Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams, who led a UN Human Rights Council mission to Darfur but whose team was denied admission to the country, submitted her report to the UN on 12 March. Based on evidence collected in nearby countries and refugee camps in Eastern Chad, the report comprehensively condemns the Sudanese government for its failure to protect its civilian population, accusing it of acting in concert with its proxy militias in human rights abuse in Darfur where some 200,000 people have died since the revolt began in 2003.
After Sudan refused to grant visas to the mission, one team member, Ambassador Wibisono of Indonesia dropped out. Moves are now afoot within the Human Rights Council to refuse to consider the report on the grounds that, since the team was incomplete and did not actually visit Sudan, it was unable to complete its mandate.
This cynical disregard for the Council’s responsibilities and abuse of process is likely to win the day at the Council since the Islamic States and their fellow travellers including China and India who have consistently supported Sudan over Darfur hold a majority of the votes.
Speaking at the Council on Thursday 15th March in a debate following the presentation of the annual report by the High Commission on Human Rights, Roy Brown, IHEU main representative in Geneva, demanded that if the Council refused to consider the report on Darfur, there should be “no more compromise resolutions ‘congratulating’ the Government of Sudan on its ‘efforts’, but a clear condemnation of its failure to cooperate with the Council. Such a resolution may not be adopted, but only by having a recorded vote will those states who continue to support the Sudanese government over Darfur be exposed to world view – and to judgement at the bar of world opinion”.
The full text of Roy Brown’s statement and the text of a statement by the Association for World Education are given below.
You can read the full text of the 35-page UN report A/HRC/4/80 at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/12_03_07_un_sudan.pdf
Human Rights Council, Fourth Session 14-30 March 2007, 7th meeting, 15 March (a.m.) 2007
Statement by IHEU main representative, Roy W. Brown, 15 March 2007
The International Humanist and Ethical Union welcomes the statement by the High Commissioner, and in particular, her reference to the need to involve civil society, NGOs and national human rights institutions in the universal periodic reviews, since it is these representatives of civil society who are best placed to expose human rights violations, to judge progress, and to propose corrective measures where necessary. But none of these measures will be of any avail unless the governments concerned are prepared to cooperate with the Council and its independent experts.
There is one issue that is hanging over the Council like the sword of Damocles. We all know what it is. If a state has something to hide it will always find reasons not to co-operate with the Council, whether it be with a periodic review, with special rapporteurs or with a commission of inquiry. As the German Foreign Minister, Dr Steinmeyer said on Monday, the member states of the Council must not fall back on their affiliation to regional blocks and interest groups. He said: “There should be only one type of solidarity here, and that is solidarity with the cause of human rights”.
Mr President, the Human Rights Council is barely one year old and it already has a major credibility problem. The reputation of the Council will be determined by its response to the crisis in Darfur. If the Council fails to consider the report of the High-Level Mission, let there be no more compromise resolutions congratulating the government of Sudan for its “efforts”, but a clear condemnation of its failure to cooperate with the Council. Such a resolution may not be adopted, but only by having a recorded vote will those states who continue to support the Sudanese government over Darfur be exposed to world view – and to judgement at the bar of world opinion.
ASSOCIATION FOR WORLD EDUCATION
Human Rights Council, Fourth Session 14-30 March 2007
Statement by AWE representative, David G. Littman, 15 March 2007
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louis Arbour’s Annual Report and interactive dialogue
Madame High Commissioner,
In your statement, you refer to the mission mandated by the Council on Darfur. We would like to ask for your evaluation of the effectiveness of your staff in providing current and future support for advancing human rights in Darfur, as well as the 115 recommendations to the Government of Sudan to stop the ongoing tragedy.
In our written statement to the 61st session of the Commission we reproduced the URGENT APPEAL we sent to Secretary-General Kofi Annan nearly three years ago on 13 May 2004. We there quoted his historic words of contrition, delivered on 7 April 2004 to the 59th Commission on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide:
“We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenceless men, women and children who perished in Rwanda ten years ago…we must all acknowledge our responsibility for not having done more to prevent or stop genocide.”
A month later, the High Commissioner’s Report on Darfur was released, and the then Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Dr Bertrand Ramcharan firmly stressed the situation in its harshest light:
“First, there is a reign of terror in this area; second, there is a scorched-earth policy; third, there is repeated war crimes and crimes against humanity; and fourth, this is taking place under our eyes.”
In our written statement last year to the final session of the Commission we reproduce the letter sent to you, Madam, on 2 Dec. 2005 by 22 NGOs following the General Assembly ‘No Action’ vote on Darfur. Our appeal to you on 23 May 2006, signed by 43 NGOs, concludes:
“We believe that the role of the new Human Rights Council will be, in part, tested by the way the Darfur conflict is faced.”
On 29 November at the Council we quoted your dire warning: “Action must be taken now to stop the killings and displacement.” You also insisted that “the ongoing atrocities must stop.” And the message to the Council that same morning by the then Secretary-General stressed that the situation in Darfur “would merit scrutiny at a special session.”
Finally, following the special session on Darfur, a High Level Mission was appointed, which issued a 35 page Report on Darfur 2 days ago. The report confirmed that::
“The situation is characterized by gross and systematic violations of human rights and grave breaches of international humanitarian law. War crimes and crimes against humanity continue across the region.”
The overwhelming majority of NGOs and delegates here present are, surely, firmly convinced that the Council should endorse the recommendations made by the High Level Mission, despite the fact that one of its members did not participate in the work of the Mission. It is crucial for its own survival that the Council be seized by the ongoing tragedy of Darfur without further delay. Madame, if there were to be a procedural Gordian knot on the Darfur Report, would you like to comment on how it could be cut, so that the Council will not – as is feared – out-commission the Commission.
Thank you, Madam.