“They killed my two sons, my husband and my brother. They took everything I had and then they shot me.”
Testimony given to Amnesty International researchers from a displaced woman.
LONDON - June 29 - As the African Union (AU) heads of state gather in Banjul, Gambia and the U.N. Security Council discusses the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur, Amnesty International called today for the international community to take urgent action to protect civilians in eastern Chad from cross-border attacks originating in Sudan. "This is a key opportunity for both the African Union and the United Nations to deliver a coordinated and effective response to the long standing human rights crisis in Darfur -- a crisis that is now spilling across the border into Chad and could destabilize the region," said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International. "The Chadian government must step up to its responsibility to ensure the protection of its civilians and seek the assistance of an international force if necessary."
Amnesty International's call came as it released video footage graphically revealing evidence of the murder and destruction taking place along Chad's border with Sudan, together with a report analyzing the abuses and highlighting the failure of both governments to live up to their responsibilities.
Janjawid attacks against civilians in eastern Chad have been deliberately divisive, targeting the largest and wealthiest groups, while some smaller tribes have allied themselves with the Janjawid. Local leaders told the Amnesty International researchers in June 2006 that they were desperate to acquire arms to defend themselves against attacks. But if they become armed, there is a risk that the violence will escalate as communities increasingly turn against each other.
"What is occurring now in eastern Chad is reminiscent of what happened in the early days of the conflict in Darfur -- we see the same pattern of abuses carried out by the same perpetrators," said Ms. Khan. "The international community will reap a bloody harvest if it does not act urgently and consistently on both sides of the border. The AU Summit meeting this week needs to send a clear signal to Sudan that it cannot continue to block the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping operation without consequences."
Since September 2005 Janjawid attacks into eastern Chad have displaced between 50,000 and 75,000 people, many of whom have moved further into the interior of the country. These displaced persons have little or no access to humanitarian assistance, are desperate to find some protection, and are becoming a potential pool for recruitment by Darfuri armed groups based in eastern Chad. Some 15,000 displaced persons, cut off from any other escape route, have actually moved into Darfur.
The U.N. Security Council will consider this week the results of the U.N. assessment mission on the deployment of a peacekeeping mission to Darfur. Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), strongly supports deployment.
"Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and millions have been displaced,” said Mr. Cox. “A U.N. peacekeeping operation with a robust protection mandate is critical to ensure civilian protection on both sides of the border. Until that happens, the international community must help the African Union, which thus far has provided the only buffer between the civilian population and the violent conflict in Darfur. Specifically, the Bush administration must maintain its pledge to protect civilians and stop the violence-- by supporting the African Union and urgent United Nations action."
The Amnesty International report highlights an emerging pattern of coordination between the Janjawid and Chadian armed groups based in Darfur. As the latter mount attacks on the Chadian army along one part of the border, the Janjawid move in against the civilian population in another part, targeting specific tribes not allied to the Chadian rebels.
"Not only must the U.N. Security Council show a greater readiness to address the protection vacuum in eastern Chad -- it must do so urgently and not wait for the Sudanese government to move on Darfur. The civilians in eastern Chad are in desperate need of protection and should not be held hostage to the pace of negotiations with Khartoum,” said Ms. Khan.
For a full copy of the report, please see: