Secretary-General's press encounter on Darfur, Sudan
New York, 16 September 2004SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
As you know, the Security Council is discussing the [draft] resolution on Darfur, which may require me to appoint an international commission to decide whether acts of genocide have been committed. If this resolution is adopted, I shall of course do so with all speed, and we are making preliminary preparations. But I want to make it clear that, no matter how the crimes that are being committed against civilians in Darfur are characterized or legally defined, it is urgent to take action now.
Civilians are still being attacked and fleeing their villages even as we speak, many months after the Government committed itself to bring the militias under control. The ceasefire is also being violated by both groups. Both sides have to stop violating the ceasefire.
I have urged the Security Council to act on the draft resolution without delay, and to be as united as possible in the face of this crisis. This is the first time in the Council's history that it has ever been seized under Article 8 of the Genocide Convention, and it seems to me inconceivable that it should fail to respond. In any case, the Council must be fully engaged. It must continue to pressure all sides. And it must galvanize full international support for the efforts of the African Union, which needs immediate and extensive support to deploy expanded troops to Darfur. Time is of the essence. I appeal to all member states and organizations with the necessary logistical and financial capacity to do whatever they can to make this deployment happen as quickly as possible.
I have asked the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, and my special adviser on the prevention of genocide, Juan Méndes, to visit Darfur and see what can be done, now and in the future, to provide better protection for the civilians who are desperately in need of it. They will arrive in Khartoum on Saturday. Their job is not to describe or characterize what is happening, but to see what more can be done to stop it, and to prevent further abuses.
Meanwhile, we are seeing positive developments in delivery of humanitarian relief. Since the horrifying mortality figures that WHO issued for June and July, we have further increased our capacity on the ground. But thousands of people are still dying from easily preventable diseases, and there is still a funding gap of $250 million. This is absolutely unacceptable. The money must be found now.
That said, everyone – including the refugees and displaced people – realizes that their long-term security can only be guaranteed through a political solution agreed by the parties themselves. All of us must put pressure on both sides to resume their negotiations as soon as possible in a spirit of compromise, and with a real commitment to reach agreement, for the sake of the people of Darfur.
Thank you very much.
Q: Sir, several months ago, when Congress was discussing imposing sanctions on Syria, you cautioned against the imposition of sanctions. You said 'sanctions do not work'. But with regard to Sudan, Sir, you seem to have changed your position. Have you?
SG: I have indicated that the Council has not imposed sanctions. It has told the Sudanese authorities that they have to perform and keep their promises that they gave to the international community, or they would face further consequences, including sanctions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General. There are some critics of the United Nations who say the United Nations has been slow to react to the crisis in Darfur. Do you feel that is the case?
SG: I think that in these crisis situations, there are things that could have been done better, but I think we have responded as quickly as we could. We were not given access in the beginning and we did not have the resources, so we were slow in getting as many people as we would have liked to. We now have well over 500 people on the ground, with about 4,000 local staff working for us, and we are still trying to canvass governments for the resources we need to get the job done. Yes, maybe certain things could have been done differently, but we are fully mobilized and are pressing ahead to do whatever we can.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, could you be more specific about what you said, about the preliminary steps you have taken, to prepare for the possibility of an international inquiry that the Security Council would ask for on the possibility of genocide there? And also, what is going to be the relationship between the Arbour and Mendez mission and the possibility of an assessment of whether genocide has been committed or not?
SG: In the sense that we are identifying people who can lead that investigation and carry it out as quickly as possible once the Security Council decides. I indicated that Ms. Arbour and Juan Mendez were going there to see what further measures can be taken to protect the civilians and to improve the human rights situation, so their functions are separate from the investigation that may be authorized by the Council.
Q: Is this a signal to the Council that you think that a commission of inquiry should go forward?
SG: I told them that yesterday at lunch.