Sudan Won't Budge on Peacekeepers

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:17pm EDT

Nairobi , Kenya ( - As the crisis in Darfur deepens and the Sudanese government refuses to budge on approving U.N. peacekeepers, African experts have faulted Khartoum for its supposed efforts to prosecute those responsible for atrocities in the western region.

Khartoum last year established a body called the "Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur," in a bid to forestall a move by the U.N. to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

United States and French officials have described the conflict as "genocide," a term supported by the Kenya Save Darfur Coalition, a grouping of civil society and security research organizations.

Maureen Achieng of the International Refugee Rights Initiative said Khartoum's special court lacked the ability and the will to prosecute war criminals.

She said, for instance, that the laws governing the special court required proof of rape, and if the victim failed to provide evidence, she would be accused of adultery. Similar procedures apply in some Islamic societies.

The laws also allow confessions made under torture to be admissible in court, Achieng said. Minors may be prosecuted together with adults. Police and security forces may receive immunity.

A report prepared by the coalition for release later this month concludes that the Khartoum special court "appears to be designed to divest the ICC jurisdiction without delivering justice."

David Mozersky of the International Crisis Group (ICG), another coalition partner, said what was now required was a much greater engagement from the international community to end the atrocities in Darfur.

"Khartoum is refusing the U.N. peacekeeping force because the force will arrest those responsible for the conflict," said Mozersky.

It was high time economic and arms sanctions were implemented against the government, he added.

The conflict began in early 2003 when black Muslim Darfurians launched a rebellion against the Arab Muslim-dominated government, claiming the region deserved a greater share of national resources.

The fighting between rebels and government-backed militia has claimed more than 200,000 lives, according to the U.N., and about two million people have been displaced.

An African Union (AU)-mediated peace deal signed between the rebels and the government last May has failed to end the war. The A.U. sent some 7,000 peacekeepers but they have been unable to contain the violence.

The African force is due to withdraw when its mandate ends at the end of this month. The Security Council recently voted to send in a larger, stronger U.N. force, but Khartoum has refused to admit U.N. forces and threatened to attack them if they do come to the area.

President Bush has expressed frustration at the delays, and he has suggested that the U.N. send in the troops whether Sudan agrees or not.

The A.U. will be reviewing its engagement in Darfur this week when its Peace and Security Council meets in New York, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session.

Desire Assogbavi, an Africa conflicts consultant for various regional bodies, said the best option for the A.U. would be to forcefully support the Security Council resolution and the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers.

The Security Council has proposed a force of 17,300 troops and 3,000 police officers.

Meanwhile, politicians, religious leaders and celebrities around the world are pressing the U.N. to take urgent measures, and a Global Day for Darfur was held at the weekend.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote a letter to his European Union counterparts calling on the bloc to "play a central role" in securing peace in Darfur.

Steve Hucklesby of the Methodist Church said violence in Darfur had created one of the worst humanitarian disasters today.

"We should not let the challenges of military intervention in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East cause us to fall shy of intervention in Sudan," he said. "Darfur is a different situation and an effective peacekeeping force could transform the situation."

The Khartoum government dismissed the Global Day for Darfur. The foreign ministry said people in the West were being fed lies by an international media which had a political agenda.

Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said the government was indiscriminately bombing civilian villages in rebel-held north Darfur -- actions banned under international humanitarian law and constituting war crimes.

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