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UN Expert Blames Sudan for Darfur Atrocities - 2004-08-07

A United Nations human rights investigator says it is "beyond doubt" that the government of Sudan is responsible for atrocities against civilians in Darfur. The investigator submitted a report of her findings from a June visit to Sudan to the U.N. Human Rights sub-commission meeting in Geneva.

In her 26-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, investigator Asma Jahangir says there is no doubt that the government of Sudan is responsible for the current humanitarian disaster unfolding in Darfur and extrajudicial and summary executions of large numbers of people over the last few months.

She also says the government's actions in Darfur have put millions of civilians at risk, making it likely that many will die of starvation and disease in the months to come.

Ms. Jahangir, a Pakistani lawyer, has been the U.N. special investigator on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for the past seven years. During her 13-day visit to Sudan in June, she met with government officials, rebels, members of human rights groups, aid agencies and Sudanese civilians.

Ms. Jahangir says there is overwhelming evidence that the killing of civilians was carried out in a coordinated manner by the government's armed forces and the government-backed militia known as the Janjaweed. She says they appear to have been carried out in a systematic manner.

The United Nations describes Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. It estimates that up to 50,000 people have been killed since war broke out 18 months ago between two black African rebel groups and the Arab Janjaweed militia. The United Nations says more than one million people have fled their villages and another 200,000 have sought refuge in neighboring Chad.

A U.N. spokesman, Jose Diaz, notes that the U.N. Security Council's passage of a resolution demanded that Khartoum rein in the militia in Darfur and that U.N. observers be sent to the region to monitor the process.

"The Security Council adopted a resolution, which welcomed the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to send observers to Sudan, and called on the government to cooperate with the High Commissioner in the deployment of those observers," he explained. "Also, in that resolution, the council demanded that the government of Sudan fulfill its commitments to disarm the Janjaweed militias, and apprehend and bring to justice the militias' leaders and their associates."

The team of eight human rights observers is expected to be in place on Sunday.

U.N. investigator Jahangir says she is seriously concerned at what she calls the very slow and negligent reaction of the Sudanese toward the situation unfolding in Darfur. She says this reaction flies in the face of the huge international outcry, and indicates either complete disrespect for the right to life of the population of Darfur or, at worst, complicity in the events.

She calls for an end to all attacks against the civilian population. She says the government must disarm all militias and must make sure that aid agencies have access to people in need.