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Darfur: How Can UN Protect Civilians From Abuse?

Sudan: UN rights officials in Darfur assess how to protect civilians from abuse

Two senior United Nations human rights officials have arrived in the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan to examine how to shield beleaguered civilians there from further militia attacks.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Juan Méndez, visited camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and talked to African Union (AU) monitors in North Darfur, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters.

Mrs. Arbour and Mr. Méndez, who arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum over the weekend, will travel to South Darfur state tomorrow before heading on to West Darfur and eventually returning to Khartoum.

The two officials have been dispatched by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to study the latest developments in Darfur and recommend what should be done to protect the inhabitants there from more attacks by the Janjaweed militias.

Before their departure, Ms. Arbour pledged to look into what more can be done to ensure that the people of Darfur "no longer have to fear massacres, rape, forced displacement and other abuses."

In dispatching the officials last week, Mr. Annan stressed they are not determining whether or not genocide has taken place.

That question will be addressed by a commission of inquiry which the Security Council, in a resolution adopted on Saturday, said the Secretary-General should establish.

The resolution also stated the Council will consider imposing sanctions against Khartoum if the Sudanese Government does not cooperate with earlier resolutions to disarm the Janjaweed and protect the civilians, and if Khartoum does not agree to an expanded force of AU monitors.

AU officials and their counterparts in the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations are meeting this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss strengthening the monitoring force.

That subject will also be on the agenda when Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, visits Addis Ababa and the Eritrean capital of Asmara this week for talks with AU officials and representatives of the two countries.

Mr. Pronk is also expected to discuss the peace talks taking place in Abuja, Nigeria, between the Sudanese Government and Darfur's two rebel groups.

On Friday Mr. Pronk attended the fifth meeting of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), the body set up in July to make sure Khartoum and UN meet the pledges made in a joint communiqué.

In that document, signed at the end of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's trip to the country, Khartoum promised to try to disarm the Janjaweed, who stand accused of killing and raping villagers and destroying their homes and cropland.

Militia attacks and the fighting between government forces and rebel groups has forced some 1.2 million Sudanese to flee within the country, and another 200,000 to cross the border and take shelter as refugees in Chad.

Mr. Eckhard said the expansion of the AU force and Khartoum's failure to end the impunity of many of the Janjaweed leaders were among the topics covered during the JIM meeting.

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