The Darfur Consortium

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Addressing the Darfur crisis   

November 15, 2022

SOAT lays out its position on the fundamental issues at stake in efforts to tackle the human rights situation in Darfur and its humanitarian fallout   

The situation in Darfur remains unstable in the extreme, with ongoing military conflict and abuses including abduction, torture and sexual violence having forced over 260,000 more civilians to flee their homes between January and September 2007 alone. Around a third of Darfur’s population is now displaced and the camps in which many of them have taken refuge have been subject to incursions by the Sudanese police, army and security forces in recent months and have been the scene of violent clashes between rebel factions. Humanitarian access in the region remains limited and dozens of aid workers have been kidnapped and physically or sexually assaulted so far this year.  

SOAT considers that efforts to address this complex situation must be based on a three-tiered approach combining: monitoring of human rights abuses in the region and moves to end the impunity of the perpetrators; the swift deployment of an effective peacekeeping force; and inclusive negotiations aimed at resolving the political and social roots of the conflict. It is imperative that all of this should occur in the context of sustained work to address human rights violations throughout the whole of Sudan and to ensure the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that brought an end to the civil war in the South in January 2005.  

With regard to the question of human rights violations in Darfur, SOAT greatly values the work of the United Nations Group of Experts on Darfur, who have undertaken a thorough analysis of this matter – taking into account the recommendations of other human rights mechanisms – and have laid out a set of very practical immediate, medium- and long-term goals for improving the situation on the ground. They have since been responsible for monitoring the implementation of those recommendations. Notwithstanding pressure from a number of UN member states to end the mandate of the Group of Experts, SOAT strongly believes that they should be allowed to continue their valuable work. In the unfortunate event that the mandate of the Group of Experts was to be terminated, concerted efforts should be made to ensure the implementation of their recommendations. 

In order to end the current impunity of human rights violators, more pressure must also be exercised on the government of Sudan to cooperate with prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, who have issued arrest warrants for two men said to be responsible for widespread abuses in Darfur. The Sudanese government has so far been highly obstructive towards the ICC, going so far as to appoint the subject of one of those arrest warrants to head a committee responsible for investigating human rights abuses in Darfur. Despite its claims to be handling the situation itself, Khartoum has made no serious effort to begin the investigations and prosecutions that will be so crucial if there is to be the possibility of some sort of closure and reconciliation for the people of the region.  

While it is clear that monitoring human rights violations and ending impunity for those responsible are vital if the situation in Darfur is to be resolved, it is equally clear that something must also be done to bring to an end the ongoing violent conflict in the region. In this light, SOAT welcomed the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 1769 in July this year authorising the establishment of a joint United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to replace the existing AU peacekeeping force. But the delays that have occurred in the process of preparing for the deployment of this new hybrid force have been disappointing. The Sudanese government is yet to approve a list of troop-contributing countries and there have been difficulties in organising specific key components, including helicopters.  

Concerns also remain about the composition of UNAMID. The UN and AU are committed to ensuring that it should consist mostly of African troops, in accordance with the wishes of the Sudanese government. But Sudan has taken an unjustifiably hard line on this issue, including objecting to the inclusion of an engineering unit from Norway and infantry units from Uruguay and Thailand. There is a risk that narrowing the range of potential contributors to this extent could limit the expertise available to the peacekeeping force in certain key areas and further delay its deployment. Officials involved in organising the formation and deployment of UNAMID should also keep in mind that those who have been driven from their homes in Darfur have expressed a desire to see a truly international force operating in the region.  

Beyond the question of its military make-up, SOAT welcomed the news that UNAMID is also to include a dedicated human rights component. It is crucial that this team should have the staff, resources and expertise needed in order to be able to monitor, investigate and report on massive human rights violations across a huge geographical area and under difficult circumstances. It is also important that it should include staff with expertise on sexual and gender-based violence, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1325.  

The swift deployment of an effective peacekeeping force to Darfur has the potential to help stem the violence in the region in the short- to medium-term. In order to bring a lasting solution to the crisis, however, there is a clear need for thoroughgoing negotiations to resolve the deep-seated grievances and social and political tensions that underlie the conflict. Such talks will inevitably be complicated enormously by the fragmentation of the Darfuri rebel movements into numerous factions. But efforts must be made to ensure that the process is as inclusive as possible, including giving a voice to civil society groups and other representatives of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. Peace talks may not be sustainable if these groups are not consulted with regard to key questions that directly concern them, such as disarmament, reconstruction, economic rehabilitation, transitional justice, reconciliation, the establishment of more accountable government structures, and the return of property and settlement of land ownership disputes. Given the need for inclusiveness, SOAT condemns the Sudanese government’s decision to prevent a number of representatives of Darfur civil society groups from travelling to Libya in October ahead of the Sirte peace talks.  

Peacekeeping, peace negotiations and addressing human rights abuses must, then, be the three key elements in any attempt to address the situation in Darfur. At the same time, there will be no sustainable resolution of the crisis in Darfur without efforts to tackle the situation in the rest of Sudan. The CPA that ended the civil war in the South brought with it an Interim National Constitution guaranteeing human rights and laid the framework for free and fair elections and the transition towards democracy. But delays in its implementation have left the Southern peace deal looking increasingly fragile of late. If Darfuri rebel groups and the sections of Darfuri society who sympathise with them are expected to place their faith in negotiations with Khartoum over their future, the CPA – which represents the clearest precedent for such moves – must be shown to have viable prospects. In order for the Darfur rebels and their constituents to reintegrate into the Sudanese state, efforts will also need to be made as part of the same process to address the patterns of human rights abuses seen across the country as a whole, including arbitrary detention, torture and restrictions on freedom of expression. This  must include amending those pieces of authoritarian legislation that continue to serve to legitimise many kinds of violations, such as the National Security Forces Act of 1999, in order to bring them into line with international standards and the values set out in the interim constitution.  

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan is currently doing valuable work to monitor abuses throughout the country and report on the implementation of relevant aspects of the CPA. Like the Group of Experts, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur has also come under pressure from a number of UN member states. But she must be allowed to continue her work – not only because of the intrinsic importance of the issues that she is addressing but also because of their relevance to efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis.   

With regard to the need to monitor human rights abuses and put an end to impunity in Darfur and across the rest of Sudan, SOAT recommends that:  

The Sudanese government should bring to justice those responsible for the grave crimes committed in Darfur, and should face firm and public pressure to do so from the international community.  

The Sudanese government should cooperate fully and promptly with the ICC, and other states should firmly and publicly pressure it to do so.  

The UN Special Rapporteur on Sudan should be allowed to continue her valuable work. 

The UN Group of Experts should be allowed to carry on working to monitor the implementation of their recommendations for addressing human rights violations in Darfur or, failing that, concerted efforts should be made to ensure follow-up of the recommendations laid out in their report (A/HRC/5/6) 

The Sudanese government should urgently amend all existing legislation that remains at odds with international human rights standards and the values laid out in the Interim National Constitution.  

With regard to the need for effective peacekeeping in Darfur, SOAT recommends that:  

The Sudanese government should cooperate fully and promptly with all processes necessary for the deployment of the full UNAMID force in Darfur as soon as possible, and other states should firmly and publicly pressure it to do so.  

The governments of Sudan and other UN and AU member states should consider the option of broadening the range of states contributing troops to UNAMID in order to move beyond the current narrow regional focus.  

Troops deployed to Darfur as part of UNAMID should be fully trained in and strictly adhere to international humanitarian law and human rights and criminal justice standards.  

With regard to the need for a sustainable negotiated peace settlement in Darfur, SOAT recommends that:  

The international community should work to bring together the various Darfuri rebel movements in order to encourage them to develop a coherent, workable negotiating platform during peace talks.  

Talks on the future of Darfur should make room for input from civil society groups and representatives of IDPs and refugees, who should be enabled to effectively participate in such talks and should be granted freedom of movement including the freedom to travel to take part in such talks. 

Against the background of efforts to bring about a negotiated settlement in Darfur, the international community should bring pressure to bear on the Sudanese government to ensure the effective implementation of the CPA.  


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