Arab League must take a stand for peace in Darfur

(KAMPALA, March 22, 2005) The Arab League must make peace in Darfur an urgent priority as it begins its Summit in Algiers the Darfur Consortium, an umbrella group of primarily Africa-based civil society organizations, said today. Support from Arab League States for the African Union mission in Darfur and prosecution of those responsible for atrocities in Darfur is critical to the attainment of peace.

The Darfur Consortium is a network of African organizations committed to engaging constructively with governments in Africa and around the world to bring about a lasting, peaceful and just resolution to the ongoing violence in Darfur.

A recent mission of the Darfur Consortium to Sudan and Eastern Chad identified two paramount concerns of victims and civil society: ensuring protection for civilians and bringing those responsible for atrocities in Darfur to justice. Addressing these two imperatives is essential for achieving sustainable peace and establishing security in the region. Mechanisms are already in place, but need additional support from the Arab League and the international community in order to ensure their effectiveness.

First, the African Union has already deployed a mission and peacekeeping force to Darfur. With support by States of the Arab League for the provision a more robust mandate and additional technical and financial assistance, the AU mission could significantly improve the lives of civilians in Darfur.

Second, a referral of the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the UN Security Council would be an important first step in achieving justice for the victims of the most atrocious crimes and discouraging further violations. “We believe that the ICC is the most impartial and efficient mechanism for addressing the need for justice in Darfur,” said Taher Boumedra, Secretary-General of the African Society of International and Comparative Law. “Support by States of the Arab League for such a referral is entirely compatible with the vital additional efforts to achieve justice which must continue both in Sudan and within the AU in order to ensure peace, accountability and reconciliation.”

As an organization which includes some of Sudan’s closest neighbors, the Arab League is a vital partner of the people of Darfur and all of Sudan in the quest for peace. In April/May of last year the Arab League conducted a mission to, and assessment of, the situation in Darfur. With more than 180,000 estimated to have died as a result of the conflict and more than two million forced to flee their homes, the people of Darfur need this international support now. “It is our hope that Algeria, both as host of this consultation, and as a member of the Security Council, will take the lead in calling for effective action to protect the people of Darfur,” said Dismas Nkunda, a representative of the Consortium.