updated 9/20/2007 11:06:22 PM ET 2007-09-21T03:06:22

The United Nations should impose targeted sanctions on the Sudanese government if it continues to attack civilians and humanitarian workers in the Darfur region, a U.S.-based human rights organization said in a new report.

Human Rights Watch accused the international community of failing to take effective action despite increased global attention on the crisis.

“Concerned governments and international institutions should be prepared to strengthen the less-than-robust track record on maintaining pressure on the government of Sudan and other parties to the conflict to meet their obligations under law,” said the report released on Wednesday.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in fighting since 2003, when ethnic African rebels in Darfur took up arms against the Arab-dominated government. The government has been accused of retaliating by recruiting militias who are blamed for the worst atrocities against civilians including beatings, murder and rape. The government denies the accusations.

The 76-page report says the human rights situation in Darfur has “evolved from an armed conflict between rebels and the government into a violent scramble for power and resources.”

It accuses both sides to the conflict — the Sudanese government and opposing rebel leaders — of indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

Actions taken by U.N. already
The U.N. Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on Sudan and authorized a 26,000-strong U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force this summer to replace 6,000 AU peacekeepers who have been unable to stem the violence.

The council has also ordered sanctions on four Sudanese accused of rights violations in Darfur, but Human Rights Watch criticized the move because the four are not high-level officials.

“The sanctions they’ve imposed are inconsequential — they are a joke,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the HRW’s Africa Division. “They placed travel bans on people who have never even left Sudan and financial penalties on people who don’t have external accounts.”

Takirambudde praised the United States for imposing unilateral sanctions earlier this year on a list of Sudanese companies suspected of shipping arms to Darfur, as well as on three individuals suspected of being involved in the violence.

Study blames China for blocking sanctions
The report blames divisions among council members for the lack of action and accuses China, a permanent member of the council and the biggest foreign investor in Sudan, of blocking additional targeted sanctions.

It urges the council to take action if a list of benchmarks are not met by the Sudanese government and other parties, including facilitating the deployment of the new peacekeeping force and increasing humanitarian access to the 4.2 million civilians in need.

“Governments and international institutions should take multilateral and if necessary unilateral measures, such as implementing targeted individual sanctions on people identified by the U.N. Panel of Experts, and on other entities, such as companies, that are contributing to rights abuses in Darfur,” said the report.

Takirambudde said he welcomes the high-level meeting hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. headquarters Friday to discuss the deployment of the peacekeeping force, but was skeptical of its outcome. Sanctions are not on the meeting agenda.

“There have been too many meetings, too many summits, consultations. ... This has been an ongoing crisis since 2003 and there is massive suffering continuing, it is pervasive all over Darfur and these people can’t wait another day,” he said.

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