UN Human Rights Council to send high-level mission to Darfur

13 December 2006 – The United Nations Human Rights Council today agreed to dispatch a five-member high-level mission to Darfur to assess the situation in the war-torn Sudanese region, the scene of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, mass rape, massive forced displacement and other abuses during the past three years.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan immediately welcomed the move, taken in Geneva on the second day of a special Council hearing devoted to Darfur, describing it as “robust action to address the grave human rights situation.” The Council decision was adopted by consensus.

“The decision… sends a united message that the ongoing violence and killing in Darfur is unacceptable and must stop,” Mr. Annan said in a statement released by his spokesman.

The five “highly qualified persons” on the mission to Darfur will be appointed by the Council President, Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, after consultations with the 47-member Council and Sima Samar, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan.

The text agreed to by Council members asks the Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to provide the mission with all the administrative, technical and logistical help needed to complete its work.

It also welcomes the Sudanese Government’s cooperation with Ms. Samar and calls on Khartoum to continue and intensify its working relationship with the Human Rights Council and Ms. Arbour’s office.

More than 200,000 people have been killed across Darfur since 2003 and at least 2 million others displaced from their homes because of fighting between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy.

Some 4 million people now depend on the UN or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for humanitarian aid, and the security situation across the vast and impoverished region on Sudan’s western flank continues to deteriorate.

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today condemned the weekend hijacking in North Darfur of a vehicle belonging to the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Darfur (known as AMIS) and the kidnapping of two AMIS military personnel on board.

In a news update from Khartoum, the Mission demanded the immediate, safe release of the two staff members, adding that AMIS’ presence in Darfur “is crucial to restoring order and stability.”

The situation inside the North Darfur state capital of El Fasher remains tense, the mission said, while noting there have been skirmishes between Arab militia and armed Chadian opposition groups south of the town. A spate of armed hijackings of vehicles belonging to humanitarian NGOs has also taken place in West Darfur in recent days.

The Tripartite Mechanism, which comprises representatives of UNMIS, the AU and the Sudanese Government, held its first meeting today in Khartoum. The body is discussing how to implement the $21 million UN support package to AMIS, the first part of a three-phase process that is expected to eventually culminate in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur.

Under the “light support package,” agreed upon last month, UNMIS will provide 105 military advisers, 33 police officers and 48 civilian staff, as well as equipment.

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