World and Nation

UN Council: Sudanese Gov’t Participated in Darfur Crimes

A U.N. Human Rights Council mission to Darfur said Monday that the Sudanese government had organized and taken part in human rights crimes against its own population, and that international action to stop the killings and rapes had been inadequate.

The government in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, “has manifestly failed to protect the population of Darfur from large-scale international crimes and has itself orchestrated and participated in these crimes,” the 35-page report said. It added that rebels were also to blame for abuses, including the rape and torture of civilians. The report urged the implementation of all resolutions from the U.N. Security Council and the African Union, “including those relating to travel bans and the freezing of funds, assets, and economic resources of those who commit violations.”

Human rights advocates welcomed the unusually tough tone of the report and its recommendations, but they warned that steps were already under way to block its effect when the report comes up for adoption by the Human Rights Council on Friday in Geneva.

The rights council has been widely criticized for being no more effective than the discredited Human Rights Commission it replaced this year. Taking action on Darfur is seen by rights groups as a measure of whether the council can start to build credibility during its formal session, the fourth it has held, which began Monday.

So far, all eight of the condemnations of human rights performance it has issued since its creation in June have been against one country, Israel.

The mission to Darfur, led by Jody Williams, an American campaigner against land mines and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was denied entry to Sudan by the government and had to base its report on interviews with refugees and aid workers, rebels across the border in Chad and officials of the African Union at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“This report is Jody Williams and her team members, and this is definitely not the council,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, an organization based in Geneva that monitors U.N. activity. “The council will probably throw this report into Lake Geneva.”

Reached at her home in Virginia, Williams said, “Given the hostility to the mission almost from the moment it was born, I would not be shocked if there were maneuvers not to allow the report to be presented.”

She said she was traveling to Geneva this week to lobby for the adoption of the report. “But I understand there has already been tabled a resolution to try to block the presentation of this report and call for a new quote, unquote balanced and objective mission,” she said.

The original decision to send the six-person team to Sudan was made only after a bitter debate among council members, with some Arab and African countries on the 47-member group protesting the singling out of Sudan.

Commenting on that, Williams said: “The most difficult part of this mission was not the travel or the worry about getting visas for Darfur, nor the interviewing of refugees and listening to five women out of 20 in the space of an hour about being gang-raped. It was dealing with the politics of the Human Rights Council from the minute I received the call.”