Human Rights News

Darfur: Donors Must Address Atrocities Fueling Crisis

(New York, September 27, 2004) — Donor governments gathering today in Oslo to discuss humanitarian needs in Darfur should also take steps to end the serious human rights abuses responsible for the crisis, Human Rights Watch said today. Donors should pledge support for civilian protection under an expanded African Union (AU) mission in Darfur.

" If donor governments are serious about putting an end to the violence in Darfur, they have to address the atrocities fueling the crisis as well as the humanitarian consequences. Without greater international support for the African Union intervention, the violence in Darfur will continue. "
Peter Takirambudde,  
Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division

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The AU was mandated under an April 2004 ceasefire agreement signed by the Sudanese government and the two Darfur rebel groups to monitor the ceasefire in Darfur. One hundred and fifty-four AU ceasefire monitors of different nationalities have been deployed to the area, protected by 310 AU forces (Rwandan and Nigerian).  
“If donor governments are serious about putting an end to the violence in Darfur, they have to address the atrocities fueling the crisis as well as the humanitarian consequences,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division. “Without greater international support for the African Union intervention, the violence in Darfur will continue.”  
The AU has offered, and the United Nations Secretary-General has recommended, that the mandate of the AU be expanded to include civilian protection, and that the numbers of forces be increased. The AU suggests 3,000 military forces and 1,200 civilian police. The Secretary General has called on U.N. members to support the AU mission with technical and financial contributions. The Sudanese government, however, has not agreed to an expansion of the African Union’s mandate or its forces, and diplomatic pressure on that government to welcome the expansion of the AU mission is urgently needed.  
Another priority is funding for the establishment of the international commission of inquiry, authorized in September by the U.N. Security Council, to investigate the abuses in Darfur. Even with U.N. backing, donor participation in fully staffing and equipping this body will be vital.  
Despite repeated pledges, the Sudanese government has made no real effort to disarm the Janjaweed militias. As Human Rights Watch research has shown, government forces actually share camps with the Janjaweed and continue to support the militias’ activities. The government’s scorched-earth policies in Darfur led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and their numbers are increasing on a daily basis. The United Nations now reports that there are 1.45 million internally displaced in Darfur.  
Donors should press Khartoum to allow international humanitarian organizations greater access to provide assistance and protection to the displaced population in all areas, whether under government or rebel control.  
Human Rights Watch is concerned that the creation of “safe areas”; agreed to by the Sudanese government and the United Nations in early August, has already led to military clashes between the Sudanese government troops and rebels who were not consulted on the “safe area” proposal. The government was permitted unilaterally to designate these “safe areas.” In addition, although the Sudanese government was to protect these “safe areas” with police, the internally displaced in camps inside these areas have objected because many Janjaweed militia—the very forces that displaced them—are allegedly incorporated into the police.  
The Security Council also requested an increase in the number of human rights monitors deployed in Darfur by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who with the Secretary General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide just completed a mission to Darfur on September 25, 2004. Human Rights Watch urged donor governments to fund this increase. Donor governments need to ensure that experts on sexual violence in armed conflict are deployed in the monitoring teams of the AU and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and that all military and civilian units charged with protective and monitoring roles receive proper training in observation, investigation and recording of abuses.  
Human Rights Watch has also expressed concern about the Memorandum of Understanding entered into between Sudan, the United Nations and the International Organization of Migration (IOM) on August 21 on the voluntary return of the internally displaced in Darfur. The memorandum lacks important fundamental legal standards, a provision for the independent monitoring of conditions for the displaced after return, and provisions related to enforcement and accountability. Moreover, the IOM itself lacks the mandate, expertise or capacity to carry out its obligations under this memorandum.  
As they consider funding requests related to the return of displaced persons, donor governments need to raise these concerns. They must ensure that the voluntary and safe return of the displaced is conducted in coordination with appropriate U.N. and nongovernmental organizations.