The UK ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Emyr Jones Parry says that if the President of Sudan, Omar El-Bashir, does not act to end the bloodshed in the Western Sudanese region of Darfur that “he will have to answer to the International Criminal Court”.
The International Criminal Court at The Hague started work in 2002, and is responsible for bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war-crimes and genocide. Darfur was the first case referred by the Security Council to the ICC in June 2005.
Speaking at a keynote lecture at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre on Wednesday evening, Sir Emyr said, “If Darfur gets worse, if there are more atrocities, it will not be because the UN has been found wanting, but because a government denied protection to its people.”
His remarks came as the fighting in Darfur intensifies, with senior UN figures warning that the region was sliding towards the abyss. Also on Wednesday, the United Nations emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland delivered a stark warning to the UN Security Council, that large parts of Darfur were experiencing a melt-down of law and order.
Despite months of international pressure, the government of President Bashir has repeatedly refused to accept the deployment of UN peacekeeping force to stabilize the situation, while the massive human rights abuses carried out by government forces, government-backed militias and rebels have continued.
Sir Emyr said the lack of political will, an unwillingness of troop-contributing countries and the military logistics, made the idea of a military intervention without the consent of the Sudanese government unsustainable.
But he also highlighted the difficulties of negotiating a solution. Sir Emyr said that during a recent, lengthy meeting between the UK International Development Secretary and the Sudanese president in Khartoum, Hillary Benn had ‘thrown everything’ at the president – but to no avail.
A recent report by Minority Rights Group International found that the United Nations had been found wanting in Darfur. Early warning signs were missed, and reluctance to act meant that opportunities to defuse to crisis were passed up.
Crucially it was only in August 2006 – three years after the full scale of the crisis was apparent – that the UN Security Council finally passed a resolution authorizing the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force.
Minority Rights Group’s Director Mark Lattimer says, “While it is true that the Sudanese government has the primary responsibility to protect its own people, in situations of crimes against humanity, the international community – and particularly the United Nations – has the responsibility to protect civilians.”
“On this vital issue, where hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake, the Security Council has sent the signals that it is divided and weak to Sudanese government”
For more information or to arrange interviews with Ishbel Matheson, Director of Communications at MRG, please contact her on +44 (0)207 4224227 (office) +44 (0)7765824964 (mobile) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
- Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
- MRG’s September 2006 report Minority Rights, Early Warning and Conflict Prevention: Lessons from Darfur is available for download on the website.