U.N. Panel Calls for Action in Darfur
Monday, March 12, 2007; 4:06 PM
GENEVA -- A U.N. human rights team criticized the international community Monday for failing to halt atrocities in Darfur, saying in a sharply worded report that the United Nations must act now to protect civilians from a violence campaign orchestrated by Sudan's government.
The panel, headed by Nobel peace laureate Jody Williams, departed from the usual diplomatic niceties of U.N. reports to accuse major nations of letting Sudan obstruct efforts to quell ethnic fighting that has killed 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million in four years.
The report urged quick U.N. Security Council intervention, the imposition of sanctions and criminal prosecutions of those responsible for atrocities and other abuses.
"Killing of civilians remains widespread, including in large-scale attacks. Rape and sexual violence are widespread and systematic. Torture continues," it said, adding that rebel groups were behind some abuses but blaming most crimes on the government and its allies.
Sudan's delegation at the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting declined to comment, saying they would not discuss the report until addressing the body Tuesday. Sudanese leaders have denied encouraging violence in Darfur, an arid region with long conflicts over water and arable land.
There was no immediate reaction from other nations, but the team's findings already drew harsh objections behind the scenes from Sudan's allies on the rights council, chiefly members of the Organization of Islamic Conference.
It also isn't clear how the Security Council will respond to the team's call for urgent action, including travel bans and asset freezes for those accused of rights violations.
Sanctions have not been imposed because the veto-holding permanent "members of the Security Council were divided," said Jan Pronk, who was chief U.N. envoy to Sudan until last year. China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports and Russia also has commercial interests in Sudan.
Human rights groups have been calling for the international community to do more to halt the bloodshed, but it is unusual for a U.N.-supported group to be so direct in its criticisms and calls for action.
The team's report said that while important steps had been taken, including by the African Union and the United Nations, "these have been largely resisted and obstructed, and have proven inadequate and ineffective."
Williams, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for spearheading the drive for a treaty banning land mines, was more explicit in criticizing the Security Council, which has passed resolutions on Darfur but has been stalled by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in deploying a proposed U.N.-AU peacekeeping force.
"If you're not prepared to act on what you say, don't say it," Williams said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from her home in Virginia.