UN finds Sudan has carried out massive human rights violations in Darfur

Bertrand Ramcharan briefs the press

7 May 2004 – While black African rebels in western Sudan appear to have violated human rights in their quest for development, the Government of Sudan and its Arab proxy militia have responded with a "reign of terror" of massive human rights violations which "may constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity," according to a new United Nations report released today.

The Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, briefed the Security Council behind closed doors on the report, which was based on the work of a fact-finding team he sent last month to settlements in eastern Chad housing about 110,000 Sudanese refugees and then into strife-torn Darfur in western Sudan.

The report says the Government of Sudan should "unequivocally condemn all actions and crimes committed by the Janjaweed [militia] and ensure that all militias are immediately disarmed and disbanded." In addition, Khartoum should pursue a policy of reconciliation for Darfur, end impunity, promote the rule of non-discriminatory law and actively promote development programmes there.

The mission had no access to the rebels, but saw areas that the rebels had attacked and met two children who said they had been recruited as soldiers, the report says.

Many senior officials acknowledged that in an effort to fight rebel guerrillas with their own guerrillas, the Government had recruited, armed, supported and sponsored a loose collection of fighters of apparent Arab background now known as the Janjaweed, or sometimes the Fursan or the Peshmerga.

At a location for some of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), the mission met men in military uniforms on horseback who referred to themselves as Fursan.

"The Fursan said they were all Arabs and that they had been armed and paid by the government. They said they acted upon Government instructions," the report says.

A ceasefire launched on 11 April has been holding, with some incidents, but "according to information collected, it is clear that there is a reign of terror in Darfur," it says.

Elements of this terror include "repeated attacks on civilians by the Government of Sudan military and its proxy militia forces, the use of indiscriminate aerial bombardments and ground attacks on unarmed civilians; and the use of disproportionate force by the Government of Sudan and Janjaweed forces," the report says.

The report says the Darfur rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and later the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), both formed from among the black African Fur, Zaghawa and Masaalit peoples, initiated the conflict with similar demands - "for the Khartoum authorities to address the marginalization and underdevelopment of the region."

"It is the manner of response to this rebellion by the Government of Sudan which has led to the current crisis in Darfur," the report says.

"Following a string of SLA victories in the first months of 2003…what appears to have been an ethnically-based rebellion has been met with an ethnically-based response, building in large part on long-standing, but largely hitherto contained, tribal rivalries," the report says.

The Sudanese military and Janjaweed militia attacks on Sudan's Fur, Zaghawa and Masaalit civilians include killing, rape, pillage, including of livestock, and destruction of property, including water sources; and there has been massive, often forced, displacement, the report says.

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