GENEVA, Aug. 30 – Mia Farrow, film star and longtime advocate for victims in Darfur, heads a campaign of human rights activists that today launched a legal, diplomatic and online campaign to stop Sudan’s controversial bid for a seat on the world’s highest human rights body, in elections to be held on Nov. 12th.
In papers filed today with UN legal counsel Patricia O’Brien, the activists requested the disqualification of Sudan’s UN Human Rights Council candidacy, on grounds that its government stands accused of genocide by the International Criminal Court, which has already issued two arrest warrants for regime leader Omar Al Bashir.
UN Watch supports the campaign of Collectif Urgence Darfour to bring the President of Sudan, Omar al Bashir, to justice. Bashir is subject to an international arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, forced transfer, torture, rape, and genocide.
The following is based on remarks delivered by Dr. Mukesh Kapila, the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, at a June 16, 2009 panel on “Women in Conflict and the Human Rights Situation in Sudan,” organized by UN Watch as a NGO side event during the 11th session of the UN Human Rights Council, together with the Darfur Peace and Development Center and LICRA. The other panelists were Hillel Neuer, Gibreil Hamid, and Diagne Chanel.
The Seven Excuses of Inaction for Darfur
Dr. Mukesh Kapila
I was wondering what I should speak about in such a gathering where you must know so much. It is pointless to rehearse the continuing agony of Sudan, and of Darfur in particular, and catalogue yet again the endless human rights tragedies that are taking place all over Sudan and in Darfur. So I will discuss a couple of themes. Continue reading ‘The Seven Excuses of Inaction for Darfur’
At the UN Human Rights Council, the European Union (EU) won a rare victory today when it succeeded, by one-vote, to secure the passage of its amendments to a draft resolution on Sudan. The primary purpose of these amendments was to maintain scrutiny of the human rights situation in that country, which the original text failed to do.
Debate commenced today at the UN Human Rights Council on the report by Ms. Sima Samar, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan. In her opening remarks, she called for the government to implement the recommendations of her report, a large number of which are being ignored, “particularly in areas of protection of civilians and accountability in justice.” She accused the government of Sudan of continuing its attacks on the people of Darfur and of detaining and torturing human rights defenders and aid workers.
At the U.N. Human Rights Council today, NGOs and Western States criticized Sudan‘s human rights record, with Sweden and the U.S. calling for the extension of the UN mandate in Sudan. Sudan itself, Libya, and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Arab Group came to Sudan’s defense, saying (respectively), “the security situation has improved so we believe that the appeal for the renewal of this mandate is a request that is flagrantly political in nature and we cannot possibly agree to that,” “Sudan has cooperated with the Human Rights Council and all resolutions and facilitated the voluntary return of displaced persons,” and “we welcome efforts by the Sudanese government to improve the human rights and humanitarian situation in all parts of the country, including Darfur.”
Towards the close of Tuesday’s high-level segment at the Durban Review Conference, Sudan‘s Deputy Justice Minister, Abdel Daiem Zumrawi gave a fiery speech, denouncing the decision of the International Criminal Court to indict Sudan’s President al-Bashir for the genocide in Darfur.
“The accusation of the President does not relate to doing of justice or bringing of peace and stability,” he said. “We are of the opinion that the ICC is being employed as a racist instrument that goes after certain groups while overlooking others.”
Zumrawi then blamed this “absence of justice” for breeding “malice, terrorism and extremism.”
He went on to denounce “heinous crimes committed against the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation” and said, “the protection offered Israel by some Western countries” is the reason it continues to “act against humanity.”
Zumrawi also decried the “ongoing smearing campaign against the religion of Islam and its Prophet.”
Moreover, his speech attempted to portray Sudan as a country committed to human rights, claiming, for example, that Sudan’s constitution calls for the full representation of marginalized areas.
On the eve of “Yom Hashoah,” the day to remember the Holocaust, genocide survivors from Rwanda and Darfur spoke at a side event to the Durban Review Conference, organized by UN Watch.
Rwandan genocide survivor and activist Esther Mujawayo said she felt uncomfortable speaking in a U.N. building, considering that the U.N. failed to halt the Rwandan genocide, choosing instead to abandon the country when the killing began. “This was a clear predictable and preventable genocide,” she said.
She complained that the Rwandan perpetrators continue to live in peace even in Europe, while survivors of the genocide struggle to obtain asylum.
Gibreil Hamid, President of the Darfur Peace and Development Center, said the ongoing genocide in Darfur is also preventable and stoppable. Discussing his experience, he said, “We were clearly discriminated against because we were black. The Arabs were not accepting us as Muslims.”
He described the killing and rape of women and children in Darfur in the perpetrators’ attempt to exterminate entire villages.
A “Yom Hashoah” ceremony to remember the Holocaust will be held this evening, beginning at 18:30, outside the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Some thirty supporters of Sudanese president Al-Bashir gathered today in front of the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, urging the International Criminal Court to “interrupt the execution of the arrest warrant” against Al-Bashir, who was indicted last week for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
A press release was distributed to passers-by, signed by two so-called human rights groups: the “International Action for Peace and Development in the Great Lake region” ; and the “International Committee for the Respect and Application of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights” (Comité international pour le respect et l’application de la Charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples). Both groups apparently have official NGO status with the UN, but appear to be functioning here more like “GONGOs” (government-operated NGOs), i.e., state-sponsored front groups that are anything but “non-governmental.”
The Khartoum regime was a little sloppy here in covering up its tracks. The non-governmental press release included the following very non-nongovernmental footnote: “The text was translated by the Permanent Mission of the Sudan to the UN in Geneva…”
UN Watch Intervention
Regional Conference for Africa
Preparatory to the Durban Review Conference
24 August 2008
Delivered by Mr. Leon Saltiel of UN Watch
Thank you, Mr. President.
We assemble here in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, in the heart of Africa, to discuss how to fight racism, and to prepare for the Durban Review Conference that will take place in April 2009.
That I have come here from afar is testament to the great importance that UN Watch attaches to the African cause, to the global struggle against racism, and to the outcome of this gathering.
UN Watch has always stood in solidarity with the African people in their struggle for human rights, equality and freedom.
A half century ago, UN Watch founder Morris Abram was a leading advocate in the American civil rights movement led by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. It was Mr. Abram who won the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case that recognized African-American voting rights, under the principle of “one person, one vote,” and who went on to head the United Negro College Fund.
In 1993, guided by the same vision of human rights and equality, Morris Abram founded UN Watch.
Since then, we have been a leading voice at the United Nations for victims of persecution—for Africans in places like Darfur and Zimbabwe, as for millions of other victims of racism and intolerance around the world.
It is with this legacy, and with these principles, that UN Watch urges this conference to rise to the occasion.
Let this African gathering give voice to all who suffer from racism, persecution and intolerance.
Let us promise that the crime of slavery shall never be forgotten. That men and women everywhere should be treated with basic dignity and equality.
Let us be true to the universal principles of human rights that underlie the struggle against racism.
We will only advance toward these goals if we stay on the true path—by avoiding dangerous diversions, and by remedying the wrongs of the past. We must prevent a recurrence of the foul actions of 2001, which paradoxically turned a conference on racism into a platform for racist hatred and anti-Semitism.
Let us oppose the campaign by certain governments and lobby groups to distort the language of human rights for a narrow and extreme political agenda, which only distracts from and harms the African cause.
Let us ensure that our outcome document—which will influence the final declaration of the April conference in Geneva—will neither single out nor demonize any country or people.
Finally, let us keep this conference a serious one. Its credibility is at stake when countries preach one thing while blatantly practicing the very opposite.
Consider, for example, the official submission of Libya that is before us today. The Libyan government speaks of racism against the African people and how it confronts, and I quote, “[a] new form of racism related to house helpers [and] (maids).”
Yet just last month, when Mr. Hannibal Qaddafi was arrested in Geneva for the crime of beating his African maid and African house-helper,
[At this point, Sudan interrupted with an objection, supported by Morocco and Algeria]
Libya fully supported his actions. Worse, Libya then punished one of these African victims by kidnapping his mother. With this same country being the chair of the committee organizing the Durban Review Conference, what should the world think?
The eyes of the world are upon us. When history is written, let it be recorded that in Abuja, in August 2008, the struggle against racism was advanced, and not harmed; promoted, and not politicized. We owe its victims—in Africa and around the world—no less.
UN Human Rights Council, 7th Session
Agenda Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic social and cultural rights, including the right to development
UN Watch Statement Delivered by Hillel Neuer, March 13, 2008
Thank you, Mr. President.
The nations represented here gather at a momentous time — the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In what manner can we pay tribute?
We can pay tribute by protecting the most fundamental of all human rights — the right to life.
Mr. President, nowhere is this right being violated more than in Darfur — as well as every other right guaranteed in the Declaration — and by no one more than the government of Sudan.
In Senegal there is now a critical summit underway to address Darfur. But yesterday U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and African, U.S. and European diplomats were kept waiting for hours with no sign of Sudan’s President Bashir. In a phone call to the president of Senegal, President Bashir said he “had a headache.”
Mr. President, who will tell the victims of Darfur that their suffering will be prolonged because the president said he “had a headache”?
As many as 400,000 people have been killed in Darfur. Another two and a half million have been driven from their homes and into danger. The threat of rape, torture, murder and malnutrition pursue the women and children of Darfur wherever they flee. World leaders must unite now to end the atrocities and establish a lasting peace in Darfur.
We urge this Council to take action:
To make ending the massive crimes in Darfur one of its top priorities;
To push for the fastest and fullest deployment of the peacekeeping force authorized by the U.N. Security Council in July;
To pressure contributing nations to fully and immediately meet their pledges of troops, funding, equipment, and logistical support;
To ensure the Sudanese government’s full participation in a just and inclusive peace process, and to overcome any attempts to obstruct or delay the protection of civilians or the peace process;
To increase humanitarian aid and ensure access for its safe delivery.
Mr. President, this Council must send a powerful message to Sudan that the killings, the burnings, the rape of its own citizens — all of this must end.
We ask Sudan: For how long will “headaches” and other excuses continue to afflict the lives of the men, women, and children of Darfur?
Mr. President, we need action.
If not from the highest forum of human rights, then from who?
If not now, when?
Thank you, Mr. President.
Sudan Responds: UN Watch “lives in a world of media
exaggeration on the subject of Darfur”
Statement by Sudanese Ambassador
Omer Dahab Fadol Mohamed
Thank you Mr. President.
I’d like to comment on the statement of United Nations Watch. I think the representative of this organization is continuing to live in a world of media exaggeration on the subject of Darfur, where the sufferings of people are exploited for an agenda which has nothing to do with Darfur.
The government knows that the armed rebellion is the primary party responsible for suffering in Darfur. The rebels have caused many people to leave their villages. The government of Sudan has done a lot of humanitarian work in order to reduce the sufferings of persons, and has allowed all necessary facilities. The government at the same time realizes that it is only a political solution which will put an end to all these sufferings.
Accordingly, the government has been working very hard to deal with the rebels. It signed the Abuja agreement with some of them. But certain others refuse because they were given support by countries giving shelter to them. These countries seem to be nevertheless expressing sympathy for people in Darfur.
The government, however, has continued to work for a solution that will restore peace and stability in that region, and calls upon the international community to assume its obligations against those who refuse solutions, and notes that countries give media coverage to this situation while refusing to sit down to work on a peaceful agreement to this situation.
The UN Human Rights Council concluded its final session of 2007 by abolishing a group of experts who had reported on Sudan’s massive human rights abuses in the province of Darfur. By turning its back on the victims of Darfur, the council — which is controlled by powerful regional blocs that include many repressive regimes allied to Sudan — is failing to respect its basic mandate. The dream of Kofi Annan’s reform plan has been turned into a nightmare.
Resolution Sacked Darfur Experts
The council did extend the mandate of Sima Sumar, special rapporteur on Sudan, but the far stronger and more influential expert group was eliminated. The resolution on the Darfur expert group (A/HRC/6/L.51) was adopted by consensus, co-sponsored by Egypt on behalf of the African Group, and Portugal on behalf of the European Union. While the resolution “welcome[d] the report submitted by the Group of Experts” and called on the government of Sudan to take action against “serious violations of human rights,” the resolution quietly omitted any reference to their future work, effectively canceling their mandate.
Once again, the European Union has sought to hide the failures of the council, and failed to call a vote on the resolution. It would have lost — but at least the world would know the truth. As was the case when the council sacked the monitors on Cuba and Belarus, the best way to find out about the failures of the Council is to see the latest victory trumpeted in the press of the abusers. Here’s what Sudan’s media had to say:
The European Group and the African Group in the Human Rights Council have reached a consensual decision to end the mission of the committee of the Seven Thematic Rapporteurs on Human Rights in the Sudan and decided to extend the mission of the Human Rights Commissioner Sima Samar for another year provide that she would provide the Council with a report by coming September.
We even learn how the EU diplomats congratulated Sudan:
The Chairman of the European Group in the Council, who is the ambassador of Portugal, contacted the Sudanese Permanent Mission in Geneva to express his congratulations at the end of the meeting that included the European and the African Groups. The decision will be tabled before the Human Rights Council’s closing session to approve it in its final form.
According to Sudan, the matter of the atrocities could be solved easily if only Sudan was given more money:
Dr Ibrahim Mirghani, Sudan’s Representative in Geneva told the Sudan News Agency that the decision reflects the cooperation the rapporteurs have found from the government of Sudan and said the implementation of a number of recommendations that have been agreed upon and to continue with the implementation of the recommendations that have not been implemented due to lack of assistance from the international community, stressing the need to continue providing assistance to the Sudan so that it could continue with the implementation of the remainder of the recommendations. He said it also calls on the rebels in Darfur to respond to the peace call and to join the Darfur Peace Agreement, urging all parties to protect civilians, particularly women and children. Ambassador Ibrahim said he considers the decision an excellent one and that it reflects the strong stance of the African groups and its full backing for the Sudan. He said he expects the Council to commend the cooperation of the government of Sudan with the human rights mechanisms. He said the negotiations were led on behalf of the African Group by the ambassador of Egypt with the full support of the group of Organization of the Islamic Conference in the Council. He said a number of countries have taken the lead to congratulate Sudan on this decision including the ambassadors of China, Russia and Cuba.
The Swiss seem to agree:
He said Switzerland has today announced a donation of 700,000 Swiss Francs as a technical assistance to the Sudan in the human rights domain. He said some other five Western states have also expressed readiness to provide similar assistance to the Sudan. He said the international community has in brief commended the cooperation the Sudanese government has shown with the human rights mechanisms and call on the Sudanese government to continue with this positive attitude. It is to be recalled that the Sudanese delegation to the meetings of the council has included the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Justice Abdul Moneim Zumrawi, and the Commissioner for Humanitarian Assistance, Hassabou Mohamed Abdul Rahaman as well as the Rapporteur of the Sudanese Council for Human Rights, Dr Abdul Moneim Osman Mohamed Taha.
Once again, the Council sends a green light to Sudan. Despite this glaring failure of the Council, most countries were busy congratulating each other on reaching consensus. Declaring victory is always the message from diplomats at the UN, as former US Ambassador John Bolton correctly explains in his latest book. Genuine action is not the goal, but consensus.
In addition, the other Sudan resolution — to renew the mandate of special rapporteur Sima Sumar expert on Sudan — also had its share of disappointments. Rather than holding Sudan accountable, the resolution said the expert’s new role will be to “assess the needs of Sudan…and to mobilize the necessary international technical and financial support for Sudan…”
In other words, the UN expert on Sudan is now a global fundraiser and cheerleader for the government of Sudan, rather than an objective and independent voice for the victims of government-sponsored violence and rape. UN Watch spoke out last week for real scrutiny, but our call fell on deaf ears.
Expert on Freedom of Religion Renewed
There were, however, two rays of light on Friday. The resolution on religious discrimination passed over the objections of Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic group, China and South Africa. While the resolution explicitly condemned “all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief,” Pakistan and others argued that such a resolution did not consider the “need to respect all religions” — a reference to the Islamic attempt to limit freedom of speech in name of combating “defamation of Islam.” The Islamic group also attacked a reference in the text that protected individuals who convert from one faith to another, which, Saudi Arabia said, was “against Sharia.”
In the end, the Islamic states and their supporters abstained rather than voted against the resolution, which can be explained only by the murky game of UN vote-trading (see how they voted).
In a rare victory for human rights defenders, a resolution to maintain the UN expert on the situation in Myanmar was adopted by consensus. Burma rejected the renewed mandate, saying that it represented “pressure from influential and powerful countries.”
Other resolutions that were adopted by consensus without any major debate or discussion included issues related to an “alliance of civilizations,” adequate housing, internally displaced persons, the right to health, the promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, technical assistance to Liberia, and indigenous peoples’ rights.
The Council will reconvene for its major session of the year on March 3–28, 2008.
On Thursday the Human Rights Council began the process of reviewing the mandates of UN experts (also called “Special Rapporteurs” in UN parlance) who report to the Council on human rights situations in ten countries and on themes such as torture and religious freedom. While some of the mandates – on adequate housing, or physical and mental health – are broadly supported, others are opposed.
During the debate over the mandate of the expert on internally displaced persons (IDPs), Syria and Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic group insisted that any future mandate include the plight of IDPs “under foreign occupation” – a thinly veiled reference to the Palestinian territories. (As it happens, the working definition of internally displaced persons applies to individuals who fled their homes but did not cross internationally recognized boundaries, and hence cannot apply to people who also claim to be refugees.)
The day ended with the beginning of the debate on one of the most controversial mandates – on the situation of human rights in Sudan. Egypt declared said that “the African Group believes the time has come for ending the proliferation of human rights mechanisms in Sudan.” While Sima Samar, the current Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan, spoke of gross and systematic human rights violations, Sudan accused the Council of “politicization.” Portugal on behalf of the EU stated its strong conviction to maintain the expert on Sudan.
UN High Commissioner for Human Right Louise Arbour reported on her activities since the last Council meeting in September.
Ms. Arbour’s remarks covered Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Brazil, Sudan, Pakistan, and Somalia. While Brazil and Afghanistan welcomed the High Commissioner’s comments, Pakistan and Sudan rejected any criticism. Pakistan reiterated its “commitment to the rule of law” and an independent judiciary, and mockingly thanked the European Union for its concern about the recent state of emergency rule in Pakistan.
Two strong critiques of the situation in Darfur came from High Commissioner Arbour and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Ms. Sima Samar. The Sudanese delegation, joined by Sudanese president al-Bashir’s brother, said it remained “highly patient” with various armed groups in Darfur, and stressed its “respect for all conventions of human rights.”
Portugal on behalf of the EU urged Sudan to fully cooperate with the international community. Egypt on behalf of the African Group defended Sudan, saying it was the international community that “had failed” Sudan. The strongest rebuke of the Council’s inaction came from Canada, which said that the failure to help the victims of Darfur “shows that there is rhetoric but little concrete action.”
Gibreil Hamid, an activist from Darfur, spoke on behalf of UN Watch. “We, the victims of Darfur, were hoping so much that this new Human Rights Council would give us a voice, and make a difference in our lives. Yet the genocide continues, and it seems that all this Council does is ask for more reports.” (Click for more).
The day ended with a report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. Wednesday’s session (and blog update) will begin with that report and analysis.
The UN Security Council heard a briefing from Luis Moreno Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, on the ongoing investigations into crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region. Mr. Ocampo delivered a harsh rebuke of the Sudanese government, highlighting ongoing government-sponsored atrocities and a complete lack of cooperation by the authorities in Khartoum. “The Government of the Sudan,” he stated plainly, “is not cooperating with my office, or the [International Criminal] Court.”
Mr. Ocampo accused the Sudanese government of actively sponsoring the killing and suffering in Darfur. “We are witnessing a calculated, organized campaign by Sudanese officials to attack individuals and further destroy the social fabric of entire communities,” he said. Mr. Ocampo also chastised those who called the violence in Darfur “sporadic” or simply “inter-tribal clashes,” noting that such language was used to “cover up” ongoing atrocities.
In his capacity as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr. Ocampo expressed deep dismay at Sudan’s lack of cooperation to bring to justice Ahmad Harun, former Sudanese Minister of the Interior, and Ali Kushayb, a Janjaweed leader. Both of these men are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including ordering killings, rape, and looting.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Ocampo asked the Security Council to send a “strong and unanimous” message to the Government of Sudan, requesting compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions and the execution of the arrest warrants for Messrs. Harun and Kushayb.
“You can make a difference, you can break the criminal system,” he told the Council. “What is at stake is, simply, the life or death of 2.5 million people.”
Our friend Mr. Gibreil I.M. Hamid from the Darfur Peace and Development Centre has just sent UN Watch the following urgent message:
Dear Friends and Human rights Defenders.
As we all read these days, the Government of Sudan has intensified attacks against the civilians in the IDP Camps all over the Darfur region. The newest was on Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, at Kalma Camp, which is about 17 km from the South Darfur Capital of Nyala. Three people have been killed and more than ten injured — all of this at a time when the international community is trying to send peacekeeping troops to Darfur.
I don’t know how long it will take them to reach Darfur, or how many people will die until they respond. We all know how difficult is the situation of the IDPs — these people need protection from the Sudanese regime.
Right now as I’m writing this news there is an attack in Zalinge, in western Darfur. I was talking to some people in the IDP camp, where the attackers are still in the camp. I was told that the Sudanese Forces were killing four men and many others were injured. I have asked the IDPs to tell me the names of the people who have been killed but they cannot go out because the police and the Janjaweed are still in the Camp. It’s very sad.
This is happening as the international community is preparing for the Libya Final Settlement talks between Darfur’s rebel groups and Khartoum. I’m asking you all to spread this news wherever you can. Help us to stop the suffering of these people. Also, I’m calling on the international community to stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur.