VARIOUS: Pressure mounts on Sudan after its refusal to let an international force into Darfur
- Title: VARIOUS: Pressure mounts on Sudan after its refusal to let an international force into Darfur
- Date: 14th March 2007
- Summary: (EU) NEAR KHARTOUM, SUDAN (FILE - MAY 24, 2005) (REUTERS) TRUCKS SUDANESE MINISTER OF STATE FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS AHMED MOHAMMED HAROUN, CHARGED WITH WAR CRIMES BY THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT, SHOUTING "ALLAH AL AKBAR" AND CROWD ANSWERING POLICE VEHICLES JOURNALISTS AT NEWS CONFERENCE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SUDANESE MINISTER OF STATE FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS AHMED MOHAMMED HAROUN SAYING: "Those men are here to maintain security and for a clear message that we will not take lightly out duties to protect people's security."
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- Topics: International Relations
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- Story Text: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has stressed the importance of mobilising public opinion to put pressure on governments to tell Sudan they expect the targeting of civilians in Darfur to stop, while in the U.S. State Department says it will consider imposing punitive measures against Sudan. The United States and others will consider imposing a range of punitive measures against Sudan for its refusal to accept an international force into Darfur region, the State Department said on Tuesday (March 13).
U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters the United States and other countries felt a growing impatience over what he called Sudan's "delaying tactics" in allowing a joint African Union-United Nations force into Darfur.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir sent a letter to the United Nations this month arguing in detail against U.N. plans to bolster under-financed AU military monitors.
"To the extent that Sudan continues to frustrate implementation of this agreement, the U.S. and other members of the international community are going to have to think seriously about implementing additional measures to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Darfur," said Casey.
Casey declined to say what these measures would be but U.S. officials in the past have indicated they could include a range of financial measures against Sudan's government to put pressure on Khartoum to accept the hybrid force.
In addition, Britain is pushing for a no-fly zone to be imposed in Darfur, a tactic Washington has also considered to ease the humanitarian crisis there.
In his letter, Bashir said he wanted to restrict U.N. movements in Darfur, limit overflights or attack helicopters and would bar international police from government controlled zones and other areas.
In Geneva, Louise Arbour, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that public opinion played a central role in ending abuses in Darfur.
"The first step is not to suppress the truth, to ensure that the public is properly informed and accurately informed on what is happening on the ground, and that governments collectively put to the government of Sudan their expectation that what is happening in Darfur will stop, that the targeting of the civilians will stop", Arbour said.
A United Nations mission, led by Nobel peace prize laureate Jody Williams, sent by the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate charges of widespread abuse in Darfur reported that, while rebel groups were also guilty of serious abuses, the "principal pattern is one of a violent counterinsurgency campaign" being waged by government forces and their militia allies, the so-called Janjaweed.
"The mobilisation of public opinion is absolutely critical so that governments do not lose the amount of engagement that they need to bring the Sudan to accept the assistance that it clearly needs," Arbour added.
Sudan on Tuesday dismissed as invalid the United Nations human rights mission report and declared that the humanitarian situation in Darfur had improved.
Khartoum denies responsibility for abuses, which Washington calls genocide, and blames them on rebel groups which refused a 2006 peace deal. It also says the death toll is exaggerated and that Western media have blown the conflict out of proportion.
"Whether or not this series of crimes against humanity displays also the kind of level of intent that is required to make it genocide, I think will ultimately be a question for the prosecutor at the ICC and the judges of the International Criminal Court to determine. So far charges of genocide have not been brought. At the end of the day, the difference between genocide and crimes against humanity such as extermination, murder, rape, torture, persecution, is merely a matter of whether it was intended to target a specific ethnic group for elimination. It does not detract one way or the other into the severity of what's happening in Darfur", Arbour said.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) has summoned Ahmed Mohammed Haroun, Sudan's minister of state for Humanitarian Affairs, and militia commander Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb to answer war crimes charges in a first step towards bringing to trial those deemed responsible for atrocities, including mass rape and murder of civilians.
Khartoum, which says it will hold trials of its own, is adamant that it will not hand over anybody to face the court.
Humanitarian agencies say they face growing difficulties in getting aid to the desperately needy, and increasingly aid workers themselves are targets of the violence.
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- Embargoed:29th March 2007 13:00