What they know
UN members have unequivocal knowledge of ongoing atrocities in Sudan. The Secretary-General's most recent report to the Security Council, December 23, 2005, states:
Large-scale attacks against civilians continue, women and girls are being raped by armed groups, yet more villages are being burned, and thousands more are being driven from their homes. ...the most urgent needs of millions affected by the war remain largely unmet, including their protection and safety. ...the vast majority of armed militia have not been disarmed, and no major steps have been taken by the Government to bring to justice or even identify any of the militia leaders or the perpetrators of attacks, contributing to a prevailing climate of impunity.
(See also UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) website
, Independent Expert report
on Sudan February 2005, and Special Rapporteur statement
What they did
Here is what the UN did about the atrocities in Sudan in 2005.
In January 2005 a UN Commission of Inquiry "concluded that the Government of the Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide." The report
, commissioned by the Security Council, refused to call approximately 70,000 dead in two years and another 1.6 million displaced, genocide. The authors of the report were the 5-members of the Commission supported by a UN secretariat headed by an Executive Director who was a Palestinian Arab. It is well known that the conflict has clear ethnic dimensions; the vast majority of the victims of the Sudanese government's military campaign in Darfur are Africans from various tribal groups, and the perpetrators are Arab, government armed forces and Arabic-speaking groups of nomadic people recruited and deployed as Janjaweed militia. But the UN's Commission of Inquiry did not find there was genocide because, they said, there was no intent to annihilate a group distinguished on racial or ethnic grounds. What the Commission of Inquiry did manage to do was to direct the fault for the inadequate UN response onto the United States, by claiming the whole issue belonged before the International Criminal Court. Prosecution, after the requisite years of due process, is hardly the way to stop genocide.
Two months later, in March 2005, the Security Council adopted three resolutions. Resolution 1590, adopted March 24, 2005 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, determined that "the situation in Sudan continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security" and created a UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS). The mission was to consist of "up to 10,000 military personnel and an appropriate civilian component including up to 715 civilian police personnel."
However, the latest UN report on the implementation of this resolution in December 2005 says actual deployment "is far below the foreseen requirement."
The pace of the United Nations military deployment has increased but remains behind schedule, owing largely to delays in the force-generation process. As at 13 December, the strength of the military contingent stood at 4,291 personnel, or 40 per cent of an expected total of 9,880. At present, 154 staff officers, 468 military observers and 3,669 contributed troops are deployed from 51 countries. According to revised plans, the total number of military personnel deployed should exceed 7,000 by mid-February 2006. However, this is far below the foreseen requirement. Although deployment of United Nations military observers should be completed by the end of January 2006, the delayed mobilization of essential aviation, engineering and demining units by several troop-contributing countries raises serious concerns as to whether the monitors will have the logistical and other support that is so critical to their effectiveness across the vast area of the ceasefire zone. Moreover, delays in the deployment of enabling units have consequences that limit protection capacities.
Resolution 1590 gave the UN force a mandate which "authorized [UNMIS] to take the necessary action, in the areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities...to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence."
However, in the December report we learn protection has been seriously limited. "[T]he delay in the deployment of some aviation units has negatively affected the military component's mandated activities. In particular, it remains critical to have an aviation unit in Sector I (Juba), as UNMIS lacks the air capability to respond to LRA [Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army] activities in the area or to serious security incidents..."
Curiously, the Secretary-General's report says: "A true improvement in the human rights situation will require bringing national security laws and institutions into line with international human rights standards and the Sudanese Constitution."
However, the Sudanese Interim Constitution affirms "the application of Sharia law in the National Capital." As the U.S. State Department country report on human rights practices in Sudan indicates: "In accordance with Shari'a, the Criminal Act provides for physical punishments including flogging, amputation, stonings, and "crucifixion" the public display of a body after execution."
The Sudanese Constitution also has a section on the "duties of the citizen" which includes the obligation to "generally be guided and informed in his/her actions by the interests of the nation..." It has a section which allows the death penalty specifically in the case of "retribution" – a feature of Islamic Qisas or legally permissible retaliation. As for the rule of law, the President establishes the National Judicial Service Commission. The President appoints all Judges of the Republic upon the recommendation of the Commission. The judiciary is answerable to the President through the Commission. And judges can be removed for incompetence with the approval of the Commission.
Security Council resolution 1591, adopted on March 29, 2005, imposed limited sanctions in the form of a travel ban and an assets freeze. The weak sanctions were a long way from the American call for a "no-fly" zone to prevent aerial attacks on civilians in Darfur and stiff sanctions such as an embargo. Council member China, for which Sudan is a major source of oil, and Russia, which has supplied advanced weapons to Sudan in recent years, are the major stumbling blocks.
The sanctions were to be applied to individuals who "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," violate the arms embargo, or are responsible for "offensive military overflights." Such individuals were to be named by a Security Council Committee (composed of all members of the Council wearing a different hat) with the assistance of a Panel of Experts and others. However, the Council/Committee has still not designated a single person as subject to these sanctions.
In May 2005 the Committee Chairman requested information on the steps taken to implement the measures imposed. Twelve states have produced reports.
On December 21, 2005 the Security Council adopted a resolution on Sudan which simply extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts and asked it to report back by March 29, 2006.
Security Council resolution, 1593, adopted March 31, 2005, sent the "situation in Sudan" to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The most recent report from the Prosecutor of the ICC was released on December 13, 2005. It makes it clear that an international prosecutorial model, and the ICC in particular, is not a vehicle for putting an immediate end to gross human rights violations. The Prosecutor told the Security Council that he has not yet decided to prosecute anyone, he is still waiting for cooperation from the Government of Sudan on various fronts, and "the next phase" of his work can be characterized as "seek[ing] the further assistance and cooperation of the Government of the Sudan in relation to the process of fact-finding and evidence gathering." In his words:
No decisions have been taken at this stage as to whom to prosecute and any decision will follow a thorough analysis of the evidence collected in the wake of a full and impartial investigation...Given the prevailing climate of insecurity and the current absence of an effective system of protection, investigative activities have so far taken place outside Darfur...[T]he ICC is complementary to national criminal jurisdictions and is therefore a Court of last resort which will only intervene where: 1) there is not or has not been any national investigation or prosecution...or 2)... an unwillingness or inability to carry out the investigation or prosecution in a genuine manner...During the past six months the [Sudanese] Special Court has conducted six (6) trials...The defendants appear to include eighteen (18) low-ranking members of the armed forces...The others appear to be civilians. The cases reportedly include three (3) charges of armed robbery and one (1 ) charge of theft of livestock, two (2) charges of possession of firearms without a licence, one (1) charge of intentional wounding, two (2) charges of murder and one (1) charge of rape...The continuing insecurities in Darfur currently prohibit the establishment of an effective system for the protection of victims and witnesses. This represents a serious impediment to the conduct of effective investigations into alleged crimes in Darfur by national judicial bodies...[O]n 17-24 November 2005 representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor and the Registry of the ICC visited Khartoum to discuss matters related to the Lord's Resistance Army and the situation in Darfur...[D]uring this visit a request for assistance was made to the Sudanese authorities to undertake several interviews...as well as an assessment of national proceedings...In response to this request Sudanese officials have agreed to organise a visit to the Sudan by the end of February 2006...The OTP is still waiting for written confirmation of these arrangements by the Government of the Sudan...Having made the first steps towards a cooperative relationship, during the next phase the OTP will seek the further assistance and cooperation of the Government of the Sudan in relation to the process of fact-finding and evidence gathering.
In the fall of 2005 the General Assembly refused to adopt any resolution on human rights violations by Sudan. Here is the voting record. Here is the transcript of the appalling UN November meeting during which the General Assembly decided to take no action on a draft resolution condemning human rights violations in Sudan.
Finally, on December 21, 2005 the Security Council authorized its President to make a statement about the situation. A Presidential statement does not have the authority of a resolution. The statement did not condemn events in Sudan and carefully refused to lay primary responsibility for the situation on the Government of Sudan. Instead, it called upon "all parties [to] refrain from violence and put an end to atrocities."
Faced with a devastating report on continuing large-scale attacks against civilians, which confirmed that the vast majority of armed militia had not been disarmed, and that the Government had not taken steps to identify the perpetrators, the Security Council only authorized its President to issue a piece of paper. The statement repeated one demand made on the Government of Sudan by the Council nine months earlier, "disarm and control militias."
As for those mysterious people responsible for the atrocities -- known as genocide to everyone but the United Nations -- the statement feigned ignorance of any identities. It demanded obliquely "that those responsible for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law be brought to justice without delay."
That's an "F" – for failing the people of Sudan.