Darfur? Leave it to the Sudanese

  • Date / 28 September 2006

According to Sima Samar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, the people there have seen little change in their everyday life since the formation of the Government of National Unity. In Darfur, she said, the Government had failed in its responsibility to protect the population from attacks in areas where it had control. In rebel-held area, there were breaches of the ceasefire agreements by all parties and violations of obligations under international humanitarian law had exacerbated the suffering.

The emergency laws are still in place in Darfur and the East, people are arbitrarily arrested and held incommunicado by security forces; torture, ill-treatment and killings of civilians continue. The right to life continues to be violated. The perpetrators are government forces, militia and armed groups such as rebel factions and Chadian opposition. Rape and sexual violence against women continues. The National Security service continues to detain and torture suspects. Access to detention facilities is generally denied to independent observers. New laws have been introduced which limit the fundamental freedoms of expression and association. The culture of impunity for the security forces remains unchanged.

Since the signing of the Dafur Peace Accord in June the security situation in Darfur has markedly deteriorated with increasing attacks against aid workers. According to Amnesty International, the Sudanese air force had been bombing indiscriminately in Darfur and the plight of the civilian population had become even worse than before.

It is against this background that we heard at the Human Rights Council on 27th September the congratulatory comments addressed to the Sudanese government by delegates from Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco and others, while many states expressed confidence in the ability of the Sudanese government to “find solutions” to its problems. Egypt commended the “intensive efforts” of the Sudanese government to implement the peace agreements for Southern Sudan and Darfur while reaffirming the capability of the African States to resolve African issues.

The message from the Arab and African countries was clear. This was a regional problem and the region, including the government of the Sudan, was quite capable of solving it without outside interference. The West can keep out.

It was left to the Australian ambassador to suggest that the government should stop bombing its own civilian population.

Darfur and the Human Rights Council

It is hard to understand the reluctance of many Arab and African states to speak out more clearly against the actions of the Sudanese government who, while not alone in pursuing this war – the rebel forces have also been responsible for countless atrocities – must bear a large part of the responsibility.

It is interesting to compare the behaviour of the UN Human Rights Council towards the Sudan with its behaviour towards Israel. The Israeli onslaught on Lebanon this summer lasted 34 days and killed about 1,000 Lebanese. In response, the Human Rights Council was called into special session and condemned the Israeli onslaught without reservation. The onslaught against the black Sudanese has gone on now for over 1,000 days with an average daily loss of life three times higher than that in the Lebanon. Yet neither the old Human Rights Commission nor the new Human Rights Council has breathed a word of condemnation against the Sudanese government. One of the problems in the Sudan, of course, is that it is Muslims killing Muslims, so the Islamic States, unable to blame the West for the carnage, remain silent.

At the end of the eight-hour session of the Council on 27th September, the NGOs were given 20 minutes to air their views. I was down to speak 13th on the list, but time ran out. The question I wanted to ask was this. Why do the Islamic States not do more to support international efforts to bring security and aid to the millions of Muslims suffering in Darfur? Why are they opposing the idea of a stronger international force that could actually help bring an end to the suffering? The glue binding these dubious regimes together really does seem to be stronger than their concern for people.

Roy Brown

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