reluctant to approve any troops to Darfur not invited by Khartoum.
earlier related report
Eliasson was in Sudan last month on a joint diplomatic mission with Salim Ahmed Salim of the African Union.
He told reporters after briefing the panel of 15 both the government as well as non-signatories to last year's Darfur Peace Agreement said that there is no military solution to the conflict.
"We have met with understanding on pushing this process forward," he said. "The government has indicated a willingness to have negotiated amendments to the DPA and is not taking a 'take it or leave it attitude;' on the other hand they don't want a renegotiation of the DPA."
Eliasson said there was need for urgent action.
"This is a political process but we also expect results now from the parties to prove their political will. If they say there's no military solution, if they say that they want to go on with a political process they have to prove this point by first of all reducing the level of violence, in fact achieve a cessation of hostilities," he said.
"The second point is that they have to improve the security and humanitarian situation on the ground," said the former president of the U.N. General Assembly.
He welcomed the lack of government aerial bombings since he and Salim left Sudan in mid-February. "We made it very clear that continued bombardments would not be consistent with the political process."
At the same time, he cautioned that the violence remains a serious problem.
"The fighting goes on in a different aspect though, which I find very disturbing, and that is there is a growing tribal warfare which has little to do, if anything, with the government and the signatories and more to do with the differences between different tribes in Darfur. That is a growing problem."
The negotiators pressed the parties to improve conditions for humanitarian operations, he said.
A former U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, also, Eliasson said, "I know the humanitarian workers and I sense the deep fatigue, deep sense of frustration in that community. They have been working enormously hard. The operation, he added, is beset by problems of access and insecurity.
"The situation is still fragile, is still difficult, and we expect improvement of the situation on the ground both by efforts from the government and the non-signatory movements."
The Darfur fighting "is a regional problem," he said, pointing out the importance of the Security Council's involvement in this connection. "It is growing into a regional conflict. We see great flows of refugees into Chad, we see, unfortunately, movements of people from across the border who feed the conflict, and I think the relationship between Chad and Sudan is going to be absolutely crucial for us to find a political solution to the problem of Darfur."
The borders drawn up by the colonial powers in the 19th century "do not correspond to the tribal lines, the clan lines, the ethnic lines of Sudan," he noted.
Negotiators would be in touch with regional actors - not just Chad but also Libya, Egypt and Eritrea, said Eliasson, a former Swedish foreign minister.
The United Nations is still awaiting a response from Khartoum on the proposed "heavy support package" for the AU-U.N. hybrid force in Darfur.
Eliasson said the Sudanese "have accepted in principle" the expanded deployment, which calls for about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers.
Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the Security Council's rotating presidency, said consensus emerged in the closed meeting on a number of Darfur issues.
"Every member who spoke is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Sudan, and everybody who spoke expects the letter from Sudan." Some, he added, were more frustrated than others about the wait for Khartoum's response.
Hedi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, added, "Our understanding is that Sudan has accepted the three-phased approach as a package," referring to the stages leading to the deployment of the full AU-U.N. hybrid force.
Ambassador Abdalmahmood Mohamad of Sudan is the man who would receive the letter and convey it to Ban. He was spotted in the media section of U.N. World Headquarters in New York Monday evening and asked if he had received the letter.
"The letter. The letter. That's all anybody is asking about. The letter," he replied. "It's on its way."
Source: United Press International
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