Saturday, February 05, 2005

EU: shortage of water and food in northern Darfur, Sudan

Yesterday, the European Union called for immediate end to "impunity" in Darfur and said "it is up to the UN Security Council to decide" on whether suspects should be taken before the ICC, but noted that the investigation commission had recommended this.

Also on Feb 4, European Union Commissioner Louis Michel strongly condemned recent violence in Darfur. He called on all parties to provide unimpeded access for aid and said he "deplored the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation, notably in Northern Darfur, due to shortage of water and food mostly caused the systematic vandalising of critical water points, accompanied by raiding and looting of crops."
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February 05, 2005

Responsibility for Darfur atrocities
From Mr Tony Baldry, MP for Banbury (Conservative)

Sir, Five members of the International Development Select Committee and myself have spent the last three days in Darfur.

Wherever we went we heard eyewitness reports of attacks on villages, murder of civilians, rape, looting and a co-ordinated campaign of forced displacements.

From all that we have seen and heard, we find it entirely consistent that the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, set up by the United Nations, should have found that:

the Government of the Sudan and the Janjaweed are responsible for serious violations of international human rights . . . amounting to crimes under international law . . . these acts were conducted on a widespread and systematic basis . . . and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity.

The commission found that there was no policy of genocide, although it concluded that:

the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide . . .

If there are to be no further Kosovos, Rwandas or Darfurs, there must be no impunity for those responsible for such crimes.

The commission of inquiry has identified a number of perpetrators and the international community, including the UK Government, must ensure that those officials of the Government of Sudan and others responsible for these crimes are brought to trial as soon as possible by the International Criminal Court.

Yours faithfully,
(Chairman, International Development Select Committee),
House of Commons.
February 3.

From Mr Michael Kennedy

Sir, That the situation in Darfur is allowed to continue, and is in effect rubber-stamped by a UN inquiry that decides that genocide has not taken place (report, February 1), covers that institution in ignominy.

This is beyond my comprehension. How many more lives will be destroyed by fudge, complicity and self-interest?

The United Nations, born out of noble ideas, has failed. It must be replaced by a new authority which calls genocide by its name and calls its perpetrators to account.

Yours faithfully,
February 1.
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880 slaves freed in Sudan but many left, says Swiss group

An old friend of mine is descended from William Wilberforce who spent decades, most of his working life really, abolishing slavery - and succeeded just before he died. It is dreadful to know that slavery is still going on in this day and age despite all the media, communications technology, laws, rules and regulations and decades of work by human rights advocates and agencies. Please read the following report out of Geneva via Reuters South Africa, confirming:

Some 880 slaves, said to have been abducted in southern Sudan by government-backed raiders, have been freed, but tens of thousands are still held in Darfur and elsewhere, a Swiss-based group said on Friday.

Christian Solidarity International said the government had transported 607 freed slaves, mainly women and children, back to southern Sudan from northern Sudan, while CSI had helped free 273 slaves, mainly boys.

"880 liberated slaves returned to their homeland of northern Bahr El Ghazal, southern Sudan, between January 23 and February 2," the Zurich-based group said in a statement. It has spearheaded a controversial campaign to buy back slaves.

"Tens of thousands of black Sudanese women and children remain enslaved in Sudan -- mainly in Darfur and neighbouring Kordofan -- notwithstanding the peace agreement signed by the government of Sudan and SPLA," it added.

"The majority of women and older girls said they were raped or gang-raped while in bondage," CSI statement said.

Sudan's government, which has always denied that slavery exists in Africa's largest country, set up a committee in 1999 to investigate and eradicate abductions of women and children.

The peace process has facilitated the liberation of southern Sudanese slaves, but "the capture and enslavement of black (African) women and children by government-backed Arab militias continues in Darfur", CSI said.

"The government appears to be using the same method against the African population in Darfur by arming militia. The description of the raids is identical," CSI's Sudan programme head, John Eibner, told Reuters.

But chaos in Darfur had prevented the group from doing the extensive documentation it had done in southern Sudan, where it documented 80,000 liberated slaves since 1995, he said.

Most had reported "gross abuse by their Arab Muslim masters", including beatings, death threats, forced Islamisation and Arabisation and racial and religious slurs.

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