17 February 2005
Secretary-General, High Commissioner for Human Rights Call for Urgent Action by Security Council to Halt Violence in Sudan
Secretary-General Says Full Range of Options Should Be on the Table
NEW YORK, 16 February (UN Headquarters) -- United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today called for urgent and concrete measures to bring the current violence in Darfur, Sudan, to an end and restore security and dignity to the people of that conflict-ridden region, as she presented the findings of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the Security Council.
The Commission, while concluding that the Government of the Sudan had not pursued a policy of genocide, had determined that large-scale war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed by Sudanese government officials and the Janjaweed militia, she said. In addition, murder, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and forced displacement continued to be committed against the people of Darfur.
The report eloquently and powerfully argued that referral to the International Criminal Court was the best means by which to halt ongoing violations, prevent future ones and bring alleged perpetrators to justice. Noting that the pursuit of justice was often said to clash with the pursuit of peace, she said the findings of the Commission irrefutably demonstrated that there was no hope for sustainable peace in Darfur without immediate access to justice.
Calling the Commissions report one of the most important documents in the recent history of the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the Council to act urgently to stop further death and suffering in Darfur, and to do justice for those for whom it was already too late. It makes chilling reading. And it is a call to urgent action, he stated.
This report demonstrates, beyond all doubt, that the last two years have been little short of hell on earth for our fellow human beings in Darfur, he continued. And despite the attention the Council had paid to that crisis, that hell continued today. The international community, led by the Council, must immediately find a way to halt the killing and protect the vulnerable. The full range of options should be on the table, including targeted sanctions, stronger peacekeeping efforts, new measures to protect civilians, and increased pressure on both sides for a lasting political solution.
When the Security Council met this afternoon on the Sudan, it had before it a letter dated 31 January 2005 from the Secretary-General addressed to the Council President transmitting the English language version of the Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (document S/2005/60). The Commissions mandate was to fulfil four key tasks: to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties; to determine whether or not acts of genocide have occurred; to identify the perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur; and to suggest means of ensuring that those responsible for such violations are held accountable.
Based on its investigations, the Commission established that the Government of the Sudan and the Janjaweed are responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to crimes under international law. In particular, government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur. These acts were conducted on a widespread and systematic basis and, therefore, may amount to crimes against humanity.
Government officials stated to the Commission that any attacks carried out by government armed forces in Darfur were for counter-insurgency purposes and were conducted on the basis of military imperatives. However, it is clear from the Commissions findings that most attacks were deliberately and indiscriminately directed against civilians. While the Commission did not find a systematic or a widespread pattern to these violations, it found credible evidence that rebel forces, namely, members of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice for Equality Movement (JEM), also are responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law which may amount to war crimes.
The Commission concluded that the Sudanese Government has not pursued a policy of genocide. The crucial element of genocidal intent appears to be missing, at least as far as the central government authorities are concerned. Generally speaking, the policy of attacking, killing and forcibly displacing members of some tribes does not evince a specific intent to annihilate, in whole or in part, a group distinguished on racial, ethnic, national or religious grounds. Rather, it would seem that those who planned and organized attacks on villages pursued the intent to drive the victims from their homes, primarily for purposes of counter-insurgency warfare.
Those identified as possibly responsible for the above-mentioned violations consist of individual perpetrators, including officials of the Government of the Sudan, members of militia forces, members of rebel groups, and certain foreign army officers acting in their personal capacity. The Commission has decided to withhold the names of these persons from the public domain, and instead will list the names in a sealed file that will be placed in the custody of the Secretary-General. The Commission recommends that this file be handed over to a competent Prosecutor, who will use that material as he or she deems fit for his or her investigations.
The Commission strongly recommends that the Security Council immediately refer the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court. As repeatedly stated by the Council, the situation constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Moreover, as the Commission has confirmed, serious violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law by all parties are continuing. The prosecution by the Court of persons allegedly responsible for the most serious crimes in Darfur would contribute to the restoration of peace in the region.
The Sudanese justice system is unable and unwilling to address the situation in Darfur. This system has been significantly weakened during the last decade. The measures taken so far by the Government to address the crisis have been both grossly inadequate and ineffective, which has contributed to the climate of almost total impunity for human rights violations in Darfur.
The Commission considers that the Security Council must act not only against the perpetrators, but also on behalf of the victims. It, therefore, recommends the establishment of a Compensation Commission designed to grant reparation to the victims of the crimes, whether or not the perpetrators of such crimes have been identified. It also recommends a number of serious measures to be taken by the Government of the Sudan, including ending the impunity for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur; strengthening the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and empowering courts to address human rights violations; and granting full and unimpeded access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations human rights monitors to all those detained in relation to the situation in Darfur.
The Commission also recommends a number of measures to be taken by other bodies to help break the cycle of impunity. These include the exercise of universal jurisdiction by other States, re-establishment by the Commission on Human Rights of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan, and public and periodic reports on the human rights situation in Darfur by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Appointed in October 2004, the Commission consists of Antonio Cassese (Chairperson), Mohamed Fayek, Hina Jilani, Dumisa Ntsebeza and Therese Striggner-Scott. While the Commission considered all events relevant to the current conflict in Darfur, it focused in particular on incidents that occurred between February 2003 and mid-January 2005.
Statement by Secretary-General
KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General, stressed that the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur was one of the most important documents in the recent history of the United Nations. It makes chilling reading. And it is a call to urgent action. The Commission had established that many people in Darfur had been the victims of atrocities perpetrated on a very large scale for which the Government of the Sudan and the Janjaweed were responsible, including war crimes, and very likely crimes against humanity.
He said the Commission had also found credible evidence that rebel forces were responsible for serious violations, which might amount to war crimes. And the Commission strongly recommended that the Council immediately refer the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court, to ensure that those responsible for those heinous crimes were held to account. It was vital that those crimes were not left unpunished.
But the call to urgent action did not stop there, he continued. Even as the Commission was conducting its inquiry, and since then, attacks on villages, killing of civilians, rape, pillaging and forced displacement had continued in Darfur. As others have said before me, while the United Nations may not be able to take humanity to heaven, it must act to save humanity from hell. The report demonstrated, beyond all doubt, that the last two years had been little short of hell on earth for our fellow human beings in Darfur. And despite the attention the Council had paid to that crisis, that hell continued today.
The international community, led by the Council, must immediately find a way to halt the killing and protect the vulnerable, he stated. The full range of options should be on the table, including targeted sanctions, stronger peacekeeping efforts, new measures to protect civilians, and increased pressure on both sides for a lasting political solution.
I will do my part to help develop such a strategy. But the power, and the responsibility, to do something about this grave crisis are in your hands, he stated. He called on the Council to act urgently to stop further death and suffering in Darfur, and to do justice for those for whom it was already too late.
Presentation of Report
LOUISE ARBOUR, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that one way to reduce the carnage in Darfur -- not the only way, but a credible and legitimate one -- was to remove from their positions those who had orchestrated or executed it. The Security Council had taken the lead in that regard through its call for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry in resolution 1564 last year. The findings of that Commission provided a blueprint for action now. Its recommendations were not merely of retrospective importance -- their implementation would not only do justice for the victims of the massive crimes committed in Darfur, but could actually contribute to reducing the exposure of thousands of prospective victims. That was the context in which todays call for action needed to be understood.
Highlighting the findings of that Commission, she said that they were clear and thoroughly documented. The Commission had found that large-scale war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed by Sudanese government officials and the Janjaweed militia. In particular, government forces and militias had, throughout Darfur, engaged in indiscriminate attacks against civilians, murder, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape, pillage and forced displacement. Those acts had taken place on a very large scale and in a systematic manner, and might, therefore, amount to crimes against humanity.
Consider the events in Kailek, a village in south Darfur mainly populated by people of the Fur tribe, she said. Kailek and surrounding villages were attacked twice by government forces and Janjaweed. Following the second attack in March 2004, the villagers had fled to the mountains where they were hunted down by mounted Janjaweed. The military shelled the area and machine-gunned those in flight. Some were captured and shot and killed. For a period of about 50 days, up to 30,000 people were confined in a small open area in Kailek, subjected to the most abhorrent treatment. Some men were singled out and summarily shot. There were reports of people being thrown onto fires and burnt alive. Women and children were separated out, confined in a walled area and periodically taken away by their captors to be raped. As evidenced in the Commissions report, the case of Kailek was not unique in todays Darfur.
With regard to the rebels, the Commission had found credible evidence that members of the SLA and JEM were also responsible for serious violations, which might amount to war crimes, she continued. In particular, those violations included cases of murder of civilians and pillaging. However, the Commission had not found a systematic or a widespread pattern to those violations.
The Commission had concluded that the Government of the Sudan had not pursued a policy of genocide, she said. In other words, it had not found a demonstrated, specific intention, expressed as a government policy, to exterminate, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, protected under the definition of genocide. It was important to stress, however, that nothing in the Commissions report precluded the possibility of individuals being convicted of acts of genocide in relation to the events in Darfur. Personal criminal responsibility was not determined by government policy. Furthermore, the Commissions conclusion that no genocidal policy had been pursued should not be taken as in any way detracting from, or belittling the gravity of the crimes perpetrated.
Having identified 51 individuals suspected of international crimes in Darfur, she continued, the Commission had decided to withhold their names from the public domain so as to respect the suspects right to due process and ensure the protection of witnesses. The names of those suspects were contained in a sealed file that had been placed in the custody of the Secretary-General to be handed over to a competent prosecutor. In addition, the Commission had handed to her a sealed file containing the evidentiary material it had collected, also to be delivered to a competent prosecutor.
On the steps by the Sudanese Government and judicial authorities to address those crimes, she said that they had been both unwilling and unable to act. The justice system had been significantly weakened during the last decade, and restrictive laws granting broad powers to the executive particularly had undermined the effectiveness of the judiciary. Many of the laws in force in the Sudan today contravened basic human rights standards, and the Criminal Procedure Code contained provisions that prevented effective prosecution of those crimes. In addition, many victims had informed the Commission that they had little confidence in the impartiality of the Sudanese justice system and its ability to bring to justice the perpetrators of serious crimes committed in Darfur. Many feared reprisals if they resorted to it.
Despite the magnitude of the crisis, the Government had informed the Commission of very few cases of individuals who had been prosecuted or even disciplined in the context of the situation in Darfur, she continued. Any new initiative proposed by the Government of the Sudan today to address those crimes could not be supported in the light of the Commissions conclusion that measures taken so far had been grossly inadequate. The extent of government officials involvement would appear to foreclose such options. The Commission had also excluded the possibility of establishing mixed courts, as well as an ad hoc international tribunal, or expansion of an existing tribunal. Ad hoc measures would likely prove unduly time-consuming and expensive.
The Commission had strongly recommended that the Council refer the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC), she said. That was the only credible way of bringing alleged perpetrators to justice. Activated by the Security Council referral, the ICC could be empowered to prosecute any persons for acts committed in Darfur, which amounted to any of the crimes listed under the Rome Statute. Designed, in part, for the purpose of addressing crimes, which threatened international peace and security, the ICC could be activated immediately. With an already existing set of well defined rules of procedure and evidence, the Court was the best institution to ensure speedy investigations leading to arrests and demonstrably fair trials.
The Commission urged the Council to act not only against the perpetrators, but also on behalf of victims, she said. It, therefore, proposed the establishment of an International Compensation Commission.
It appeared that crimes continued to be committed, on a widespread and systematic basis, against the people of Darfur, she added, by government officials and Janjaweed leaders, or those under their command. Members of rebel groups were also responsible for war crimes. What was most urgently needed were concrete measures to bring the current violence to an end and restore security and dignity to the people of Darfur. Among other possible immediate actions, she mentioned granting full and unimpeded access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations human rights monitors to all those detained by the authorities in relation to the situation in Darfur. Also needed was protection of witnesses and victims of human rights violations. Having written to the Government on those issues, she had already appointed a Witness Protection Officer to follow up on her reports of threats of harassment of victims and witnesses perceived to have cooperated with the Commission.
In conclusion, she said that the pursuit of justice was often said to clash with the pursuit of peace. Whatever the theoretical merit of that proposition, the findings of the Commission of Inquiry irrefutably demonstrated that there was no hope for sustainable peace in Darfur without immediate access to justice.
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