Thursday, November 04, 2004

 

Lest we forget

Kofi Annan has this sobering reminder for President Bush and the rest of the U.N. leaders of the crises facing our world.

Annan: Stop Sudan's war crimes now

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- There are strong indications that war crimes have been committed "on a large and systematic scale" in Sudan's Darfur region, where violence is getting worse and two million people have now been affected by the conflict, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Annan accuses the Sudanese government of failing to bring the perpetrators of widespread killings, rapes, looting and village burnings to justice -- a charge he has made in recent months while urging the international community to tackle with the crisis.

Jan Pronk, the top U.N. envoy to Sudan who wrote the report, will present it to the council on Thursday.

It recommends that members take "prompt action" to get the government and rebels to comply with U.N. resolutions demanding an end to the violence, punishment of those responsible and disarmament of combatants.

Until the government starts taking more than "pinprick" action against the perpetrators, the report warns, no displaced person will dare return home and no group will agree to disarm.
"Without an end to impunity ... banditry goes from strength to strength, menacing the population and obstructing the delivery of aid to desperate people in isolated areas," it says.
The violence in Darfur began in January 2003 when two black African rebel groups took up arms over alleged unjust treatment by the Sudanese government and ethnic Arab countrymen. Pro-government militias called Janjaweed reacted by unleashing attacks on villages.

The conflict, which has killed at least 70,000 people, has created what U.N. officials say is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

An international commission appointed by Annan began work on October 25 and has three months to study human rights violations and determine whether or not a genocide occurred in Darfur.

"There are strong indications that war crimes and crimes against humanity have occurred in Darfur on a large and systematic scale," the report says. "This has been confirmed by a number of senior U.N. human rights experts who have visited the region."

There have been reports that armed men dug up a grave containing 40 bodies in Souba, North Darfur and have been seen working on another site in an apparent attempt to hide evidence of mass killings, it says.

During October, security conditions in Darfur deteriorated, cease-fire violations increased on both sides, violence escalated and toward the end of the month, the threat of large scale attacks increased considerably, the report says.

The estimate of people in Darfur affected by the conflict rose from 1.8 million on September 1 to two million on October 1, an upwards trend expected to continue until the end of the year.
The increase stems mainly from the growing number of internally displaced people, now 1.6 million, reflecting "the severity of the protection and security situation in Darfur," Pronk said.
"A further 400,000 people are currently assessed to be affected by the conflict and in need of humanitarian assistance."

The U.N. envoy noted that the two million figure is a 100 percent increase in the number of people needing humanitarian assistance since April.

Donors have funded 75 percent of the money needed for Darfur this year -- $397 million of $534 million -- and he appealed for the rest.

The report calls for stepped up efforts to end the conflict in Darfur and the 21-year civil war between the government and rebels in southern Sudan and urged all countries to use their influence to achieve peace.

The Security Council will be holding a rare meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, where talks to end the civil war are taking place, on November 18-19.

The report says the Nairobi talks were proceeding well and expressed hope that a final agreement can be reached by the end of the year and "serve as a model for Darfur."
It called for the government and rebels from Darfur now meeting in Nigeria to quickly start political negotiations, "which would enable them to reach agreement on all other outstanding issues."

U.S. Ambassador John Danforth, the current Security Council president, said Wednesday the council trip's aim was to show the Sudanese what the country would look life if there were peace -- including international guarantees of a peace agreement, international monitoring to development assistance.

But he warned that this "carrot" -- the offer of international help -- would not "be there forever" and "if we are pushed away by either side" then the international community would turn to other pressing global issues.

Find this article at: http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/africa/11/03/sudan.darfur.ap/index.html


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