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UN High Commissioner Sees Slight Hope For Darfur

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, says she sees little cause for optimism in the unfolding tragedy in Darfur. But she says recent, more vigorous efforts to find a political solution to the four-and-one-half year old conflict is giving rise to an element of hope. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The chief U.N. human rights official, Louise Arbour, says recent reports on the human rights situation in Darfur do not give cause for great optimism that things are turning around for the better. She says human rights violations continue to be widespread and horrific.

She says internally displaced people in the camps continue to be targeted and women, in particular, continue to be victims of sexual abuse.

In addition, she says there has been very little progress to combat the culture of impunity. She says people accused of crimes are rarely, if ever, prosecuted.

"Again, within a human rights framework, very little indication of a change of attitude for the better on the part of the government of Sudan to respond to the warrants issued by the International Criminal Court," she said. "So there is a whole range of issues on which, I think, from a human rights point of view there is not much positive news to report."

On the other hand, Arbour says the slightly more energized peace process presents an element of hope.

During his recent trip to Sudan, U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon announced renewed peace talks between the Sudanese government and eight key rebel groups will begin October 27 in Libya.

The U.N. High Commissioner says inclusion of the rebel groups in these talks and the future deployment of a 26,000 strong African Union - U.N. hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur could create a new momentum toward peace.

"I think these two initiatives certainly give cause for some optimism that the human rights situation could improve, certainly with the deployment of a larger hybrid force to deploy some elements of protection into the region," she said. "And, we will see how the Human Rights Council will continue to monitor and oversee the human rights issues in parallel to these political and peacekeeping efforts."

The Human Rights Council is in the midst of a three-week session to examine human rights abuse around the world. Several months ago, the Council held a special session on the situation in Darfur. Arbour says she expects the 47-member body will take other initiatives on Darfur in the future.