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Sudan: Questions of Responsibility
Jul 22, 2004 (040722)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"There has been a great deal of tough talk since the visits of Mr.
Powell, Mr. Annan and others, but the UN Security Council so far
has failed to act decisively [on Darfur]. It is time to move
directly against regime officials who are responsible for the
killing." - John Prendergast, New York Times, July 15, 2004
Evidence continues to mount both of continuing atrocities and of
the Sudanese government's failure to stem attacks by governmentbacked
militia in western Sudan, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell have issued repeated
warnings to the Sudanese government. International humanitarian
efforts continue to grow. But even the UN's humanitarian appeal is
$200 million short of its full funding. Action on the security and
political fronts faces even more obstacles.
There is rising pressure, particularly in the U.S. Congress, for
explicit condemnation of the atrocities in Darfur as genocide and
for stronger action, including targeted sanctions. Press reports,
such as a front-page article in the Washington Post on July 18,
are now beginning to name specific Sudanese officials thought to be
responsible for supporting the militias. So far, however, the
cumulative pressure is still falling far short of that needed to
produce real changes in Khartoum's policies.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from several recent
reports relevant to questions of responsibility for the current
situation and for action to stem the loss of life. These include
(1) a report from Human Rights Watch documenting the complicity of
government officials, (2) reports from the UN on the status of UN
initiatives, and (3) a Justice Africa report that addresses the
issue of divisions on Dafur within the government of Sudan.
For earlier bulletins on Sudan and links to additional sources, see
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Human Rights Watch
Sudan: New Darfur Documents
Ties Between Government and Janjaweed Militias Confirmed
[For the full report and additional material from HRW on Sudan, see
(New York, July 20, 2004) "Sudan government documents
incontrovertibly show that government officials directed
recruitment, arming and other support to the ethnic militias known
as the Janjaweed," Human Rights Watch said today. The government of
Sudan has consistently denied recruiting and arming the Janjaweed
militias, including during the recent visits of U.S. Secretary of
State Colin Powell and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Human
Rights Watch said it had obtained confidential documents from the
civilian administration in Darfur that implicate high-ranking
government officials in a policy of militia support.
"It's absurd to distinguish between the Sudanese government forces
and the militias - they are one," said Peter Takirambudde,
executive director of Human Rights Watch's Africa Division. "These
documents show that militia activity has not just been condoned,
it's been specifically supported by Sudan government officials."
Human Rights Watch said that Sudanese government forces and
government-backed militias are responsible for crimes against
humanity, war crimes and "ethnic cleansing" involving aerial and
ground attacks on civilians of the same ethnicity as members of two
rebel groups in Darfur. Thousands of civilians have been killed,
hundreds of women and girls have been raped and more than one
million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes and
farms in Darfur.
In a series of official Arabic-language documents from government
authorities in North and South Darfur dating from February and
March 2004, officials call for recruitment and military support,
including "provisions and ammunition" to be delivered to known
Janjaweed militia leaders, camps and "loyalist tribes."
A particularly damning February directive orders "all security
units" in the area to tolerate the activities of known Janjaweed
leader Musa Hilal in North Darfur. The document "highlights the
importance of non-interference so as not to question their
authority" and authorizes security units in a North Darfur province
to "overlook minor offenses by the fighters against civilians who
are suspected members of the rebellion".
Another document calls for a plan for "resettlement operations of
nomads in places from which the outlaws [rebels] withdrew." This,
along with recent government statements that displaced persons will
be settled in 18 "settlements" rather than in their original
villages, raises concerns that the ethnic cleansing that has
occurred will be consolidated and that people will be unable to
return to their villages and lands.
Human Rights Watch called for Sudan government officials implicated
in the policy of militia support to be added to the U.N. sanctions
list included as part of a pending U.N. resolution. It also called
for international monitoring of the disarmament of the militia
groups and the establishment of an international commission of
inquiry into the abuses committed in Darfur by all parties to the
"Sudan has launched a major public-relations campaign aimed at
buying more time for diplomatic initiatives to work," said
Takirambudde. "But at this point and with our new evidence,
Khartoum has zero credibility. To date, the government of Sudan has
only used more time to consolidate the ethnic cleansing in Darfur."
While the government has committed itself to disarming "outlawed"
groups, including the rebel insurgency, it is unclear whether the
government considers the Janjaweed militias it has supported as
among the groups to be disarmed. There are increasing reports that
Janjaweed militia members are being absorbed into the new police
forces deployed by the government to "protect" civilians in Darfur.
Human Rights Watch said that under no circumstances should
Janjaweed members who have participated in attacks, murders and
rapes of civilians in Darfur be included within the police and
military forces the government is now using to protect the
Human Rights Watch called for an immediate, strongly worded U.N.
resolution that sanctions Khartoum and government officials
responsible for crimes against humanity.
"The ambiguity in the government's statements shows that
independent monitoring of the disarmament process is crucial," said
Takirambudde. "The African Union and other international monitors
must pay close attention to resettlement plans and ensure that
militias are not only disarmed, but withdrawn entirely from the
civilian areas they took over." ...
Life-saving UN relief operations in Sudan face $200 million budget
gap - Annan
UN News Service
21 Jul 2004
The United Nations has received just $145 million so far of the
$349 million in funds it has requested to ameliorate the
humanitarian crisis engulfing Sudan's Darfur region,
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today, explaining the world body
particularly needs helicopters and other equipment to deliver aid.
Mr. Annan also told a press conference at UN Headquarters that the
Sudanese Government has not taken "adequate steps" to meet its
commitments to disarm the Arab-dominated Janjaweed militias that
have conducted deadly attacks against Darfur's black African
"The Sudanese Government doesn't have forever" to meet the pledges
- such as disarming the Janjaweed and punishing those responsible
for human rights abuses - it made on 3 July in a joint communiqu‚
with the UN, the Secretary-General added.
He said the UN may move to take tougher action against Sudan if it
is not satisfied that the Government is making enough headway
towards achieving its targets.
So far progress has been uneven, he said, although he praised
Khartoum for improving access to humanitarian agencies previously
restricted from operating in Darfur. ...
Mr. Annan said the international community has a responsibility to
step up pressure on Sudan to meet its commitments and on all sides
to negotiate a peace agreement "in good faith." But he noted that
foreign donors are well behind in meeting the UN appeal for funds
for Darfur and Chad.
"We need money and more resources for humanitarian efforts. We need
them now, not tomorrow. Tomorrow may already be too late," he said.
"We are $204 million short. I appeal to donors to make good on the
pledges they have already made, and to increase their assistance."
Mission to Darfur will see whether Sudan is meeting pledges - UN
UN News Service
21 Jul 2004
New York, Jul 21 2004 6:00PM - A joint mission of United Nations
staff, ambassadors and Sudanese Government ministers and officials
will travel to the troubled Darfur region in the next week to
observe first-hand whether Khartoum is making progress in its
pledges to disarm the militias attacking black Africans and to
improve security so that displaced civilians can return to their
After briefing the Security Council behind closed doors today, Jan
Pronk, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan,
told reporters that the mission will spend three days in Darfur
assessing three questions: the degree of security; the current
state of the Arab-dominated militias, known as the Janjaweed; and
the future of the more than one million internally displaced
The mission has been organized under the auspices of the Joint
Implementation Mechanism (JIM), a body set up after the UN and
Sudan issued a communiqu‚ on 3 July outlining their commitments to
alleviate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Darfur.
"On the basis of their findings, we will have a new meeting" of the
JIM, Mr. Pronk said, adding that meeting will discuss what
measures, if any, may be necessary to stop the Janjaweed.
The envoy said the mission has been established partly because of
the conflicting nature of reports about what is happening in
Darfur, a region the size of France that is beset by fighting
between Sudanese Government forces and two rebel groups, and the
deadly Janjaweed attacks against civilians.
"Much of the information cannot be tested because we have
information [and] we have counter-information," he said.
More than a million people are internally displaced and another
180,000 live as refugees in neighbouring Chad because of the
fighting and the militia attacks, creating what senior UN officials
have described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Mr. Pronk said it was a positive step that Darfur rebel leaders and
Sudanese officials have agreed to meet in Geneva tomorrow to
discuss how to revive peace negotiations, which stalled over the
Before briefing the Council, Mr. Pronk told reporters that it
should "give teeth" to the JIM, adding the UN's humanitarian and
political efforts in Darfur will gain strength if the Council
demonstrates its support. ,,,
So far, Mr. Pronk said, Sudan has shown progress in improving
access for humanitarian workers, but no improvement in security for
the IDPs who remain fearful of further attacks by the Janjaweed if
they return to their home villages. ...
Prospects for Peace in Sudan Briefing
[Excerpts only; the full Justice Africa briefing should be
available soon on http://www.justiceafrica.org/bulletin.htm]
Darfur: The War
16. The level of violence in Darfur fell after the ceasefire
agreement of April. But this decline was only relative to the
exceptional intensity of the violence during February-April, and
the fact that the militias have already destroyed most of the
accessible targets. More than 300 villages have been destroyed.
There are disturbing indications of a continuing level of atrocity
and indeed a more recent re-escalation in violence. ...
17. African Union ceasefire monitors arrived in Khartoum at the
beginning of June. They face many obstacles. One of them is the
absence of provisions for encampment of the parties' armed forces
during the ceasefire. In the vast territory of Darfur, monitoring
a ceasefire will be impossible unless the team can monitor the
movements of the parties. The AU-led mission includes
representatives from the parties, Chad, the UN, the US and the EU.
It is important that the monitors make their presence felt in the
field without delay.
18. President Bashir has announced on several occasions that the
Janjawiid would be disarmed, in response to pressure from AU, U.S.
and UN leaders. This statement has to be treated with some
scepticism, given the poor record of adherence to commitments by
the GoS. If carried out, however, it would be the single most
important step towards a real ceasefire and the establishment of
security for the civilian population.
To date, there are no indications of GoS action on this commitment,
and indeed to the contrary, there are signs of continuing armyJanjawiid
cooperation, and there is a real possibility that
Janjawiid members will simply be given police uniforms and
presented to the world as a civilian police force. A number of
Janjawiid leaders have been moved from Darfur to Khartoum and other
cities, a move intended to demonstrate the GoS's readiness to
distance itself from them, but in reality an indication of close
government control over their movements.
21. The opportunity for a large-scale humanitarian operation before
the rains make many roads impassable has now been lost.
International agencies are painfully re-learning the lessons of how
to operate in western Sudan. Important opportunities have been
missed, for example for comprehensive immunisation programmes.
Elevated mortality across Darfur cannot now be prevented.
Published estimates by NGO workers and USAID indicate that excess
mortality is likely to be in the region of 100,000-350,000 over the
next 12 months. These figures are credible, though we need to be
vigilant over the inflationary tendency in some aid agencies'
public predictions. Other visitors to the region have been more
cautious in their projections for malnutrition and mortality.
22. After considerable international pressure, the GoS lifted some
of the restrictions on humanitarian access to Darfur at the end of
May. This came after the absurdity of a three-day travel permit
being combined with a three-day delay in the ability to travel-a
ruse illustrative of the GoS's long experience in manipulating
humanitarian access in conflict zones.
Further promises have been made during the visits of Colin Powell
and Kofi Annan. Will we see a protracted cat-and-mouse game between
the GoS and humanitarian organisations over the latter's
operations? This is a dispiriting prospect. It also suggests that
there will be major hindrances in addressing the longer-term
humanitarian imperative of returning the displaced Darfurians to
their homes. ...
24. The focus on international relief efforts obscures the fact
that the Sudanese government and citizens can do far more than
foreign aid agencies. Sudan has a surplus of one million tons of
grain, almost all of it in storage in eastern Sudan. Thus far the
GoS has made no efforts to mobilise this immense resource. People
in Darfur rely far more on their own efforts, including gathering
wild foods, than on food assistance.
The single most effective measure to support survival would be to
permit freedom of movement. That in turn would require security.
26. The GoS is thus far refusing to treat Darfur with the urgency
and seriousness it deserves. One element in this internal GoS
disunity, with serious differences at the heart of government and
the Congress Party. A majority of government members are
undoubtedly against the war strategy, including senior ministers,
members of the Congress Party and regional figures.
However, a powerful cabal of senior advisors and security officers
retains control of the Darfur policy. The prominence of Gen. Abdel
Rahim Mohamed Hussein, shadow head of the army at the time of the
1989 coup, is symbolic of this. This means that the GoS leadership
still prefers to characterise proposals for peacekeepers as an
international conspiracy, and is showing no enthusiasm for engaging
in peace initiatives. ...
28. The African Union is handicapped by its low level of human and
financial resources, and the fact that statements from the U.S. and
others indicating support to the AU role have so far seemed rather
pro forma. The AU Peace and Security Council was inaugurated at
Heads of State level on 25 May (Africa Day).
Sudan, as a member of the PSC, was represented by President Omer al
Bashir, who followed PSC procedure and withdrew for the closed-door
discussion of Sudan. Before this, Pres. Bashir succeeded in
deflecting criticism of the GoS by proposing a High Level
Independent Committee to investigate reports of human rights
abuses. The AU PSC responded by directing the African Commission on
Human and People's Rights to investigate. ...
The Genocide Question
35. If the international community decides that the events in
Darfur constitute genocide, they will do so in accordance with the
definition of the crime in the Genocide Convention, and the
interpretations of that in the International Criminal Tribunal for
Rwanda. (Of particular interest in this regard is the ruling of the
ICTR in the case of Jean-Paul Akayesu, which determined that an
ethnic group can be identified as 'a stable and permanent group
whose membership is determined largely by birth'. This will get
round the problem that there are no national or religious
differences between groups in Darfur, no discernible racial
differences and ethnicities are historically fluid-despite the
language of the current generation of political leaders on both
sides, who have adopted the 'African versus Arab' dichotomy.)
The Genocide Convention has a much broader definition of genocide
than the common lay definitions, which focus on the Holocaust and
more recently on Rwanda as well. The worry among major
international powers is that once they have diagnosed genocide,
they will be obliged to intervene militarily. However, this does
not follow. The Genocide Convention is silent on the means that
should be used to prevent and punish genocide. Military
intervention is one option but not the only option. In the case of
Darfur, prudential considerations may militate against military
intervention, while other options for political action are also
36. If the UNSC or other international bodies are to describe the
events in Darfur as 'genocide', a key consideration will be the
intent of the perpetrators. An important feature of the Darfur
campaign has been that while it is as yet impossible to ascertain
genocidal intent at the highest level of government, it is clear
that such intent has existed at important levels of the command
structure of the militia and the security organs of the state.
While genocide has typically been a state crime in modern history,
the responsibility of the highest leadership of the state is not a
necessary condition in fact or in law for the crime to be
committed. In the case of Darfur, it is clear that most members of
the Government and Armed Forces have not supported the genocide,
and in many cases have opposed it and worked to prevent it.
However, there is a clique within the security establishment that
has the capacity, will and opportunity to perpetrate genocidal
crimes. It is notable that the same individuals' names recur
whenever responsibility for serious human rights violations is
mooted, ever since the NIF took power in 1989 and in some cases
from earlier. The U.S. government has also named seven militia
leaders as the targets for punitive sanctions, and is considering
naming some of their backers in Khartoum as well.
37. If the highest leadership of the GoS is indeed not guilty of
conspiracy to commit genocide in Darfur, the way for it to prove
this fact is to institute legal proceedings against those that are
indeed guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
This would be an international 'first': the first occasion on which
a government has prosecuted its own servants for these crimes. If
the GoS were to pursue this course of action, it would be a
powerful indication that it has indeed made a genuine commitment to
peace and human rights. ...
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