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Right Group Urges UN to Increase Pressure on Sudan

A U.S.-based human rights group is urging the U.N. Security Council to use its meeting this week in Nairobi to put pressure on Sudan to halt ethnic cleansing in the troubled Darfur region.

The organization Human Rights Watch has issued a 43-page report on the Darfur conflict, urging more forceful international action to end what is described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. Security Council holds a special meeting on Sudan in Nairobi this Thursday and Friday. Human Rights Watch wants the council to adopt a security plan to reverse ethnic cleansing in Darfur, where more than one and one-half million blacks have fled their homes to escape attacks by government-backed Arab militias, called the Janjaweed.

The chief Human Rights Watch researcher on Sudan, Jemera Rone, says that without international intervention, the ethnic cleansing may be impossible to reverse.

"People haven't been looking at the long term effects of this ethnic cleansing, which we are afraid will be consolidation of the ethnic cleansing if there isn't protection enough for people to return to their homes," she said.

Ms. Rone says the Sudanese government has also failed in its duty to investigate and prosecute officials linked to the human rights abuses in Darfur.

"No one has been prosecuted for the serious human rights abuses that have been committed in Darfur to date," said Jemera Rone. "The government rather complacently sits back and the officials fold their hands and they say: 'We don't know who these people are. The victims can't tell us the names of the perpetrators."

Human Right Watch says the Darfur rebels also bear some responsibility for the region's violence, including attacks on villages, forcing child soldiers to join the war, and cattle rustling.

Fighting broke out in Darfur early in 2003 when two black rebel groups took up arms against the ethnic-Arab government in Khartoum, saying the western desert region's needs were being ignored. In response, residents and international observers say the Janjaweed militia, backed by the Sudanese air force, began a campaign of arson, murder and rape in black villages across the region. The United Nations estimates 70,000 people have been killed in Darfur in the past 20 months.