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UN move to withdraw from Chad puts thousands at risk

An imminent UN Security Council resolution to withdraw peacekeeping troops from eastern Chad will put the safety of thousands of refugees and other vulnerable groups at risk, Amnesty International has warned.

The resolution, sparked by a demand from the Chadian government earlier this year that the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) leaves the region, is likely to be adopted by the UN Security Council by Wednesday.

Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International's Africa director, said:

“The Security Council's decision to withdraw peacekeepers is premature and dangerous. It will increase insecurity in the area and undermine attempts to provide emergency humanitarian assistance.

“MINURCAT has demonstrated it is able to play a significant role in bolstering security and human rights protection in eastern Chad. This is not the time for the Chadian government to pull the plug on MINURCAT and the Security Council should stand up for the vulnerable Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, men and young people in the region.”

Amnesty International currently has a team on the ground in Chad looking into the human rights situation of displaced people and refugees. There are approximately 250,000 Darfuri refugees, 165,000 displaced Chadians and hundreds of thousands of other Chadians living in the region where MINURCAT troops have been deployed.

The proposed resolution lays out a timetable for an immediate reduction of UN troops in the region, leading to the complete withdrawal of troops by the end of the year.   

The Chadian government has insisted it will ensure the protection of vulnerable people in the region without UN assistance. However, it has provided no plan about how it intends to immediately replace the UN mission.

Meanwhile, little has been done by Chadian authorities or UN officials to involve refugees, displaced Chadians or the local population in discussions about the crucial issue.   

Erwin van der Borght said:

"It is wholly unacceptable that this resolution is taking place before the Chadian government has shown it has a concrete plan in place to provide security, and it is deeply disturbing that those whose rights are on the line have essentially been cut out of the debate.

“None of the important benchmarks previously recommended by the UN Secretary-General and endorsed by the Security Council have been met. The fact that the UN is being pushed out of the country long before the mission has succeeded sets a very worrying precedent for human rights protection and undermines the UN’s authority and credibility.”

The UN resolution was provoked by a demand from the Chadian government for the UN to withdraw when the mission’s mandate was up for renewal on 15 March 2010.  Two short extensions were granted through to 15 May and then to 26 May while negotiations were ongoing between the Chadian government, the government of the Central African Republic, and UN Security Council members.

According to reports, the draft Security Council resolution calls on the Chadian government to submit a plan to the UN by the end of July detailing how it will ensure ongoing support for a new Chadian police force, the Integrated Security Detachment (Détachement intégré de sécurité, “DIS”), which was set up with UN financing, training and logistical support.  However, there does not seem to be a timetable for any other measures expected of the Chadian government.   

The reduced number of UN troops remaining in the country during the phased withdrawal will no longer have a wide mandate to protect civilians.  That will be the full responsibility of Chadian authorities but there is no indication as to whether they will live up to that responsibility.

Amnesty International is also concerned at how the resolution will affect the UN mission to protect human rights in the northwestern region of the Central African Republic.

It will be impossible for the UN to maintain its presence in the Central African Republic without the logistical support and infrastructure offered from UN bases in Chad.  The resolution therefore mandates a withdrawal of UN troops from the Central African Republic.

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