UN Officials Outline Worsening Situation In Darfur
Senior UN, African Union officials outline worsening situation in Darfur
22 September 2008 – Top United Nations and African Union officials have held a meeting in New York to review the political, security and humanitarian situation in Darfur, including ongoing efforts to deploy a joint peacekeeping mission to the war-torn Sudanese region.
Yesterday’s meeting, held at UN Headquarters, also focused on the recent decision of International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo – who is visiting New York this week for talks with international leaders – to seek an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping, who jointly convened the gathering of senior officials from the two organizations, heard briefings on the latest developments on the ground in Darfur.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes discussed the deteriorating security situation and its impact on efforts to bring aid to those in need across Darfur, a region roughly the size of Spain on Sudan’s western flank.
Joint UN-AU Special Representative Rodolphe Adada noted that the situation has been relatively calm over the past few days, following the recent upsurge in violence, especially in North Darfur.
Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Susana Malcorra told the meeting about the current challenges to the full deployment of UNAMID, the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force. The operation is slated to have about 26,000 troops and police officers when it reaches its peak, but currently has around only 10,000 uniformed personnel in the field.
The officials also reviewed Mr. Adada’s activities, voiced the need for an early normalization of relations between Sudan and neighbouring Chad, and highlighted the importance of expediting the political process in Darfur.
In addition, they discussed the so-called Qatari initiative, which is aimed at furthering efforts to broker peace between rebels, the Government and the allied Janjaweed militiamen, who have been fighting since 2003.
During that period, some 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed as a result of direct combat, disease or malnutrition, while another 2.7 million people have been displaced because of the violence.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, who chairs the Ministerial Committee as part of that initiative, is also expected to meet with Mr. Moreno-Ocampo in New York this week.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo’s visit comes two months after he requested an arrest warrant for Mr. al-Bashir for allegedly committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over the last five years.
“We presented a solid case. The evidence shows that crimes against Darfurians continue today,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said. “[Mr.] al-Bashir has complete control of his forces, and they are raping women today, they are promoting conditions in the camps to destroy complete communities and they are still bombing schools,” he added.
The ICC pre-trial chamber is reviewing the evidence submitted by prosecutors to determine if there are reasonable grounds to believe the Sudanese President committed the alleged crimes and issue the arrest warrant.
“The judges will decide. Those sought by the court have to face justice,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said referring to his request for the arrest warrant. “Between criminals and 2.5 million victims, they should make the right decision.”
“It is an immense challenge for the political leaders of the world. They have to protect the victims and ensure the respect for the court’s decisions,” the ICC Prosecutor added, ahead of the General Assembly annual high-level debate, which starts tomorrow.
The prosecutor has also requested information from the Sudanese Government about the August attack on the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), where UNAMID said it had found evidence suggesting that Government forces killed at least 31 civilians while executing a search warrant for illegal weapons and drugs.
A third ICC Prosecutor’s investigation coming to completion is focusing on crimes committed by rebels, in particular the attack on African Union (AU) peacekeepers in September last year in Haskanita.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo “will be meeting senior United Nations officials and expressing his appreciation of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s staunch support for the independence of the international judiciary,” a spokesperson for the prosecutor told the UN News Centre.
Others meeting with Mr. Moreno-Ocampo include British Minister of State responsible for Africa, Asia and the UN Mark Malloch Brown, French Minister of State for Human Rights Ramatoulaye Yade-Zimet and Netherlands Foreign Minister Maxime Jacques Marcel Verhagen.