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Sudan falling ‘far short’ on many of human rights

Sudan falling ‘far short’ on many of its human rights commitments – UN report

Sudanese authorities are failing to uphold many of the human rights commitments made last year, especially in the Darfur conflict, where the Government is unable and unwilling to hold perpetrators of international crimes accountable, and the killing of civilians, raping of women and girls, and pillaging of entire villages continues, according to a United Nations report released today.

The report, issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in cooperation with the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) for December 2005 to April 2006, cited torture in detention facilities in Khartoum and Darfur as well as ill-treatment, detention, and harassment of human rights advocates throughout the country.

The 27-page document said it was particularly alarming that the Government had reverted to the use of helicopter gunships, and listed the reported use of an airplane to drop bombs on a village in Gereida in Darfur as recently as 24 April.

It noted obstruction of the work of UNMIS human rights officers, urged reform of the Government’s security apparatus to prevent it from committing human rights violations with impunity, and called on the authorities to continue initiatives they have taken to respect human rights.

“This should lead to the strengthening of a human rights infrastructure that is capable of ending Sudan’s history of gross human rights violations. At the centre of this project should be a strong, independent National Human Rights Commission that provides oversight of and impartial advice to the Government,” the report said.

“Almost one and a half years after the signing of the CPA, the Government is falling far short of many of the human rights commitments it made,” it added, referring to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in January 2005 between the Government and rebels who had waged a two-decades-long separate war in southern Sudan.

Regarding the western Darfur region, where a peace agreement was signed with one rebel faction in May, after the reporting period, OHCHR said the conflict had reached a new level of violence, both in intensity and frequency. Human rights violations continued as the conflict escalated and there was a failure to protect civilians from attacks that included sexual as well as to hold people accountable.

“As the killing of civilians, raping of women and girls, and pillaging of entire villages continued in Darfur, so too did a culture of impunity,” the report said of the desert region the size of France where scores of thousands of people have been killed and 2 million more displaced in more than three years of fighting.

“Domestic courts and other mechanisms purporting to address gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law were superficial and inadequate. It appears that the ICC has a critical role to play in Darfur in bringing to justice State officials, and militia and rebel members alike,” it added, referring to the International Criminal Court to which a UN inquiry has already referred 51 as-yet undisclosed names for possible prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

An earlier UN inquiry found that there had been war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides, but primarily by Government forces and pro-Government militias.

The report said that despite the establishment of three new special courts in June and November 2005 which have the power to try serious Darfur conflict-related crimes, such crimes were not being seriously investigated or prosecuted.

“It is especially important for the courts in Darfur to hold commanders responsible, as they are the ones either ordering the violence or have the power to stop unlawful actions by their subordinates,” it added.

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