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UN Human Rights Council Sending Investigators to Darfur


The 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council approved a resolution to send a high-level mission to investigate atrocities in Sudan's conflict-ridden Darfur Province. The compromise resolution was passed at the end of a two-day emergency session to deal with the worsening crisis in Darfur. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The U.N. Human Rights Council stopped short of condemning the government of Sudan for gross violations committed against civilians in Darfur. But, as the president of the council explains, that was not the purpose of the meeting.

Mexican Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba says the aim was to get all 47 members to agree to send an independent, credible mission to investigate the worsening abuses in Darfur. And, that, he says, has been accomplished. He calls the decision very important.

"Both because of its impact, which I hope is going to be very, very important on the situation in the ground, particularly, the possibility that our actions would lead to stop any violations of human rights immediately," de Alba says. "And, obviously be able to assess the situation and to contribute not only to the end of such violations, but also to be able to prevent violations to happen again."

De Alba says this decision might prove to be a turning point in the way the council works and is perceived. He believes the ability of the council to have an impact on serious human-rights situations around the world has been enhanced.

The council, which was created six months ago, has been heavily criticized for focusing almost exclusively on the human-rights situation of Israel and ignoring appalling situations of abuse found in places such as Darfur.

The United States, which has been very critical of the council and is not a member, also supports the decision. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Warren Tichenor calls the resolution a welcome first step.

"It is not all that we would have liked and it perhaps could have been a little stronger," Tichenor says. "But, the real emphasis is not on condemning or not the government of Sudan, it is instead to seek to improve the conditions there for stability, peace and restoration of human rights. While this is not a perfect resolution. It is, nonetheless, in our view a welcome first step."

Since war broke out in Darfur more than three years ago, about 200-thousand people have been killed and more than two million people have been forced to flee their homes. The Arab Janjaweed militia, backed by the Sudanese government, is accused of wide-scale atrocities against the civilian population, including murder, rape and pillaging of villages.

The president of the Council, Luis Alfonso de Alba, will be in charge of choosing the investigators that will go to Darfur. The resolution calls for a team of five highly qualified persons, plus the U.N.'s expert on rights in Sudan to probe the atrocities. The results of the mission will be reported at the next meeting of the council in March.

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