(New York, August 31, 2006) –The resolution adopted today by the United Nations Security Council to deploy U.N. troops to Darfur is a first step toward protecting civilians, but ongoing Sudanese government military operations in the region highlight the urgent need to secure Khartoum’s immediate consent for an U.N. force, Human Rights Watch said today.
Today’s resolution, co-sponsored by the United States and Britain, permits a U.N. force to use all necessary means to protect civilians in Darfur and calls for a gradual transition from the under-funded and under-equipped African Union (AU) mission in Darfur, which has been unable to prevent widespread abuses against civilians, to a robust U.N. protection force. But the plan to deploy as many as 17,500 U.N. troops and as many as 3,300 civilian police is contingent on consent by the government of Sudan, which has categorically rejected calls for U.N. forces in Darfur.
Russia, a major supplier of weapons to Sudan, and China, a major consumer of Sudanese oil, both abstained in today’s vote on the resolution, which sends an extremely unhelpful signal about their lack of willingness to press Khartoum to accept U.N. troops.
“China and Russia can’t continue to protect human rights abusers at the expense of civilians just because it is profitable to do so” said Takirambudde. “They must use their influence with Khartoum now to secure Sudan’s consent to a U.N. force.”
After weeks of military buildups in Darfur’s three provincial capitals, Khartoum launched offensive military operations on August 28, with Sudanese troops attacking rebel-controlled villages in North Darfur and government aircraft bombarding Kulkul, north of the provincial capital El Fashir. International observers in North Darfur reported that civilians attempting to flee the attacks in Kulkul were turned back by Sudanese government troops.
The government offensive comes less than a month after Sudan circulated a proposal to send more than 10,500 troops into Darfur, in direct violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May with a Darfur rebel movement. Although the planned troop movements violated the peace agreement, the Security Council failed to condemn the Sudanese proposal, and took no action.
“Khartoum continues to act with complete disregard for the civilian population in Darfur,” said Takirambudde. “If Sudan refuses to give consent to a U.N. peacekeeping force, the Security Council must sanction those Sudanese officials responsible for blocking U.N. efforts to protect civilians in Darfur.”
The Security Council resolution adopted today threatens sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, for any individual or group that commits human rights violations or violates the Darfur Peace Agreement. Recent actions by the government of Sudan, including the offensive military overflights in North Darfur and troop deployments to North, South and West Darfur are in direct violation of the peace agreement.
The government and the largest Darfur rebel group signed the Darfur Peace Agreement in Abuja, Nigeria, under the auspices of the African Union. But two smaller rebel groups refused to sign and continue to fight the government; “Janjaweed” militias and bandits also persist in attacks.
The U.N. reports that violence in Darfur is worse than ever despite the Darfur Peace Agreement, leading to the forcible displacement of 21,000 people since July in the state of North Darfur alone. Humanitarian access in Darfur is at its lowest level since 2004, with almost 500,000 needy civilians beyond the reach of humanitarian aid.