UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SUDAN: Darfur atrocities do not amount to genocide, UN team says
NAIROBI, 1 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - A UN-appointed commission of inquiry concluded on Monday that violence in Sudan's western region of Darfur did not amount to genocide, but that mass killings of civilians had occurred in the strife-torn area.
"The crucial element of genocidal intent appears to be missing, at least as far as the central government authorities are concerned," the five-member commission said. "There may have been genocidal acts in Darfur and some individuals may be found guilty of genocidal intent."
It said, "The conclusion that no genocidal policy has been pursued and implemented in Darfur by the government authorities, directly or through the militias under their control, should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in the region."
In its 176-page report, transmitted to the president of the UN Security Council in New York on Monday, the commission said the central government of Sudan did not have the intent of carrying out genocide in Darfur. Intent to carry out extermination of a group of people is considered a key factor in establishing a case of genocide.
The 1948 convention on genocide, to which Sudan is a party, obliges signatories to stop and punish the perpetrators of genocide. It defines genocide as the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group".
"Generally speaking, the policy of attacking, killing and forcibly displacing members of some tribes does not evince a specific intent to annihilate, in whole or in part, a group distinguished on racial, ethnic or religious grounds," the commission added.
"Rather, it would seem that those who planned and organised attacks on villages pursued the intent to drive the victims from their homes, primarily for purposes of counter-insurgency warfare."
The commission found that government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks throughout Darfur, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement.
It blamed the government for joining in the attacks and for complicity with the Janjawid militia, who are blamed for most of the atrocities. It also said rebels were responsible for some of the serious crimes committed against the people of Darfur.
"There is no doubt that serious crimes have been committed, serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of human rights have taken place and this cannot be allowed to stand," Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, said at a 30 January news conference at the African Union Summit in Abuja, Nigeria.
"An action will have to be taken regardless of what name one gives to it," Annan said, adding that he believed "sanctions should still be on the table."
The commission identified suspected perpetrators of atrocities in a sealed annex to the report. They included government officials, rebels and "foreign army officers acting in their personal capacity."
The commission recommended referring the cases to the International Criminal Court, the first permanent global criminal tribunal, but left other options open. The United States, which opposes the court, has proposed a war crimes tribunal in Tanzania to prosecute atrocities committed in Darfur.
The U.S. State Department concluded in September 2004 that genocide had occurred in Darfur. The conclusion was based on interviews with about 1,800 Sudanese refugees in neighbouring Chad, establishing a pattern of targeted violence coordinated by the Sudanese government and state-backed militias.
Annan set up the commission in October 2004. Its mandate was to "investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, to determine also whether or not acts of genocide have occurred, and to identify the perpetrators of such violations with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable."
An Italian judge and professor, Antonio Cassese, chaired the commission. Other members were Mohammad Fayek (Egypt), Hina Jilani (Pakistan), Dumisa Ntsebeza (South Africa) and Therese Striggner-Scott (Ghana).
The war in Darfur pits the Sudanese government troops and militias, allegedly allied to the government, against rebels fighting to end what they see as the state's marginalisation and discrimination of the region's inhabitants.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Darfur and as many as 1.85 million people are internally displaced or have fled to neighbouring Chad. The UN has described the Darfur conflict as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
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