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Darfur crisis tests global pledge to prevent genocide

14 April 2004

A breakdown of the current fragile ceasefire in the Darfur region of Sudan could trigger a further, rapid escalation in the violence leaving the international community helpless to respond with sufficient speed to save lives, warned Minority Rights Group International (MRG) today. The situation in Darfur is an immediate test of the resolve of the United Nations to act upon its pledge never again to allow genocide, stated the rights group amid reports of continuing attacks and violence in Darfur in breach of the ceasefire. MRG launches a new study on the prevention of genocide1 at the UN Commission on Human Rights on 16 April calling for the urgent implementation of genocide prevention mechanisms.

UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has admitted the mistakes of the past and a ‘deep sense of foreboding’ over Darfur, yet states have taken little effective action to cease atrocities in over a year of conflict in the region. Member states of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have been called upon this month by MRG to support a resolution criticizing the government of Sudan. This could potentially increase the UN’s mandate to act decisively, with the clear support of member states. On 7 April, Mr Annan launched an ‘Action Plan to Prevent Genocide’ and announced a high-level UN team to visit Sudan in April. However, MRG and other rights groups are concerned that a rapid deterioration in the situation would leave the UN powerless to respond effectively, and that a UN team is reportedly being prevented from entering Sudan.

Director of Minority Rights Group International, Mark Lattimer, stated: ‘The warning signs are there in Darfur and the humanitarian agencies have done their job well in communicating ongoing violations and the risk of worse. The international community made a pledge last week and now it must keep its word. It must not wait for Darfur to turn into genocide before it acts.’

The government of Sudan has been accused by international observers in Darfur of arming and supporting Arab militias and carrying out aerial bombardments aimed at forcing thousands of innocent civilians, mainly from black African tribes of the region, from their homes. Alleged Government complicity in what UN officials have already called ‘ethnic cleansing’ has led to calls for a full and transparent investigation with unlimited access allowed to the region and to internally displaced persons by the UN investigating team, UN Agencies and other international humanitarian organizations. MRG remains particularly concerned about the situation of women and child victims of the conflict. MRG has highlighted in a statement to the UN Commission on Human Rights its concern for the humanitarian situation of some 3,000 mainly women refugees, who sought refuge in Khartoum in March but were removed by the authorities.

Minority Rights Group International calls on all parties to respect the terms of the current ceasefire and engage in dialogue to secure a political settlement and lasting peace. MRG further calls on the government of Sudan to: unconditionally respect its obligations under the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international human rights treaties; end military operations in Darfur and arrest military activities by its allied militia groups; dissolve and outlaw groups and organizations known to be committing killings and violence; take immediate measures to ensure the humanitarian and security situation in the region; rebuild destroyed areas and reinstate displaced persons in their original villages.

Notes for editors

  1. MRG’s Briefing ‘Genocide and Minorities: Preventing the Preventable‘ by John Packer and Erik Friberg.

For more information, contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].