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U.N. team report cites Sudan for ‘war crimes’

A U.N. human rights team investigating crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region zeroed in on the international community Monday for the first time, accusing the world’s governments of an “inadequate and ineffective” response to widespread atrocities.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A U.N. human rights team investigating crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region zeroed in on the international community Monday for the first time, accusing the world’s governments of an “inadequate and ineffective” response to widespread atrocities.

In one of the hardest-hitting and most explicit reports in a series submitted to the world body, the team called for U.N. Security Council intervention, sanctions and criminal prosecution.

The team, headed by the Nobel peace laureate Jody Williams, was itself barred by Sudanese officials from the restive region, where more than 200,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million have been displaced by fighting in Darfur.

Human rights groups have said the international community could do more, but this was the first time a U.N.-supported group has done so.

Williams told The Associated Press she had a message for the Security Council: “If you’re not prepared to act on what you say, don’t say it.”

The report was also adamant.

“All U.N. Security Council and (African Union) Peace and Security Council resolutions should be fully implemented, including those relating to travel bans and the freezing of funds, assets, and economic resources of those who commit violations,” the 35-page report said.

Important steps have been taken by the international community, including the African Union and the United Nations, but “these have been largely resisted and obstructed, and have proven inadequate and ineffective,” the report said.

The conflict began when members of the region’s ethnic African tribes took up arms against what they saw as decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. It is accused of unleashing a pro-government Arab militia, known as the janjaweed, that has committed many of the atrocities in the conflict.

Report commissioned last year
The U.N. Human Rights Council commissioned Monday’s report in an emergency session in December. Williams filed the report after concluding in a 20-day attempt to enter Sudan in February that the Sudanese government had no intention of cooperating with the United Nations.

Sudan’s government “has manifestly failed to protect the population of Darfur from large-scale international crimes, and has itself orchestrated and participated in these crimes,” the report said.

It said rape was widespread across Darfur, but that Sudanese authorities were doing little to prevent it or investigate the crimes.

“Arbitrary arrest and detention in Darfur by government security forces continue,” the report said, adding that there had been a wave of arrests of Darfurians in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in recent months.

“War crimes and crimes against humanity continue across the region,” it said. “The principal pattern is one of a violent counterinsurgency campaign waged by the government of the Sudan in concert with janjaweed militia, and targeting mostly civilians. Rebel forces are also guilty of serious abuses of human rights and violations of humanitarian law.”

Resistance from Sudan allies
The report has already met resistance privately from Sudan’s allies in the rights council, chiefly members of the Organization of Islamic Conference, and could still be dismissed.

“If it’s blocked, which some are wondering might happen, then I think one should really consider the future and meaning of the council,” Williams said.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the OIC, ignored the report and allegations of Sudanese government atrocities in Darfur.

In his speech to the council he praised “the efforts of the Sudanese government, the African Union and the United Nations in resolving the interethnic strife and their efforts to cure the economic hardship that has wrecked Darfur for the last few years.”

Williams told The Associated Press that some of the rebels should probably be tried alongside Sudanese officials and janjaweed militia members.

“But I think that the overwhelming burden of guilt lies with the government and the militia,” she said in a telephone interview.

Government tied to atrocities
The Sudanese government delegation at the council meeting declined to comment, saying they would only react to the report when they address the council Tuesday.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, last month linked Sudan’s government to atrocities in Darfur, naming a junior minister as a war crimes suspect who helped recruit, arm and bankroll the janjaweed. Sudan says it already has set up its own war crimes courts, and does not have to turn over suspects named by the ICC.

Although the team was unable to enter Sudan, it held numerous consultations with a wide range of aid agencies working in the region and also was briefed by African Union officials in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the report said.