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UN Rights Expert Accuses Sudan of War Crimes

A United Nations human rights expert is calling on the international community to step up its pressure on the Sudanese government to stop, what he calls, the systematic rape of women and other abuses against civilian victims of the war in Darfur. The expert has submitted his report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission which is holding its annual session in Geneva.

The Independent Expert, Emmanuel Akwei Addo, calls the Sudanese government's response to the insurrection in Darfur ruthless and disproportionate. He accuses the government and its proxy fighters, the Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, of waging a systematic campaign against the unarmed civilian population.

He says this has resulted in an estimated 300,000 civilian deaths, in a million people becoming homeless and more than 200,000 others fleeing to neighboring Chad in search of asylum.

"Because of its tendency to produce indiscriminate and massive destruction, counterinsurgency warfare carried on with high technology weaponry that was unleashed by the Government of Sudan on its own citizens is inherently intolerable and repulsive," he said.

The independent expert says the Darfur peace process is in jeopardy. He notes the rebels walked out of talks in Abuja, Nigeria in protest against two weeks of an onslaught by the Sudanese government. He says the situation in Darfur seems to be deteriorating sharply.

Mr. Addo says there are strong indications that war crimes have been committed in Darfur. These include murder, torture, rape and intentional attacks against civilians and civilian objects.

"I consider also that crimes against humanity have been committed in Darfur," he said. "They include forcible displacement and rape committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population. There are strong indications of these crimes having been committed in Darfur by the Janjaweed."

Mr. Addo says the perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice. He notes Sudan for the first time has arrested military and security officials accused of rape, killing and burning villages in Darfur. He says a government committee reportedly has arrested 15 people in Darfur for human rights abuses and intends to send them to the International Criminal Court. He calls this a step in the right direction.

Sudan's response to the report has been generally conciliatory. A Sudanese Representative says his government will work closely with the U.N. Commission and with its partners in the comprehensive peace agreement. He says his government will work to protect and promote human rights in the entire country.