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17 February 2005

U.N. Security Council Urged To Act To Stop Darfur Atrocities

United States circulates resolution to impose sanctions

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Senior U.N. officials are pressing the Security Council to take action immediately to protect the people of Sudan's Darfur region from further abuse and to stop, in Secretary-General Kofi Annan's words, the "hell on earth" that is occurring there.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and Secretary-General Annan both urged the 15-nation Security Council to act to bring to trial those who have orchestrated or committed the gross human rights violations in Darfur.  They also asked the council to impose "a full range of options" that include sanctions against those who kill and prey on the vulnerable civilians in the region.

The United States has circulated a draft resolution to council members that would increase the number of peacekeepers in Darfur, impose an arms embargo, freeze assets of individuals suspected of being involved in the violence, and restrict military flights in the region.

In presenting the report of the five-member International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the council, Arbour highlighted events in the south Darfur village of Kailek to make the case for immediate action.

"Kailek and surrounding villages were attacked twice by government forces and Jingaweit" militia members, she said.  "Following the second attack in March 2004, the villagers fled to the mountains, where they were hunted down by mounted Jingaweit.  The military shelled the area and machine-gunned those in flight; some were captured and shot and killed."

For about 50 days, up to 30,000 people were confined in a small open area in Kailek, Arbour said.  "They were subject to the most abhorrent treatment.  Some men were singled out and summarily shot.  There are reports of people being thrown into fires and burnt alive.  Women and children were separated out, confined in a walled area, and periodically taken away by their captors to be raped, some subjected to gang rapes, she charged.

The Commission of Inquiry found that the government of Sudan, its Jingaweit militia, and other local militias in Darfur systematically committed war crimes and crimes against humanity such as indiscriminate attacks against civilians, murder, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape, pillage, and forced displacement.  It turned over to Arbour a sealed file containing the names of 51 individuals who should be investigated further for possible prosecution.

The commission said that a body of reliable information indicates that war crimes may have been committed on a large scale, at times even as part of a plan or a policy that may amount to crimes against humanity.  The commission also said that although it did not find the Sudanese government pursued a policy of genocide, individuals may have committed acts of genocide, and the other atrocities committed in Darfur are "no less serious and heinous than genocide."

Secretary-General Annan said that the Security Council "must immediately find a way to halt the killing and protect the vulnerable.  The full range of options should be on the table -- including targeted sanctions, stronger peacekeeping efforts, new measures to protect civilians, and increased pressure on both sides for a lasting political solution."

The commission report demonstrates, Annan said, "that the last two years have been little short of hell on earth for our fellow human beings in Darfur.  And despite the attention the council has paid to this crisis, that hell continues today."

High Commissioner Arbour said that "one way to reduce the carnage -- not the only way, but a credible and legitimate way -- is to remove from their positions those who orchestrate or execute it."

The council took an important step in September 2004 by establishing the Commission of Inquiry, she said.  “The commission proposed a course of action aimed at ending the brutality in Darfur, ensuring that perpetrators of atrocities are punished, and recognizing the dignity of the victims," she added.

The government of Sudan, she said, should not be involved in the prosecution of those accused of committing human rights violations in Darfur.  The measures taken so far by Sudan's government, she said, have been "grossly inadequate and ineffective," and, because the inquiry has concluded that some government officials have been involved in the atrocities, "any new initiative proposed by the Government of Sudan today to address these crimes could not be supported."

Arbour added that the new International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague "is the best institution for ensuring speedy investigations leading to arrests and demonstrably fair trials."

The United States, which with other members of the council with veto power (Russia and China) is not party to the ICC (nor is Sudan), has been lobbying council members to set up a "Sudan Tribunal" that would be administered by the United Nations and the African Union.  Such a tribunal could use the facilities of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that the Security Council created. That tribunal is based in Arusha, Tanzania.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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