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Human Rights Watch Says Rights Suffers Setback in Darfur

The international group Human Rights Watch has accused the United Nations Human Rights Council of letting Sudan off the hook for continuing human rights abuse in Darfur. The group criticized the Council for passing a watered down resolution that fails to address the crisis in the troubled region. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The Human Rights Council did not renew the mandate of a panel of experts that had been formed to help the government of Sudan implement recommendations to improve the human rights situation in Darfur.

Human Rights Watch says a strong resolution proposed by European countries was shelved in favor of a much weaker one supported by the African group in the council.

As a result, it says the council has squandered the good work done by the seven-member Darfur experts' group. Human Rights Watch official, Juliette de Rivero, says the council's eagerness to pass the resolution by consensus comes at the expense of human rights objectives.

"It might be a diplomatic triumph, but in human rights terms the text that we have and the decisions that have resulted are very weak for implementation on the ground in Darfur," said de Rivero. "In a way, we see that the way that the negotiations have developed have led to some sort of appeasement of Sudan and its allies. And, we think that this is unfortunate for the Council."

The Darfur experts' group has criticized Sudan for failing to implement most of the recommendations made by human rights investigators. It has expressed particular concern over Sudan's failure to bring perpetrators of past and ongoing human rights violations to justice.

It noted that killings of civilians, attacks against villages and widespread sexual abuse and rape continue in Darfur without anyone being held accountable.

In a news conference, the president of the Human Rights Council, Doru Costea, said the credibility of the Council depends on objective examination and not on achieving consensus at any price.

The council did agree to a second resolution to extend for one year the mandate of an expert to address the human rights situation in all of Sudan.

Among her many duties, de Rivero says, the expert has been asked to help the Sudanese government implement recommendations on Darfur. In effect, she says, the work of the seven-member expert group has been unloaded onto one person.

"And, that is our main concern," said de Rivero. "We have gone from seven people examining the situation in Darfur to one person having to examine the situation in Darfur and the rest of Sudan. So, obviously, her mandate and her capacity to do all her work has also been undermined. So, for us it really is a setback."

Meanwhile, the council decided to take action on the crisis in Burma. It adopted a resolution, which calls for the release of all those detained in connection with the recent protests. It also calls for the release of political detainees and pro-democracy leader Aung San Sui Kui.

The resolution asks the special UN investigator, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, to conduct a follow-up mission to Burma to document human rights violations.