Sudan: Time is running out for 2 million people in Darfur

Civilians are still being attacked in Darfur, west Sudan, and the international community has failed to make the Sudanese government understand that these attacks must stop, said Amnesty International today (17 December 2004) as its members delivered a new report to the Sudanese ambassador in London.

The human rights organisation called on the international community to ensure the African Union force in Darfur is more quickly deployed, and to increase the number of human rights monitors in the region.

The report Darfur: What hope for the future? The need to protect civilians describes continuing attacks on civilians.

Displaced people, who have already been forced to flee several times, are still being attacked in the places they seek refuge. They find that the government and the police who should be protecting them are the ones who are bulldozing their shelters and expelling them.

Most of the few who do dare to go home end up returning to the camps for the displaced, feeling vulnerable and unprotected from the militias who attack them.

In December 2004, 1.65 million people from Darfur are displaced within the region, and more than 200,000 have fled to Chad. Others have temporarily settled in towns or villages or are eking out a precarious existence in the bush eating wild seeds and fruit.

Erwin van der Borght, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Program, said:

“The passivity of the UN Security Council, which made a priority of the North-South peace process during its November session in Nairobi, has been interpreted by warring parties in Darfur as a signal that they can continue with their attacks.”

Erwin van der Borght also criticised the slow deployment of the African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS):

“The AMIS monitors and troops are already said to be taking a more proactive role in protecting civilians, but their deployment has been slow; their recommendations are not acted on and even their reports on ceasefire violations are usually blocked by the parties to the conflict. As a result, their presence has neither improved security for civilians, nor has AMIS so far been functioning as a deterrent to attacks.”

Most displaced people in Sudan are hoping to return home one day but are strongly dissuaded by the lack of security. One man in Riyad camp in al-Jeneina told Amnesty International:

“We will wait a few more months, and if there is no security in Darfur, we will go to Chad.”

Amnesty International is calling for the rapid implementation of the enhanced African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS).

The mission’s speedy deployment throughout Darfur will enable it to act more effectively in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians and investigate violations of the ceasefire and humanitarian law. Strong political support for AMIS is necessary to ensure that its reports on such violations are addressed.

Amnesty International is also calling for an increase in the numbers of UN human rights monitors. They have been able to follow up on many cases of arrests and rape, but still number only nine in the Darfur, a region the size of France.

The organisation is also calling for the police component, set up in October by the African Union Peace and Security Council, to be attached to Sudanese police forces in every locality in order to assist, monitor and act as a visible presence to give confidence to the displaced.

The report will be available from www.amnesty.org

Notes for editors

Media information, copies of report, and photos from Sudanese embassy protest will be available from the Amnesty International UK Media Unit.

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