||Last Updated: Apr 18, 2011 - 8:05:23 AM
SUDAN: Lack of justice "entrenching impunity" in Darfur
18 April 2011 (IRIN) - Aid workers have raised serious concerns about
the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan's troubled Darfur
region where, they say, a prevailing climate of impunity has often
resulted in humanitarians being killed, injured, abducted or car-jacked.
Attacks against aid have increased sharply since 2006 (file photo)
"There have been very few successful investigations of criminality
against aid agencies, and understandably this has only encouraged
greater caution and aversion to risk in the conduct of humanitarian
activities," Aly Verjee, senior researcher at Rift Valley Institute,
As a result, humanitarian space has been affected as organizations
do only what is most necessary, for fear that anything more will
increase the danger to staff, risk damaging ongoing essential activities
and signal to the authorities unwelcome ambitions to do more, Verjee
The latest incident against aid workers was resolved on 13 April
when the African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the UN Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and camp leaders
successfully mediated the release of 12 Sudanese aid workers who had
been taken hostage by a youth group at Kalma camp for the internally
displaced in South Darfur.
The aid workers had been conducting a vaccination campaign and were
taken hostage in retaliation for the arrest, four days earlier, of an
IDP who worked for a national NGO.
"We cannot understand whether crimes against UN and NGO workers are
orchestrated to reduce the range of our activities or if they are a
result of banditry and getting concessions from whoever wishes to pay," a
UN worker, who requested anonymity, told IRIN. "However, the lack of
prosecution indirectly leads to a further reduction of humanitarian
space, which is already quite small in Darfur due to government's
imposed security restrictions to conflict-affected areas.
"We are afraid if we push into areas we are not allowed to reach we
could be targeted. But if the level of risk for humanitarian security
becomes too high, how long can we resist till we are forced to
Abby Stoddard, co-author of the 2009 study, Providing Aid in Insecure Environments,
notes that "aid workers in the most dangerous settings face few
options. In places like Sudan [Darfur], Somalia and Afghanistan, the
choice boils down to reducing or withdrawing essential aid from needy
populations, or running intolerable risks to the lives of staff and
According to the study, attacks have increased sharply since 2006
and Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Chad, Iraq and Pakistan top
the list of the most violent contexts for aid work.
Photo: Aid Worker Security Database
attacks on aid workers, 2005–2010. The incident statistics cited in
this graph are drawn from the Aid Worker Security Database
An OCHA report
published on 12 April 2011, Stay and Deliver, highlights Darfur as
"hosting numerous and fragmented armed non-state actors and criminal
bands that operate with impunity in parts of the vast region beyond the
reach of any official or security presence".
However, despite being ranked second in the World Security Database's
incident statistics against aid workers between 2005 and 2010, UNAMID
sources said attacks against staff declined in 2010, compared with 2009.
This year, some 16 UNAMID peacekeepers have been killed and at least 80
Since March 2009, armed groups in Darfur have kidnapped 30 aid
workers, all of whom have been released, with the exception of three
Bulgarian air crew, contracted by the UN World Food Programme and seized
in January 2011.
"NGOs have their own security system but fall under the UN security
management system, which means that if they request assistance by UN
security, the UN will always provide support," said a UN staffer, who
To maintain their neutrality and not be associated with the
peacekeeping mission, he said, NGOs often chose not to request support
from the UN and prefer to handle kidnappings and other crimes against
their staff themselves.
Government under pressure
In a statement on 28 January, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW)
called on UNAMID to put pressure on the government of Sudan to guarantee
the security of peacekeepers and civilians.
Jehanne Henry, HRW's senior researcher on Sudan, told IRIN the issue
of impunity was entrenched and unrelenting in Darfur. "Despite the
government appointing a new special prosecutor to deal with crimes in
Darfur, the protection system remains weak and the immunity of people in
position of power continues to be problematic."
Abdel-Dayem Zumrawi, the special attorney for Darfur crimes
appointed by the Sudanese in October 2010, stepped aside recently after
two years of service.
At a news conference on 27 December 2010, Zumrawi said "efforts to
serve justice in the war-torn western region have been overshadowed by
the political situation in the country".
Henry said: "If Khartoum wants to convince the people of Darfur of
its commitment to lasting peace and reconciliation, there must be a
credible threat of prosecution for those who are implicated in the
crimes committed against the people of Darfur.
"There is a sentiment among many in Darfur that there is no
accountability for any act, and that those connected to power can get
away with anything," she said.
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