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Sudan: Pledging conference must commit to increasing protection of civilians in Darfur

As a critical pledging conference between the European Union and African Union opens today in Brussels, Amnesty International released a paper which called for a strengthening and reinforcement of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) so that its troops can start effectively protecting civilians in Darfur.

Despite the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement in May 2006, and the deployment of AMIS since June 2004, the humanitarian crisis in this area remains catastrophic, with abuses against civilians continuing on a massive scale.

Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office, Dick Oosting said:

"Amnesty International supports the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force with a strong mandate, but in the meantime it is vital that AMIS is strengthened, so that it can begin to provide effective protection."

In its paper, entitled Sudan: protecting civilians in Darfur, Amnesty presents ten recommendations aimed at ensuring that a peacekeeping force in Sudan is prepared and capable of protecting civilians.

These include a call on donors to ensure that AMIS forces are expanded; that AMIS have increased material resources such as communication and transport capabilities so that they can anticipate and act on imminent attacks and also provide adequate protection, especially to Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls. The ability to patrol supply routes regularly, so that these remain open and safe, is another major concern in a region where at least two million people are totally dependent on humanitarian aid.

Dick Oosting said:

"Again we see that people asking for help have been turned away because the troops were either not able or prepared to give them the protection they need.

“Donors can make a great difference at this conference by giving a strong political signal that Sudan must give free access to peacekeeping troops in all areas of Darfur, as well as by providing more resources.”

At present on the ground the troops have been obstructed by a shortage of personnel as well as technical and logistic capacities. There has also been a failure on the part of the troops to act strongly to protect civilians.

The organisation said that the expansion of AMIS must also enable it to deploy troops along the border with Chad to prevent cross-border incursions by Janjawid militia, of which Amnesty highlighted in its report published last month.

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