(KAMPALA and NEW YORK, March 29, 2005) The Darfur Consortium, an umbrella group of primarily Africa-based civil society organizations, today called on the Security Council to take decisive action to halt the ongoing crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Last week’s Security Council Resolution 1590 authorized deployment of a 10,000 strong UN force to assist with the implementation of the peace accords ending the civil war in the South of Sudan. But it did not specify how the African Union (AU) mission currently in Darfur would be assisted to ensure the functioning of a fully effective “protection force.”
“While Security Council Resolution 1590 was a step forward for the people of Southern Sudan and Sudan as a whole, once again the people of Darfur have been held hostage to international politics,” said Dismas Nkunda of the Consortium. “In considering a new resolution on Darfur this week the Security Council must send two unequivocal messages: that protection of civilians in Darfur is non-negotiable and that those responsible for ongoing atrocities will be held accountable. Darfurians can wait no longer.”
Despite the best efforts of the African Union (AU) mission, the work of the AU troops currently deployed on the ground in Darfur has been severely hampered by a restricted mandate and a lack of human, technical and logistical resources. “The AU must receive the necessary authorization from the Security Council to develop a mission mandate and ground presence which will allow it to adequately protect the civilian population and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid in Darfur,” said Dismas Nkunda.
An effective protection force is only one of a range of measures which are needed to effectively address the ongoing human rights and humanitarian catastrophe. The Security Council must also take bold steps to ensure that justice for the horrendous crimes committed in Darfur is effectively and expeditiously carried out and build the framework of mechanisms necessary to ensure that the victims of the conflict and their descendants are adequately compensated for their losses. Sanctions must also be imposed to reflect the determination of the international community to take action against those who so flagrantly defy decisions of the Security Council.
Referral of the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the UN Security Council is the foundation stone of this process. In January the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur reported to the Security Council that “the Sudanese justice system is unable and unwilling to address the situation in Darfur.” Attempts to mount trials for a small handful of alleged perpetrators have been entirely insufficient against the background of the scale and ferocity of the violence. A referral to the ICC will not only send a strong message that Africa and the international community will stand side by side with the people of Sudan in ensuring that those who have committed the gravest of offences will be held accountable. Ultimately it may even prevent further atrocity.
“The suffering in Darfur continues,” said Dismas Nkunda. “It is past time that the Security Council specifically and forcefully addressed the needs of Darfurians.”