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A.U. Summit: Sudan Unfit for A.U. Presidency

A.U. Summit: Sudan Unfit for A.U. Presidency

A.U. Should Boost Protection for Civilians in Darfur, Extradite Habré

(New York)—African leaders rightly rejected Sudan’s bid for the African Union’s presidency this year, but should not reward Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with Africa’s leadership next year as long as the human rights disaster continues in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today.

The African Union announced today that Congo-Brazzaville would assume the A.U. leadership this year, but would be followed by Sudan in 2007.

“The A.U. has taken the right decision to reject Sudan’s candidacy this year, but Darfur remains a disaster,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch. “If the atrocities in Darfur make Bashir unsuitable to lead Africa this year, it's hard to see how he’ll be suitable next year unless he takes credible steps to end the crisis in Darfur.”

Human Rights Watch said Sudan should not be given the A.U. presidency unless it disarms the government-backed Janjaweed militias, allows millions of displaced Darfurians to return home in safety, and brings those involved in war crimes to justice.

Sudan campaigned vigorously for the presidency of the African Union in the days leading up to the decision, which was made today by A.U. heads of state at an annual summit in Khartoum. East Africa was scheduled to assume the rotating post and until the last moment it was unclear whether Sudan, the only candidate from the region, would succeed in its bid.

Awarding Sudan the presidency would have been perceived as condoning the appalling record of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Sudanese government forces and their allied militias in Darfur since 2003. A 7,000-member African Union mission in Darfur must take tougher measures to protect civilians from the violence, which has escalated in the past few months.

“The A.U. force in Darfur needs to be more aggressive in protecting civilians,” said Takirambudde. “The African Union should do much more to promote human rights, protect civilians, and bring abusers to justice.”

The A.U. summit will also take up the case of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, who is wanted in Belgium to face trial for crimes against humanity. In November the government of Senegal, where Habré has lived in impunity since 1990, asked the African Union to decide how the former dictator should be brought to justice.

“A.U. leaders should recommend that Senegal extradite Habré to Belgium, or promptly arrange a fair trial for him in Africa,” said Takirambudde.

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