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Rights Group:  Sudan Incorporating Janjaweed Into Police Force - 2004-08-11

A leading human rights group says the Sudanese government is incorporating members of the Janjaweed militia into its official security forces. The allegation comes one day after humanitarian observers in Darfur reported a spate of helicopter gunship strikes against civilians in the troubled region.

Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth said that his investigators in the Darfur region of Sudan report that the Sudanese government is misleading the international community.

"The great irony here is that the government claims that it is disarming, demobilizing and withdrawing the Janjaweed," he said. "In fact, what we are finding is it is simply giving them fresh new uniforms, and declaring them to be official members of the Sudanese police or security forces. It then assigns these people the task of guarding, or so-called protecting, the people who they were just attacking. This is a classic case of asking the fox to guard the chicken coop."

Sudanese officials say they are taking steps to disarm the Arab militiamen who are accused of raping and killing tens of thousands of black civilians, and have dispatched 10,000 policemen to Darfur. The Security Council has demanded that Khartoum show concrete proof of the demobilization by the end of this month, or face possible sanctions.

But humanitarian observers say the atrocities are continuing. The United Nations in Geneva reported on Tuesday that helicopter gunships launched fresh attacks on internally displaced camps in Darfur. Amnesty International claims that the Janjaweed is still raping women and girls who leave their camps, and that the government arrested some two dozen people for speaking to foreign investigators and journalists about the current situation. The Sudanese government has denied the allegations.

Mr. Roth said that the reports are troubling.

"What is disturbing is that the Sudanese government seems to be putting much more effort into what you could call a public relations campaign than it is into really trying to curtail the atrocities in Darfur," he added.

The violence began about a year and a half ago. Human rights groups say the government has backed Arab fighters, commonly called the Janjaweed, in an what they call "ethnic cleansing" tactics against the black Muslim population in the region.

The United Nations estimates that 50,000 people have died and more than one million have been displaced in what many observers are calling the world's worst humanitarian crisis.