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Shame of Security Council silence amid the killing in Darfur

16 June 2004

The United Nations Security Council, the body supremely charged with acting to ensure international peace and security, is failing in its responsibility to Darfur’s victims of ethnic cleansing. The UN’s own evidence of government complicity in attacks is now so great that further investigation must now be replaced by real and unequivocal condemnation at the highest level, stated Minority Rights Group International (MRG) today. Efforts to halt the killings on the part of the Security Council Members had been ‘half-hearted and ineffective’ stated MRG, which suggested that Sudan was acting ‘in the full and certain knowledge that the international community would fail to act against it’. The message that this sends out is that states can continue to violate the rights of their own citizens without interference.

MRG’s call for immediate and unequivocal condemnation by the Security Council comes as Asma Jahangir, the UN’s own Special Rapporteur on executions, spoke of ‘credible evidence’ that Sudanese forces and government supported militias had carried out summary executions of civilians. ‘Many of the militias are being integrated into the regular armed or the Popular Defence Forces. There is no ambiguity that there is a link between some of the militias and government forces’, she stated. The situation has already been described by the UN and humanitarian agencies as currently ‘the world’s worst humanitarian crisis’. In May a UN mission to Darfur also reported, ‘a reign of terror’ and ‘massive human rights violations perpetrated by the government of Sudan and its proxy militia’ and yet the Security Council seems unwilling to fully support or act upon the findings of its own investigative teams. On 11 June a Security Council resolution on Sudan largely ignored the issue, including only a single paragraph on Darfur in which it notably failed to criticize or condemn the government in any way.

Head of International Advocacy for Minority Rights Group International, Clive Baldwin, stated: ‘Darfur is acknowledged by the UN itself to be one of the most serious situations of rights violations and humanitarian disaster in the world today. In the final analysis, the Security Council members will need to look hard at their own actions and ask if they truly did all within their power at an early stage to save lives in Darfur’.

According to MRG, the situation is a clear example of the failure of existing preventive and reactive mechanisms, which can be triggered or strengthened by Security Council resolution. Attempts to secure peace in the war-torn south of the Sudan may have implications on the willingness for decisive UN action to stop human rights violations in Darfur, suggest MRG. However, the goals of the peace negotiations in one part of the country must not be allowed to detract from international obligations to prevent widespread and systematic violations in another. The priority of stopping attacks against minority communities is now matched by the need for the delivery of humanitarian aid. MRG stresses that the humanitarian crisis is wholly the result of attacks against communities, allowed, sponsored and supported by the government of Sudan, and points out that any delays and disruption of access to those in need by the Sudanese authorities would constitute a continuation of ethnic cleansing.

There has been no shortage of criticism of Sudan by those, including the United States who were most roundly criticized for failing to act to prevent the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However this has once again failed to translate into decisive action and demonstrates clearly that effective mechanisms to prevent or halt massive violations still do not exist, stated MRG. MRG continues to campaign for such effective preventive measures to be put in place, most recently in a submission to Kofi Annan’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change in which it calls for innovative mechanisms and approaches to potential genocide or mass violations, notably a Special Adviser on Minorities to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. The message that the Security Council must strengthen its efforts to protect civilians in armed conflict was clearly reinforced by Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who stated on 14 June that not enough progress had been achieved in establishing a culture of protection towards civilians.

Notes for editors

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