IHEU and 16 other NGOs have written to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights to express serious concern at the General Assembly’s decision to take no action and prevent debate on the European Union’s resolution concerning the tragic situation in Darfur, Sudan. IHEU and the other NGOs called on the Commissioner to find other ways of dealing with serious and persistent human rights violations such as those in Sudan.
The following Press Release and copy of the letter to the Commissionmer were issued at the Palais des Nations, Geneva today:
Association for World Education
Case postale 205 – 1196 Gland – Switzerland
Press Release – Palais des Nations, Geneva – 7 December 2005
HUMAN RIGHTS WEEK & GENOCIDE DAY
‘Stop Torture and Genocidal Crimes in Darfur-Sudan’ / Urgent Appeal to all States
The attached 2 December 2005 letter [signed by IHEU] on the very grave situation in Darfur signed by seventeen NGOs was conveyed by CONGO to the High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs Louise Arbour.
We wish to recall that in 1950 the UN General Assembly invited States and interested organizations to observe Human Rights Day, thus marking the anniversary when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed on 10 December 1948.
It is appropriate that on this 57th year annual commemoration week we should also mark the date on which the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – the Genocide Convention – was approved by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1948.
The Genocide Convention followed “the declaration made by the General Assembly in its resolution 96 (I) dated 11 December 1946 that genocide is a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world.”
Article III of the Genocide Convention states that “the following acts shall be punishable: (a) Genocide; (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide; (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide; (d) Attempt to commit genocide; (e) Complicity in genocide.”
Article IV states that “Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.” This article covers all non-State actors.
We wish to reaffirm the unity of purpose of the 1948 Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on consecutive days. We call for Urgent Action this week to stop genocidal practices currently being carried out in the Darfur provinces of Sudan.
Article VIII of the Convention states: “Any Contracting Party [Member State] may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III.”
The Special Rapporteurs of the UN Commission on Human Rights, the staff of UN Agencies, as well as field workers of Non-Governmental Humanitarian Organizations have all reported the massive displacement of peoples; the refugee flows to neighbouring Chad; systematic and multiple rapes of women and girls, and other forms of torture; wide-spread destruction of the agricultural infrastructure of wells, livestock, and grain storage buildings in Darfur. All observers have repeatedly reported that this destruction and rape are accompanied by constant verbal threats to destroy whole peoples such as the Fur, Massaliet, and Zaghawa tribal groups, to name but three.
These systematic actions – to quote from Article II of the Genocide Convention – “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such” is clear. What is less clear is the determination of States to bring these genocidal acts to an end. Until now, the efforts of Governments have been inadequate as reliable reports still indicate that these genocidal crimes in Darfur even increased in October-November 2005. ‘Never Again!’ is heard after a genocide; it needs only one State to invoke Article VIII now!
Mrs Louise Arbour
High Commissioner for Human Rights
2 December 2005
Dear Ms Arbour,
Following the “No Action” vote on Dafur/Sudan on 23 November in the General Assembly, the undersigned organizations have asked CONGO to convey to you the attached letter expressing their most serious concern. I ask you therefore to give this situation your utmost priority and look into and examine alternate ways of dealing with these severe human rights violations.
I thank you in advance for your attention and look forward to our continued cooperation. With best wishes,
Enclosure: letter with signatures
Dear Mme High Commissioner:
In light of the “No Action” vote of the UN General Assembly on November 23, 2005 which prevented any debate on the resolution introduced by the European Union concerning the tragic situation in Darfur, Sudan, we as nongovernmental organizations call upon you to examine alternative ways of dealing with such serious and consistent human rights violations. Many of our organizations have been involved in efforts to strengthen human rights procedures within the UN, most recently by presenting proposals for a Human Rights Council.
The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan and other special procedures–and you yourself–have stressed the seriousness of the situation in Darfur, and the climate of impunity that has prevented any effective action to date against those known to have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations in Darfur.
In introducing the resolution for the European Union, Britain’s UN Ambassador Sir Emyr Jones Parry confirmed that “civilians are still being killed, rape is still widespread, and the situation of hundreds of thousands of displaced people remains dire.” The resolution stressed “the continuing climate of impunity in the Darfur region, particularly in the area of violence against women and girls.”
Indeed, the situation in Darfur engages the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, as systematic and multiple rape seems to be increasingly used there as a weapon of war and terror. The use of rape in such circumstances has been recognized internationally as a war crime. Increased funding and practical and political support would be needed to enable the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women to intervene effectively in this situation.
Returning to the blocking of the resolution in the General Assembly, we note that the “No Action” motion has been repeatedly used in the Commission on Human Rights to prevent debate on serious human rights violations. If this culture of “No Action” spreads to the General Assembly’s discussion of human rights, there might be a permanent block on addressing such issues no matter what reform of the UN’s human rights architecture were undertaken.
Therefore we believe that there needs to be a serious examination of alternative approaches, in particular the strengthening of the mandate and independence of the Special Procedures. Ways in which non-governmental organizations can better facilitate the gathering of information needs to be examined as well as other forms of cooperation between Special Procedures and NGOs.
We know that you are concerned with the strengthening of the Special Procedures. The “No Action” blockage in the UN General Assembly may be the “writing upon the wall”, making this concern all the more essential. We would be happy to cooperate in your further consideration of these matters.
Association for World Education
Association of World Citizens
Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas, Inc.
Federation of Associations of Former International Civil Servants
International Association of Democratic Lawyers
International Federation of Social Workers
International Federation of University Women
International Humanist and Ethical Union
International Religious Liberty Association
Lutheran World Federation
United Nations Watch
Women’s International Zionist Organization
World Federation for Mental Health
World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women
World Union for Progressive Judaism