8 November 2004 A United Nations-appointed commission of inquiry has arrived in Sudan to determine whether acts of genocide have occurred in the country’s strife-torn Darfur region, which the international organization has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The five-member commission, established by Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month in accordance with Security Council resolution 1564, plans to be in the country until 21 November and will meet with representatives of the Government, international agencies and civil society groups as well as travel to Darfur, a vast and impoverished region in western Sudan.
About 1.45 million people are internally displaced within Darfur, where Janjaweed militias are accused of killing and raping thousands of villagers after local rebel groups took up arms against the Sudanese Government. Another 200,000 are living as refugees in neighbouring Chad.
The Commission’s mandate is to “investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, to determine also whether or not acts of genocide have occurred and to identify the perpetrators of such violations with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.”
An independent body, it is supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is providing the secretariat, legal research team and investigative team. It has three months to complete its work and report back to Mr. Annan. Its members include Antonio Cassese, an Italian judge and professor who is the chairman; Mohammed Fayek of Egypt; Hina Jilani of Pakistan; Dumisa Ntsebeza of South Africa and Therese Striggner-Scott of Ghana.
Meanwhile, the UN mission in Sudan reported that all major roads in South Darfur remain closed to UN movement. Following destruction of the Al Geer camp from 3 to 5 November and the forced relocation of its residents, humanitarian agencies remain concerned about the protection of those who returned to Al Geer and those who dispersed to Nyala town.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says it has carried out food distribution to camps in Nyala town and they have requested permission to distribute food to those dispersed from the now-destroyed Al Geer camp.