UN Security Council must do more for Darfur

(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.”

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.

UN must reject Nigerian proposal for African panel | Read the Darfur Consortium’s letter to President Obasanjo

(NEW YORK, March 18, 2005)— The Darfur Consortium, an umbrella group of about 40 primarily Africa-based civil society organizations, today expressed concern at the proposal by the Nigerian government for an African Panel to pursue justice in Darfur and reiterated its call for an immediate referral of the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Darfur Consortium asked Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to uphold the wishes and aspirations of many African governments that prefer the ICC to any other mechanism to try the heinous crimes committed in Darfur.

“As chairman of the Africa Union, Mr. Obasanjo has a particular obligation to respect the wishes of the African continent,” said Dismas Nkunda, a representative of the Consortium.

“Not only do many African governments see a referral to the ICC as the best way of bringing justice and accountability to Darfur, but the people of Darfur also see such referral as a protection mechanism from the continued attacks by government forces. Mr. Obasanjo should be supporting these efforts instead of derailing them.”

Moreover, the International Criminal Court is supported by African states, a majority of whom have signed the Rome Statute establishing the Court and many of whom are parties to the ICC.

While the Darfur Consortium recognizes that the ICC alone will not achieve the long term peace and reconciliation that Darfur needs, it sees a referral by the Security Council as an essential element in a range of measures that must be taken to ensure peace, justice and reconciliation in Darfur.

“The Security Council must stand united and send even a stronger message that such impunity will not be tolerated by immediately referring the situation in Darfur to the ICC,” Dismas Nkunda added.

Read the Darfur Consortium’s letter to President Obasanjo