Annan appoints five-member panel to probe possible genocide in Darfur, Sudan

Kofi Annan (centre) with four commission members

7 October 2004 – Secretary-General Kofi Annan today announced the formal establishment of a commission of inquiry to determine whether acts of genocide have occurred in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, selecting an Italian judge and professor to lead the probe.

The five-member commission will also investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by all parties in Darfur, where Janjaweed militias stand accused of killing and raping thousands of villagers after local rebel groups took up arms against the Sudanese Government.

Mr. Annan set up the inquiry after the Security Council requested he do so in a resolution adopted last month on the humanitarian and security crises engulfing Darfur, a vast and impoverished region in western Sudan.

About 1.45 million people are internally displaced within Darfur and another 200,000 are living as refugees in neighbouring Chad, and UN officials have described the situation as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Under the Security Council resolution, the commission is also mandated to identify the perpetrators of any acts of genocide “with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.”

Prof. Antonio Cassese of Italy, the first President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), will be the commission’s chairman. Professor Cassese has taught international law in Italy and the United Kingdom and also served on human rights committees for the Council of Europe.

The other members are Diego Garcia-Sayán of Peru, Mohammed Fayek of Egypt, Hina Jilani of Pakistan and Thérese Striggner Scott of Ghana. Dumisa Ntsebeza of South Africa will act as Executive Director, heading the technical team that supports the commission.

Mr. Garcia-Sayán is a former Foreign Affairs and Justice Minister of Peru, a legal professor for nearly 20 years and a UN negotiator during the Guatemalan peace talks in the early 1990s.

Mr. Fayek is Secretary-General of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization (NGO) and has served as both a minister and as a presidential adviser during his time in the Egyptian parliament.

Ms. Jilani has been the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders since August 2000. She has a long record as a human rights lawyer and activist in Pakistan and started the country’s first firm of women lawyers in 1980.

Mrs. Striggner Scott, currently chair of Ghana’s Law Reform Commission, has worked as a High Court judge in Ghana and Zimbabwe and has also been an ambassador for her country during a long diplomatic career.

The commission has three months to complete its work and report back to Mr. Annan, and the five members are expected to leave shortly for Sudan.

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