Sudan: Rhetoric versus Reality in Darfur

For Immediate Release

Human Rights First
Contact: 

Krista Minteer (212) 845-5207

Sudan: Rhetoric versus Reality in Darfur

Continuing Abuses Despite Government Charm Offensive

NEW YORK - Recent claims by the Sudanese government that the situation in
Darfur is improving are not borne out by reality, fifteen organizations
said in a report released today. In an effort to bolster their argument
that the U.N. Security Council should suspend the International
Criminal Court's (ICC) consideration of an arrest warrant against
President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan has contended that there have been
serious improvements in Darfur. The ICC prosecutor is scheduled to
brief the Security Council on December 3, 2008, about the progress of
his investigation.

In stark contrast to Khartoum's claims, the 22 page report, "Rhetoric vs. Reality - the Situation in Darfur,"
prepared by a coalition of nongovernmental organizations - including
the Save Darfur Coalition, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch -
documents the lack of progress in Darfur in recent months regarding
security, the humanitarian situation, the deployment of peacekeepers
and domestic justice.

Read the full report here.

Following the July 14 announcement by the ICC prosecutor that he was
requesting a warrant for the arrest of President Bashir on charges of
war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, his administration
began a diplomatic campaign aimed at convincing Security Council
members to suspend the case against him. The government has made a
number of public statements proclaiming its willingness to pursue
justice in national courts and to achieve peace in Darfur, and has
claimed that the situation on the ground there has improved. President
Bashir claimed in a televised interview on October 17, that the
situation in Darfur is now "very normal."

"The situation in Darfur is far from what the world would define as 'normal'," said Julia Fromholz, Director of the Crimes Against Humanity Program at Human Rights First. "Millions
of people are living under daily threat of violence and are dependent
on humanitarian aid that is hindered or entirely blocked by ongoing
insecurity and endless bureaucratic hurdles
."

The report describes the ongoing insecurity in Darfur. Between July
and October 2008, government bombing and fighting in North Darfur led
to the displacement of some 90,000 people. In October government forces
and allied militia carried out attacks on at least 13 villages near
Muhajariya, South Darfur, in which at least 44 civilians were
reportedly killed. Even in November, following the government�s
declaration of a "unilateral, unconditional ceasefire," the Sudanese
army continued to bomb villages in North and West Darfur.

"Once again the Sudanese government is talking peace with diplomats and journalists while waging war in Darfur� said Save Darfur Coalition president Jerry Fowler. "And once again civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence."

More than four million people in Darfur remain in need of
humanitarian aid, but the dire security situation prevented access by
relief agencies to 250,000 people in September, the greatest number so
far this year. Since the beginning of the year, 170 aid workers have
been abducted and 11 killed. The Sudanese government also continues to
obstruct the delivery of assistance through bureaucratic constraints
and harassment of humanitarian staff.

The United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) remains
at less than 50 percent of its mandated strength and has repeatedly
come under attack. The Sudanese government has once again recommitted
to fulfilling its obligations to facilitate the force, but these
commitments have yet to be tested. At a local level, government forces
and authorities consistently hamper the ability of the force to protect
civilians, through obstruction, bureaucracy and even violent attacks.

Sudanese authorities have also announced a series of steps
ostensibly designed to improve domestic justice for crimes in Darfur,
including a new prosecutor for Darfur. However to date the prosecutor
has only considered three cases, and no fresh prosecutions in relation
to major atrocities have begun.

"The international community has an unfortunate record of judging Sudan by its words rather than its actions," said Richard Dicker, International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch. "The
Security Council must not allow itself to be hoodwinked by Khartoum
into handing Bashir impunity in return for empty promises. Following
its Presidential Statement of June 16, Security Council members should
reiterate that all parties to the conflict have a binding obligation to
cooperate with the court
."

The report was produced by:

Human Rights First

Human Rights Watch

Save Darfur Coalition

Action pour les Droits Humains et l'Amitie Senegal

Arab Coalition for Darfur

Arab Program for Human Rights Activists

Cairo Institute for Human Rights studies

Centre for Human Rights Sierra Leone

Cercle de Reflexion et d'Action pour le Developpement Economique et Social Mali

Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre

Federation Internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme

International Refugees Rights Initiative

L'Action de la jeunesse Guineenne pour l'Aide au Developpement et a la Prosperite Guinea Conakry

Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project Nigeria

West African Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Network- Senegal

Contacts

In New York

- Nicolas Burniat, Pennoyer Fellow, Human Rights First, New York
(English and French): +1 212 845 5242, +1 917 328 9252 -
burniatn@humanrightsfirst.org

- Richard Dicker, International Justice Director, Human Rights Watch: +1 917 747 6731

- Selena Brewer, Sudan Researcher, Human Rights Watch: +1 917 535 4093 - brewers@hrw.org

In Cairo

- Moataz El fegiery, Director, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (English and Arabic): +201 234 29991 - moataz@cihrs.org

In Dakar

- Djibril Balde, West Africa Focal Point, Darfur Consortium (English and French), +221763936799

In Kampala

- Dismas Nkunda, Co chair, Darfur Consortium: +256 75 331 0404, dismas.nkunda@refugee-rights.org

In Washington

Allyn Brooks-LaSure, Senior Director of Communications, Save Darfur Coalition: +1 202 478 6174 - press@savedarfur.org

 

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