Group Urges Envoys to Place Human Rights at Center of Sudan Summit
Group Urges Envoys to Place Human Rights at Center of Sudan Summit
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A leading human rights group is criticizing the ruling parties of Sudan for falling short on key reform provisions agreed to in the 2005 North-South peace deal and for neglecting the plight of the country's citizens. The criticism comes as top international envoys to Sudan are meeting in Moscow to discuss the strife-torn nation's path forward.

U.S. special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration is joining his counterparts from Russia, Britain, the U.K., France, China, the European Union, and a number of other countries to discuss the international community's approach to Sudan.

Representatives of the African Union and the League of Arab states, as  well as a number of key members of the NGO and academic world, are also participating in the summit.

The group Human Rights Watch is urging the envoys to place human rights at the center of their discussions.

A report released Tuesday by the organization accuses the Khartoum government of cracking down on political dissidents and of continuing to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the Western region of Darfur.

Human Rights Watch has harsh words for the South's semi-autonomous government as well, saying that it is failing to protect its own population against inter-ethnic militia attacks. The group also urges the United Nations operations in the country to offer better protection to civilians and to do a better job of monitoring and reporting the situation on the ground.

Tom Porteous, the London director of Human Rights Watch, says that the issues facing the diplomats gathering in Moscow are broader than any single crisis.  

"Rather than looking specifically at Darfur, or the situation in the South, or the situation in Khartoum, this report looks at the whole situation in the country," Porteous said.  "And essentially what we are saying is that whichever way the international community chooses to deal with Sudan, whether with sticks or with carrots - and surely a combination of both is what is required - they need to put human rights at the center of the policies and approaches."

The group also warns that the North and South are waning in their implementation of core elements of the peace deal, including border demarcation and the disarming of illegal militias.

Porteous warns that if the international players do not put a central focus on ending the repression and abuse of the Sudanese population, then little chance exists for a peaceful resolution to the country's ills.  

"Unless all these issues are addressed with an eye to the pretty dismal human rights record of the Sudanese government, but also of some of the other players, including the SPLM - unless that happens, then the future of Sudan will remain bleak, these processes won't actually work, and there is a real risk of an escalation of conflict, not only in Darfur but elsewhere," Porteous said.

The Human Rights Watch report is based upon field research and interviews conducted by the organization within Sudan during July and August this year.

A 2005 peace agreement ended a lengthy civil war between north and south Sudan. Analysts say extreme distrust between the two sides is severely undermining the chances of the deal to succeed.