For Immediate Release: November 18, 2008
WASHINGTON – A leading human rights group today called on the Russian Federation to immediately suspend all sales of arms to the Government of Sudan, following recent media reports that the Russian Federation recently sold 12 MiG-29 fighter jets to the Government of Sudan.
Human Rights First is urging the Russian government to verify the sale and to explain the steps it is taking to ensure that the fighter jets are not used in Darfur, in accordance with the 2004 and 2005 U.N. Security Council embargo on the sale and supply of weapons to belligerents in Darfur. Human Rights First further urges the U.N. Security Council to take all appropriate action to monitor the movement of the jets.
The U.N. embargo prohibits the Sudanese government from transferring weapons to Darfur without prior Security Council approval. Since 2005, however, the Government of Sudan has frequently violated the embargo, in some cases using Russian military helicopters to attack villages in Darfur. Between 2004 and 2007, Russia sold Sudan at least 33 military aircraft, in addition to providing other military weapons and training.
“Selling military hardware to Sudan – with full knowledge that the Government of Sudan continues to violate the Darfur arms embargo – is at best irresponsible. Doing so also places all sellers – including Russia – in the position of failing to comply with embargo,” said Julia Fromholz, interim director of the Crimes Against Humanity Program at Human Rights First. “All countries, particularly permanent members of the Security Council, have an obligation to ensure that they respect the embargo.”
That the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has charged the Sudanese President al-Bashir with committing the crime of genocide places additional obligations on all governments under the 1948 Genocide Convention. By allegedly selling weapons to a potential genocidaire, the Russian Federation could be failing to comply with its obligation to prevent genocide.
Human Rights First maintains that the only way to ensure that the Government of Sudan respects the Darfur arms embargo is for the Security Council to expand the embargo to cover the entire country, thereby greatly restricting Khartoum’s access to weapons. The group is urging individual countries not to wait for the Council to act; but instead to immediately implement bilateral embargoes on Sudan.
“Darfur continues to be the scene of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Government of Sudan and its proxies. All countries selling weapons to Sudan, including Russia, should immediately halt those shipments. The unabated flow of arms to the region is one of the primary obstacles to creating a sustainable peace in the region,” Fromholz said.