7-29-2011By Crimes Against Humanity Program
Human Rights First
The situation in South Kordofan has grown increasingly grim. “Alarming and credible allegations” that Sudan Armed Forces are committing extrajudicial killings, house-to-house searches, abductions, and aerial bombardments have prompted Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, to condemn “in the strongest terms” the Government of Sudan’s targeting of civilians. Rice has also called for an investigation by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights into possible crimes against humanity being committed in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
As she continues to work with other UN member states to pressure the Sudanese Government for a peaceful end to hostilities and for UN access into the region, Ambassador Rice should push for the use of often overlooked tools to cut off resources enabling the commission of atrocities in various parts of Sudan. One good place to start is with the Darfur arms embargo.
In 2004, UN Security Council resolution 1556 imposed an arms embargo on all non-governmental militias in the states of North Darfur, South Darfur, and West Darfur. The following year, under UNSC resolution 1592, the UN expanded the embargo to include all belligerents in the Darfur region, including the Government of Sudan.
Enforcement of the sanctions has, however, not come close to fulfilling the promise of the resolutions. Numerous reports over the years, including annual publications by a UN Panel of Experts, have documented repeated and clear violations. The most notable violators have been Russia and China, whose military aircrafts and weapons have been observed throughout the Darfur region and have been used against civilians, including women and children, in spite of the embargo.
Many of the same military platforms that enable atrocities in Darfur are now reportedly being used against civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. For example, Russian-made attack helicopters, fighter jets, and Antonov planes have carried out bombardments of several villages and towns, reportedly killing and displacing thousands of civilians. The attacks have forced civilians to flee into caves in surrounding mountains for shelter.
Enforcing the Darfur sanctions could go a long way in helping not only to protect civilians in that region, who are reportedly under attack again today, but also to mitigate or halt violence in the southern region of Sudan. Indeed, giving teeth to the existing sanctions would signal that the UN is serious about ending conflict and preventing attacks on civilians. And more importantly, it could disrupt the supply chain upon which perpetrators of mass atrocities – in this case, the Government of Sudan – rely to carry out their violent campaigns.
Getting the rest of the UN Security Council on board won’t be an easy task, particularly given Russia and China’s involvement in supplying arms and other materiel as well as the latter’s desire to stay in good standing with the oil-exporting government of Sudan. But China’s recent backing of UNSC Resolution 1970 to address “gross and systematic violation of human rights” in Libya marked the first time the country has backed sanctions against a regime on human rights grounds. Moreover, following the French government’s revelation that it had financed arms to anti-Gadaffi rebels in violation of a UN embargo, China called on all countries to respect the spirit of UN resolutions – in this particular case, UN arms embargoes. In seeking enforcement of the Darfur arms embargo, Ambassador Rice should urge the Chinese government to take its own advice.
Getting all UNSC members to follow through on their agreements would help to halt the violent campaigns against civilians and end mass atrocities taking place in Sudan. And that would be well worth the effort.