Sudan: Civilians in Darfur held hostage to deadlock between Sudan and the UN

Amnesty to take part in Global Day for Darfur, Sunday 17 September

The people of Darfur are effectively being held hostage to the deadlock between the UN, the African Union and the Sudanese government – in defiance of international revulsion at the suffering of ordinary Darfuris, Amnesty International said today.

The statement came as a high-level meeting began at the UN to discuss the continuing refusal of Sudan to allow deployment of UN peacekeepers to the troubled region of Darfur, despite a UN Security Council resolution deciding on such deployment.

Sudanese officials recently threatened to remove African Union (AU) forces if the AU agreed to hand over to the UN. The government has begun a military offensive in North Darfur, which includes serious violations of international humanitarian law, such as the bombing of civilian areas. Troops and military equipment are arriving on a daily basis, according to eyewitnesses.

Amnesty International Secretary-General, Irene Khan said:

"Every day we are receiving more and more names of civilians killed and reports of fresh displacement in the context of the current Sudanese government offensive in Darfur.

"If the Sudanese government continues to refuse UN peacekeepers, the Security Council should immediately impose targeted sanctions against Sudanese officials."

Sudan’s rejection of UN peacekeeping in Darfur comes at a critical stage as the mandate of the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMIS) is due to expire on 30 September. This could lead to a protection vacuum for civilians in Darfur who will be further exposed to serious human rights violations by both the Sudanese forces and the government-controlled Janjawid.

The Sudanese government appears to have been emboldened by the tacit support it received from Russia, China and Qatar, the three members of the UN Security Council who abstained from voting for last week’s resolution establishing UN peacekeepers for Darfur.

Irene Khan said:

"Russia, China and Arab leaders should work hard to get Sudan’s consent for a UN peacekeeping force, instead of bickering over the timing of the UN Security Council resolution.

"The Sudanese government has persistently failed in its duty to protect civilians in Darfur from gross and systematic human rights violations. That responsibility has now devolved to the international community. The people of Darfur need the international community to stand united behind the only option that can offer them effective protection -- and they need maximum pressure to be put on Sudan’s government to accept a UN force."

This Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people in more than 30 countries across the globe, including the UK are expected to take part in a Global Day of Action for Darfur which will call for UN peacekeepers to be allowed to enter the region immediately.

Expected to be the world’s largest demonstration calling for the protection of the people of Darfur since the conflict began, hundreds of Amnesty International activists from across the UK will join hundreds of others for a demonstration outside the Sudanese Embassy to reiterate the call for an immediate deployment of a UN peacekeeping force into Darfur.

Find out more about the Global Day for Darfur and take action

Background

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1706 on 31 August 2006, inviting the Sudanese government to consent to a UN peacekeeping mission that would expand the UN's presence in Sudan to Darfur. Thus far, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has strongly rejected the resolution.

The rejection of a UN protection force by the Sudanese government is at odds with the position of the general population. Civilians in Darfur want a UN force to protect them more effectively than the African Union peacekeepers presently on the ground.

All the Darfur rebel groups – including the ex-rebel faction of Minni Minawi, now in government – have declared their support for UN peacekeepers. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which represents southern Sudan and is a partner in the Sudanese government, has also declared itself in favour of a UN force in Darfur, as have most Sudanese political parties.

The African Union is also favouring a handover of its peacekeeping mission in Darfur to the UN, which would be better equipped to protect civilians.

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