A United Nations watchdog committee has condemned Sudan for widespread and systematic human rights violations and urged the government to prosecute war crimes.  The U.N. Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has wrapped up a three-week session in which it examined the records of three countries including Sudan.  Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The 18-member expert body expresses concern about a wide-range of human rights abuses in Sudan, especially in the conflict-ridden province of Darfur. 

It says violations, including murder, rape, forced displacement, the recruitment of child soldiers and attacks against the civil population, have been and continue to be committed with total impunity.  The group says the abuses occur throughout Sudan and particularly in Darfur.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee urges the Sudanese government to follow up on the allegations arising out of the situation in Darfur.  Vice-Chairman of the Committee, Ivan Shearer, says Khartoum must prosecute these crimes without amnesty and must distance itself from militias. 

"Ensure that no financial support or material is channeled to militias that engage in ethnic cleansing or the deliberate targeting of civilians," he noted.  "This has been a major problem in Sudan, that more or less covert assistance has been given to certain elements that have been pursuing gross violations of human rights and so on and gross violations of international humanitarian law."

The United Nations estimates 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million have been displaced during the conflict in Darfur.

This is the first time in a decade that Sudan's human rights record has come under review by the U.N. Committee.  Vice-Chairman, Ahmed Tawfik Khalil, says the 18 independent experts and Sudanese officials who presented the report had a frank and fruitful discussion.

He says the government gave the impression that it was trying to improve the human rights situation, although it agreed that a lot remained to be done.

"And, they have given us assurances that they will do their best as the representative of the Sudan to continue along this path.  But, I think, having said that, no one could really turn a blind eye of what is happening there," he added. 

The U.N. Human Rights Committee is also urging the government of Sudan to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, to make sure that all human rights violations are investigated, and that those responsible for such violations are prosecuted at national or international level.

The Committee told Khartoum to report back in a year on its progress in addressing its most important concerns.