UN Watch Update: Human Rights Council Darfur Drafts Fall Short

by Elizabeth Cassidy

At its ongoing fourth session, the UN Human Rights Council’s European Union and African Group members have now tabled competing draft resolutions on the human rights situation in Darfur, Sudan. Both drafts purport to be “follow-up” to the report presented to the Council last Friday by an assessment team led by Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams—but regrettably, neither actually implements the recommendations of that report.

Even the slightly stronger EU draft merely “takes note” of the Williams team’s report, which found the government of Sudan responsible for “orchestrating and participating in” “large-scale international crimes in Darfur” and also cited other parties to the conflict for gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Instead of calling for the immediate implementation of the report’s numerous and specific recommendations, however, the EU text simply establishes a group of experts with the vague mandate to “work with the Government of Sudan . . . to ensure the effective follow-up and implementation of the existing relevant human rights recommendations on Darfur, to safeguard their consistency and to contribute to monitoring the human rights situation on the ground.” (The African draft is even worse, creating an expert panel to work with the Sudanese government not toward follow-up, implementation, and monitoring, but rather only “to review [existing recommendations on Darfur] to ensure their consistency and their current relevance or updating needs and to recommend to the Council a workable package of measures”—i.e., to come up with yet another report, presumably one that Sudan and its allies would like better than Jody Williams’.)

Among its many recommendations, the Williams report asked the Council to condemn the Sudanese government for ongoing violations and for its “manifest failure in its responsibility to protect civilians” and to call on Khartoum to admit the proposed UN/African Union peacekeeping force, to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, to comply with the international sanctions that have been imposed on war crimes suspects, and to remove obstacles to humanitarian aid. The report also urged measures to ensure accountability for perpetrators and compensation for victims and sought the compilation of a list of foreign companies whose business in Sudan has an adverse impact on human rights in Darfur.

The EU draft would finally cite Khartoum and others for violations—something the Council has shamefully failed to do since its inauguration last June—but still only in a veiled way. It “expresses deep concern regarding the seriousness of the ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur, including attacks by rebel and government forces on civilian population and humanitarian workers, bombing of villages, and continued and widespread sexual violence, as well as the lack of accountability of perpetrators of such crimes.” (The similar paragraph in the African Group draft is even softer, omitting the words “by rebel and government forces,” as well as deleting the references to the bombing of villages and the widespread sexual violence.) By equating the Khartoum regime’s violations with those of the rebels, who are even listed first, the EU’s language minimizes the Williams team’s attribution of the primary responsibility for the crimes in Darfur to the Government of Sudan. The EU draft also defers to Sudan by saying that the Williams mission “could not visit Darfur,” obscuring that it was the Khartoum government that denied them entry.

If, as some diplomats claim, the EU draft is the strongest possible text that could win a majority vote in the Council, that in itself is an indictment of the body, confirming its inability to credibly address the world’s greatest ongoing human rights crimes. What’s worse, even this weak text is expected to be watered down further to compromise with the draft submitted by Sudan’s allies in the African Group.

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3 Responses

  1. I agree, Elizabeth. The HRC is too busy condemning Israel.It is, simply, a body dominated by dictators and kleptocrats. The US was absolutely right to vote against this pathetic travesty.

  2. Elizabeth, something I forgot to ask you earlier. Have the recent ICC proceedings in Darfur been the subject of discussion? Presumably, the information they have uncovered and the initial conclusions they have drawn should get some consideration by the HRC. Have they?

  3. Julian,

    The Jody Williams assessment team briefly discussed the recent ICC developments in its written report—saying that the prosecutor’s action “begins to pierce the shield of impunity, but there is much more to be done”—and urged the Council to call on Sudan to cooperate fully with the ICC. When the report was discussed, several European ambassadors also called for Sudan to cooperate with the ICC proceedings. However, neither draft resolution currently pending before the Council includes any such call.


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