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Sanctions Against Sudanese Officials Sought Over Darfur

2/23/2006 9:51am

By Colum Lynch

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 23, 2006; Page A20

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 22 -- A U.N. panel has proposed imposing sanctions against several senior Sudanese officials and rebel leaders for impeding peace efforts in Darfur, and has indicated that it is considering calling for punitive measures in the future against the presidents of Sudan and neighboring Chad, according to a confidential annex of a publicly released report.

The panel recommends in the annex that Elzubier Bashir Taha, Sudan's interior minister; Salah Abdalla Gosh, its intelligence chief; and others be sanctioned for the crimes committed by their subordinates in Darfur, where government-backed militias have driven more than 2 million villagers from their homes. It also calls for sanctions against three Darfurian rebel commanders of the Sudan Liberation Army, which has targeted civilians and aid workers during its insurgency against Khartoum. The four-member panel's recommendations have faced resistance within the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, where China, Russia and Qatar have opposed efforts to impose sanctions on members of Khartoum's government, according to U.N. and Sudanese officials. Those states have argued that the release of the annex -- which, unlike the main report, lists the names of officials recommended for sanctions -- could jeopardize the peace negotiations underway in Sudan.

"You cannot criminalize the leadership," said Yasir Abdelsalam, the charge d'affaires at Sudan's mission to the United Nations. Abdelsalam said he could not comment on a report that his government has not yet seen. But he said: "It's nonsense for them to accuse my president of being involved in crimes in Darfur. It's more complicated than that." Officials from Chad's mission could not be reached yesterday.

The Security Council decided in March 2005 to establish the panel to monitor a U.N. arms embargo, a travel ban and an asset freeze on individuals implicated in rights violations or the impeding of the Darfur peace process.

The panel's initial, public findings charged that Sudan's two main rebel groups have received weapons, money and political support from Eritrea, Chad and Libya. It also accused Khartoum of continuing to support the militias in defiance of U.N. demands.

The contents of the annex were reported Friday by the liberal magazine American Prospect, which made the annex available to The Washington Post. Its authenticity was confirmed by diplomats from several Security Council nations.

The violence in Darfur began in early 2003, when rebels took up arms against Khartoum, claiming discrimination against local tribes. Khartoum reacted by training and arming local Muslim militias, known as the Janjaweed, to target civilians suspected of sympathizing with the rebels.

The annex names 17 people recommended for sanctions because they had command over troops engaged in atrocities, failed to crack down on rights abusers and impeded the peace process.

The annex names five other people against whom the panel is considering recommending sanctions, including President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan and President Idriss Deby of Chad. It cites Bashir's failure to "take steps to identify, neutralize and disarm" government-backed militia. It also accuses Deby's government of supporting anti-Sudanese militants.

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