For Immediate Release: December 22, 2008
NEW YORK – As the violence continues to escalate in Darfur, a leading human rights group today released a detailed strategy for President-elect Obama to lead an international effort to stem the flow of arms into the region during the first year of his administration. The UN imposed an arms embargo on Darfur in 2004 but the parties to the conflict there appear to have unobstructed access to arms. Due to the unwillingness of the international community to take steps to cease sales and to enforce the arms embargo, easily accessible weapons continue to fuel the conflict.
The blueprint – “How to Stop Arms to Sudan” – released by Human Rights First, sets out a three-stage strategy for the incoming administration to lead an effort to ensure that arms-supplying states halt their sales, as well as to use its voice and vote at the U.N. Security Council to enforce and strengthen the U.N. imposed Darfur arms embargo.
“Over the past several months we have seen an alarming increase in attacks against civilians, aid workers, and peacekeepers in Darfur. Yet the international community has largely bypassed the opportunity, created by the U.N. arms embargo on Darfur, to reign in the unlawful movement of arms in the region while at the same time unblocking the stalled peace process,” stated Julia Fromholz, a senior official at Human Rights First.
Human Rights First’s three-stage plan -”How to Stop Arms to Sudan” – includes unilateral and multilateral steps the new administration should take to help stem the flow of weapons into the Darfur region, including:
- Leading a diplomatic effort to halt arms exports to Sudan and the surrounding areas;
- Imposing sanctions against aviation and fuel companies found to violate the embargo, and requiring approval for operations by legitimate companies;
- Pressuring countries providing arms to the Government of Sudan to stop doing so on the basis that the government has flouted the embargo; and naming those countries that have continued to supply arms despite the embargo;
- Implementing a unilateral arms embargo on Chad and northern parts of the Central African Republic, which are the back door for moving weapons into Darfur;
- Introducing a resolution at the U.N. Security Council to expand the Darfur arms embargo to cover all of Sudan, Chad, and northern parts of the Central African Republic; and
- Securing new sanctions on individuals found to have impeded the peace process, committed violations of international human humanitarian or human rights law, violated the arms embargo, or borne responsibility for offensive military flights over Darfur.
Human Rights First has found that over 30 countries have either exported arms directly to Sudan or manufactured arms that entered Sudan since the U.N. arms embargo took effect. A recent Human Rights First fact-finding mission to Chad investigated the links between the conflicts in Darfur and eastern Chad.
“Nearly four years ago, the U.N. Security Council imposed a complete arms embargo on Darfur, yet the parties to the conflict appear to have unobstructed access to arms,” observed Fromholz. “President-elect Obama has committed to take immediate action to end the conflict in Darfur, in part by increasing pressure on the Sudanese government. The new administration should use the untapped leverage of the arms embargo to halt the flow of arms to Darfur and the region. Doing so would address both military and political problems in Darfur.”
How to Stop Arms to Sudan is the sixth in a series of strategy papers released by Human Rights First to guide the next administration in restoring American leadership in human rights in critical spheres. The first paper in the series, How to Close Guantanamo, was released this August, the second, How to End Torture and Cruel Treatment, was released in October, the third, How to End Impunity for Private Security and Other Contractors, was released in November, the fourth, How to Repair the U.S. Asylum System, and the fifth, How to Promote Human Rights in Russia, were released earlier this month.
Update: The seventh paper in the series, How to Confront the Iraqi Refugee Crisis, was released in December 2008.