1 February 2005 A report by a United Nations-appointed commission of inquiry into whether genocide has occurred in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region has found that the Government and Janjaweed militia are responsible for crimes under international law and strongly recommends referring the dossier to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
While concluding that the Government has not pursued a policy of genocide, the Commission found that Government forces and militias "conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement."
Summarizing the 177-page report, Secretary General Kofi Annan called on the Security Council today to consider possible sanctions over what the Commission called "serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to crimes under international law."
The five-person Commission also found credible evidence that rebel forces were responsible for possible war crimes, including murder of civilians and pillage. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and up to 1.85 million others are internally displaced or have fled to neighbouring Chad since rebels took up arms in early 2003, partly in protest at the distribution of economic resources.
The conclusion that no genocidal policy had been pursued should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated, it said. "International offences such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide," the panel added. But the crucial element of genocidal intent appeared to missing, at least as far as the central Government authorities are concerned.
The Commission was particularly alarmed that attacks on villages, killing of civilians, rape, pillaging and forced displacement continued during the course of its mandate and considered that "action must be taken urgently to end these violations."
It rebutted Government statements that attacks were for counter-insurgency purposes and conducted on the basis of military imperatives, saying most were "deliberately and indiscriminately directed against civilians," and even where rebels may have been present, the use of force was manifestly disproportionate to the threat posed.
In a single paragraph devoted to the rebels in a five-page summary, it said that while it did not find a systematic or a widespread pattern, there was credible evidence that members of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were also responsible for "serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law which may amount to war crimes. In particular, these violations include cases of murder of civilians and pillage," it added.
Strongly recommending that the Security Council immediately refer the situation of Darfur to the ICC, the Commission was scathing about the Sudanese Government's own ability to deal with it.
"The Sudanese justice system is unable and unwilling to address the situation in Darfur," it said. "The measures taken so far by the Government to address the crisis have been both grossly inadequate and ineffective, which has contributed to the climate of almost total impunity for human rights violations in Darfur.
"Very few victims have lodged official complaints regarding crimes committed against them or their families, due to a lack of confidence in the justice system," it added.
It also recommended the establishment of a compensation commission to grant reparation to the victims of the crimes, whether or not the perpetrators have been identified. "The Commission considers that the Security Council must act not only against the perpetrators but also on behalf of the victims," it said.
The Commission has given Mr. Annan a sealed file of names of people it believes responsible to be handed over to a competent prosecutor.
"My own support for the ICC is well known," Mr. Annan said in his statement on the report today. "But this is a decision for the Security Council, not for me. What is vital is that these people are indeed held accountable. Such grave crimes cannot be committed with impunity. That would be a terrible betrayal of the victims, and of potential future victims in Darfur and elsewhere."
Asked what specific action Mr. Annan wanted from the Security Council, spokesman Fred Eckhard told a news briefing the Secretary-General "has for a long time been asking that decisive action be taken and less than decisive action has been taken in this case. But still there are options open and he hopes the Council will give serious consideration and try to beef up the international response to this tragedy."
Acting at the Council's request, Mr. Annan appointed the Commission last October, consisting of Chairman Antonio Cassese, Mohamed Fayek, Hina Jilani, Dumisa Ntsebeza and Therese Striggner-Scott, and asked it to report back within three months.