Thursday, March 31, 2005

Great Britain Parliament House of Commons International Development Committee Report: "Darfur, Sudan: the responsibility to protect"

Much has been written in the world's press over the the past 24 hours about the release yesterday, of a hard-hitting report by British MPs titled "Darfur, Sudan: the responsibility to protect" dated March 30, 2005.

News of the 93-page report hit the wires an hour before Reuters reported the outcome of the UN Security Council's vote on sanctions. Here follows a summary and further news on Sudan.

Darfur, Sudan: the responsibility to protect fifth report of session 2004-05. Vol. 1: Report, together with formal minutes.

The Committee's report examines the effectiveness of the international community's response to the crisis in Darfur, in terms of providing security for civilians through political pressure, and in meeting humanitarian needs, and to ensure that lessons are learned from the situation for the shared responsibility to protect and to promote sustainable peace and development. The Committee's report finds that, although the Government of Sudan bears the primary responsibility for the atrocities carried out against its own citizens, the international community also has a responsibility to protect these people. However, early warnings of the crisis were ignored by the international community and the initial humanitarian response, from donors and the UN was too slow. Two years after the crisis began, the international community is still failing to protect the people of Darfur, and the UN Security Council, driven by national interests, has been divided, weak and ineffective. The matter should be referred to the International Criminal Court, with targeted sanctions and an extended arms embargo placed on the Sudanese Government. The atrocities, which the Committee describes as "no less serious and heinous than genocide" have resulted in more than two million people having fled their homes and needing humanitarian assistance; with the numbers of deaths likely to be several times the official estimates.

House of Commons papers 2004-05 67-I
Price: GBP 14.50 ISBN: 0215023420
Corporate Author: Great Britain Parliament House of Commons International Development Committee
Author: Baldry Tony chairman. Publication Date: 30th March 2005. Format: Paperback.
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Darfur, Sudan: the responsibility to protect fifth report of session 2004-05. Vol. 2:
Oral and written evidence.
House of Commons papers 2004-05 67-II
Price: GBP 18.50 ISBN: 0215023439
Incorporating previously unpublished HCP 67-i to -vi session 2004-05.
Corporate Author: Great Britain Parliament House of Commons International Development Committee
Author: Baldry Tony chairman
Publication Date: 30th March 2005. Format: Paperback
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Sudan: Darfur death toll at least 300,000, British MPs say

The above report by British MP's who had visited Darfur in February, credited the British government on Wednesday for reacting more quickly than most international powers but faulted the world for its slow response to what had become one of the world's greatest humanitarian crises.

Excerpt from AFP report via ReliefWeb Mar 29, 2005:

More than 300,000 people have died as a result of the conflict in Darfur, they said in a House of Commons committee report Wednesday - a figure more than four times greater than an official UN estimate.

"We think that is a conservative estimate," Tony Baldry, the chair of the House of Commons' international development committee, told AFP.

The MPs firmly backed the move to see Darfur war criminals tried at The Hague court, and said the Security Council should push through debate even if it faced opposition from permanent veto-wielding members the United States and China.

"It's worthwhile to try to get agreement on stronger action, and absolutely force the issue on the Security Council," committee member John Bercow told AFP.

It would "put other governments on the spot", he said, referring to objections by the United States, which opposes the ICC, and China, which has interests in Sudan's large oil reserves.

If those countries continue to oppose strong measures against Sudan, "let them be named and shamed in the most public, damning way," Bercow said.

"Darfur is a real test for the international community and civilization as a whole at the start of the 21st century," Baldry added. "If we can't resolve the situation in Darfur it bodes pretty badly for the coming millenium."

British MPs warn Darfur death toll 300,000

Photo: Official figures were a gross underestimate: 300,000 killed in Darfur, say MPs. "We think that is a conservative estimate," Tony Baldry, the chair of the House of Commons' international development committee, told AFP.
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Report puts primary blame on Khartoum but criticises aid agencies as well as governments and UN for responding inadequately

The report released on March 30, 2005 by British MPs puts the primary blame on the Sudanese government but criticises aid agencies as well as governments and the UN for responding inadequately to Darfur, writes Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor at the Guardian - excerpt:

The British government and the wider international community were much too slow to react to the Darfur crisis which, beginning two years ago, has cost 300,000 lives and displaced about 2 million people, a Commons select committee report published today says.

MPs on the international development committee, who visited Darfur this year, say the response, especially that of the UN security council, has been largely ineffective, divided and weak.

"Governments and politicians must not wait to act until images of death and destruction are on the TV screens. By then, it is too late," they say

Their 93-page report, "Darfur, Sudan: The responsibility to protect", calls on security council members, particularly China and Russia, to put aside oil exports, arms trade and other interests in Sudan, vote in favour of targeted sanctions against the Sudanese government, and refer the perpetrators of the violence to the international criminal court.

The council is due to vote today on a French draft resolution calling for a referral to the ICC. Britain hopes that the US, which favours punitive action but is opposed in principle to the ICC, will allow the resolution to go through by abstaining rather than using its veto.

The MPs say the international community was too engrossed in securing an end to the Sudanese north-south civil war and failed to respond fast and seriously enough to the developing crisis in Darfur, in the west of the country.

They say: "Governments ... failed to speak out about Darfur at an early stage; failed to get the UN security council to adopt a resolution about Darfur until July 2004; failed to put concerted pressure on the Sudanese government to allow humanitarian access; and failed to make the government take seriously its responsibilities for protecting the people of Darfur and for complying with ceasefire commitments and legal obligations."

They call on the Department for International Development to find ways to attract media attention to such crises.

The MPs put the primary blame on the Sudanese government but criticise aid agencies as well as governments and the UN for responding inadequately.
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World is acting on Darfur says Benn

The British Government tonight defended the international community's response to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, writes PA correspondent Jamie Lyons in the Scotsman Mar 30 - excerpt:

A committee of MPs today accused the world of a "scandalously ineffective response" to the situation in Sudan.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn tonight said the world was now acting. He said countries - including the UK - were backing the African Union's support operation. And the UN yesterday instituted a sanctions regime. The UK was also providing humanitarian aid and urging a political solution to the conflict.

"Of course while people continue to die in Darfur the problem hasn't been solved," he told Channel Four News.

"And as far as those people are concerned, yes they want the international community to be doing more. But above all what they want are the people who are doing the fighting and the killing ... to bring an end to the conflict."

Mr Benn was speaking after the House of Commons' International Development Committee said governments across the world - including the UK - were guilty of a catalogue of failings in dealing with the crisis.

It also warned the death toll had been massively underestimated and is likely to reach 300,000.

Mr Benn said the "honest truth" was that nobody knew the real death toll.

Displaced children in Darfur

Photo: Internally displaced children in Kalma camp near Nyala in Sudan's southern Darfur region.
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British MPs rap UN over Darfur death toll

Excerpt from BBC UK Mar 30 on the British Parliamentary report:

The committee added that other countries and the UN Security Council must also take some of the blame for the situation. This was because:

Early warnings about the crisis were ignored.

Humanitarian organisations were slow to respond.

Guidelines for managing the camps were unclear.

The UN suffered from an "avoidable leadership vacuum" in Sudan at a crucial time.

Priority given to Sudan's north-south peace process was "misguided" and had "predictable and deadly" consequences for Darfur.

"After the genocide in Rwanda, the world said 'never again'," committee chairman Tony Baldry MP said. "President Bush said that genocide would not be allowed to happen 'on his watch'. These words should mean something. "The international community must now fulfil its responsibility to protect the people of Darfur. We demand that there is action now."

The committee recommended that the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court and said that there should be sanctions and an extension of the arms ban to cover the Sudanese government.

A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: "There are many lessons for all the international community in the way that it has handled the crisis in Darfur."

Further reading:

Mar 30 Mirror UK: MP's fury at Darfur killing: MPs yesterday condemned Britain and the UN for failing to stop the slaughter in Sudan - after revealing the death toll had reached 300,000. They labelled the killing of civilians by government-backed militias in rebellious Darfur "genocide". International Development Committee chairman Tony Baldry said: "The failure to protect the people of Darfur from atrocities committed by their own government is a scandal." "President Bush said genocide would not be allowed on his watch. That should mean something." The MPs want more troops to be sent to the area, strong action from the United Nations and more pressure on the Khartoum government. Britain and France are pressing for war crimes suspects to be tried.

Mar 30 China News: Russia continues to oppose tough sanctions against Sudan - "We find it counter-productive to introduce tight restrictions against the government of Sudan which will affect its capabilities in ensuring the security of the civilian population in Darfur, sustaining order in the conflict zone, disarming non-governmental groups and detaining those who violate international humanitarian law," the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying. However, Interfax reported that the ministry said Russia is ready to support the measures contained in the resolution which target individuals who have impeded the Darfur peace process or have posed a threat to the region's stability. The Interfax report of the ministry's comments made no mention of the aspect of the resolution covering the expansion of the existing UN arms embargo on Darfur. Russia has been a traditional arms supplier to Sudan.

Mar 30 News From Russia: UN Security Council peace measures: arms embargo on Darfur region ... British lawmakers said in a report Wednesday that the death toll has been grossly underestimated and is likely to be around 300,000, calling attacks against civilians in the region "no less serious and heinous than genocide.'' China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, told reporters the sanctions would not contribute to peace. "Our concern is that when we apply measures, if the measures are not positive in the sense of being constructive, we find it difficult" to vote in favor, Wang said.

Mar 30 Ireland News: The UN Security Council has voted in favour of targeted sanctions against those responsible for atrocities against civilians in Darfur and those who violate a ceasefire there. None of the 15 members voted against the American-sponsored resolution but China, Russia and Algeria abstained. The sanctions, which involve an asset freeze and a travel ban, will come into effect in 30 days, after a list of offenders has been drawn up by a Security Council committee. The resolution also strengthens an arms embargo on Sudan and forbids the Khartoum government from offensive military flights into Darfur.

Mar 30 AP Guardian UK: Security Council tightens Sudan embargo: "What we're trying to do is apply consistent pressure on Darfur, specifically in a way that will actually curtail the violence," U.S. Deputy Ambassador Stuart Holliday said after the vote. Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Elfatih Mohamed Erwa criticized the sanctions resolution, saying it was orchestrated by the U.S. Congress. "We don't like the council to take a series of resolutions that are not wise and might make this situation worse,'' Erwa said. "The more sticks you bring to solve this problem, you are not going to solve this problem. You are going to make it more complicated.''

Mar 30 Australia News: More than 300,000 people have died as a result of the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region say British lawmakers, four times the official United Nations estimate. A House of Commons report, compiled after interviews with non-government organisations, found the estimated death toll could be far above the World Health Organisation's figure of 70,000. The UK report faulted the WHO for grossly underestimating the toll after two years of conflict in the region. Chair of the House of Commons' international development committee said the faulty WHO figures are due to "statistical anarchy in the way the figures were collected", speaking to AFP. He said the figures account for deaths in refugee camps but fail to take into account violent deaths that occur in villages across Darfur. The WHO figures also only span the months from March to mid-October 2004, but the MPs say the alleged atrocities began much earlier.

"Our hope for this report is that it will jolt people's attention to the scale of the crisis in Darfur, the numbers of people who are continuously, silently suffering in Darfur, and will be yet another call to the UK government and the international community that we have a collective responsibility to protect," said Mr Baldry. The resolution also forbids the Sudanese government from launching offensive military flights into Darfur. The sanctions will begin in 30 days time, against unnamed people.

Mar 30 India News: UN Council sanctions peace offenders in Sudan: “We are pleased that 12 members of the council voted to adopt this resolution,” U.S. envoy Stuart Holliday told reporters. “We hope it will put the appropriate pressure on all the parties to the Darfur conflict to end this tragic chapter.” “It’s disheartening to see the United States stand in the way of justice for the people of Darfur and risk prolonging their suffering,” said John Stompor, Senior Associate in the International Justice program of Human Rights First. “Months of delay at the Security Council have already contributed to a worsening of the situation in the region.” Almost two months have passed since the U.N.-appointed International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur completed its report, which strongly recommended the immediate referral of the situation of Darfur to the ICC.

Mar 30 New York Times: U.N. Council Approves Penalties in Darfur: It did not contain an oil embargo, a step that probably would have brought a veto from China, which is a principal buyer of Sudanese oil. The Darfur sanctions resolution said the people subject to its terms would be those who were found to "impede the peace process, constitute a threat to stability in Darfur and the region, commit violations of international humanitarian or human rights law or other atrocities." In statements by their ambassadors, the three abstaining countries said they felt that putting pressure on Sudan would be counterproductive. "You may end up complicating the situation and making it more difficult to resolve," said Andrei Denisov, the Russian ambassador. Passage of the measure brought a rebuke from Elfatih Mohamed Ahmed Erwa, the Sudanese ambassador, who complained that the real impulse had come from members of the United States Congress who he complained were beholden to "pressure groups and drum-beaters." He charged that American lawmakers knew nothing about his country and never visited or read about it, a critique that brought a rejoinder from Mr. Holliday. Saying he had not meant to make a statement, Mr. Holliday asked for the floor to "defend the honor of the United States Congress." He told Mr. Erwa that, contrary to his assertion that the lawmakers ignored his country, many of them had gone there to see the situation firsthand.

Mar 30 Financial Times : The failure of western nations to respond swiftly to the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan has been condemned as "a scandal" by a cross-party committee of MPs. A report published today lists a catalogue of failings. It says early warnings about the crisis, in which 300,000 people are estimated to have died, were ignored and criticises the UK for not speaking out quickly enough. The MPs urge Britain to "stand firm" against the US, which does not want the court to deal with Darfur. Today's report condemns the Sudanese government for its policy of limiting humanitarian access to Darfur and applauds the UK for its efforts to get the restrictions lifted. But it says the international community "chose to ignore the early warnings" of non-governmental organisations, ensuring the initial humanitarian response to the crisis was "a staggering failure". Members of the UN Security Council are accused of putting their own interests before those of refugees. "It is a scandal that interests in oil and arms exports can prevent the Security Council from acting firmly," the report says. "It shames those countries which, fuelling the crisis in Sudan, are happy to turn a blind eye to crimes no less serious and heinous than genocide." Britain's prompt response is praised but the report says the government failed to speak out on Darfur at an early stage and should have done more to raise news coverage of the crisis in 2003 and early 2004.

Mar 30 BBC UK : UN imposes sanctions over Darfur: How Many Deaths In Darfur? - In a separate development, British MPs have criticised previous death toll estimates for the war-torn region. They decried the international response to the genocide as "scandalously ineffective", and warned that the death toll might reach 400,000 - five times more than previously estimated by the World Health Organization.

Mar 30 ePolitix UK: British MPs slam 'scandalous' Darfur response: The international community's response to the crisis in Darfur has been "scandalously ineffective", the Commons international development committee has said. In a hard-hitting report published on Wednesday, the MPs also warned that the death toll in the crisis hit region of Sudan is set to reach around 300,000. "The world's failure to protect the people of Darfur from the atrocities committed against them by their own government is a scandal," said committee chairman Tony Baldry. "Crises such as Darfur require the world to respond collectively and effectively. Passing the buck will not do. "Attacked by the government which is meant to protect them, the people of Darfur, whom we have collectively and demonstrably failed, deserve no less. "We demand that there is action now." A spokesman for the Department for International Development said there were "many lessons" to be learned from how the crisis has been dealt with. "The report recognises the lead role that the UK has played from the outset of the crisis," he added. "We have contributed a total of over £66 million to the humanitarian relief effort. "We were instrumental in negotiating the comprehensive North-South peace agreement which brought an end to the longest-running civil war in Africa in which two million lives were lost. "We have also been giving practical support to the African Union ceasefire monitoring force which is doing an increasingly effective job in Darfur."
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Quotation of the Day

"The world's failure to protect the people of Darfur from the atrocities committed against them by their own government is a scandal" - Tony Baldry, Chair of the House of Commons' international development committee.

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