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SUDAN: Officials responsible for Darfur crimes, says rights watchdog

12/12/2005 1:50pm

NAIROBI, 12 Dec 2005 (IRIN) - Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir and other senior officials should be investigated for crimes against humanity in Darfur and placed on a UN sanctions list, the international lobby group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on Sunday.

The report, "Entrenching Impunity: Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur", was published in advance of Tuesday's UN Security Council meeting, where the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, is scheduled to report on his investigation into atrocities in Darfur.

The UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC in March 2005.

The New York-based human rights watchdog documents the involvement of more than a dozen civilian and military officials in directing and coordinating attacks by the Janjawid militias and the Sudanese armed forces since mid-2003.

"The Sudanese government's systematic attacks on civilians in Darfur have been accompanied by a policy of impunity for all those responsible for the crimes," Peter Takirambudde, HRW's Africa director, said in a statement. "Senior Sudanese officials, including President [Umar al-] Bashir, must be held accountable for the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur."

The looting and destruction of villages was not just condoned by government officials, the report noted, it was also methodically organised, with troops and militia members permitted to take land, livestock and other civilian property after killing, raping and torturing tens of thousands of people.

Other individuals the report said who should be investigated include Vice President Ali Osman Taha, credited for negotiating the north-south peace agreement that ended 21 years of civil war, and Musa Hilal, considered to be a key Janjawid leader.

Defence minister Maj-Gen Abduraheem Mohammed Hussein, formerly interior minister and government representative in Darfur between 2003 and 2004 also featured on the list.

"By early 2004 it was clear, even to some soldiers, that civilians were the targets," it said. One former soldier told HRW that when he protested to his commander, he was told: "You have to attack the civilians."

Despite several Sudanese government initiatives, including a national inquiry into the crimes, numerous committees established to investigate rape and other crimes, and a national tribunal to try the perpetrators of crimes in Darfur, not a single mid- or high-level civilian official, military commander or militia leader had been suspended from duty, investigated or prosecuted, HRW noted.

"The Sudanese government feigns compliance with international demands by setting up committees that produce absolutely no results," said Takirambudde. "The ICC should investigate key actors at every level, including regional officials."

Although the Security Council established a mechanism in March 2005 to enforce a partial arms embargo and impose sanctions on individuals committing abuses, not a single person had thus far been sanctioned by the UN, the report noted.

"Nine months ago the Security Council set up a Sanctions Committee to penalise individuals responsible for abuses in Darfur but it has yet to act against anyone," said Takirambudde. "If the Security Council wants to see real progress in Darfur it must act now."

HRW called on the Council to provide more support to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which has deployed approximately 7,000 personnel in Darfur, and for AMIS to actively protect civilians in Darfur.

The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 when the two main rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement took up arms to fight what they called the discrimination and oppression of the region by the Sudanese government.

The government is accused of unleashing militia - known as the Janjawid - on civilians in an attempt to quash the rebellion. Some 3.4 million people continue to be affected by the conflict, according to the UN, of whom 1.8 million are internally displaced and 200,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad.


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