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U.N. Expert Blames Sudan for Atrocities

August 07, 2004|From Associated Press

GENEVA — A top U.N. human rights investigator blamed the Sudanese government for atrocities against residents of Darfur, saying Friday that "millions of civilians" could die.

Moving to protect the residents, the U.N. and Sudan finalized an agreement Friday requiring the government to create safe areas in the western region within 30 days so that civilians can live without fear of attack.

The "Plan of Action for Darfur" would halt all military operations by government forces, militias and rebel groups in the safe areas, likely to be set up in camps where thousands of Sudanese have taken refuge and around towns that still have large populations.

In the human rights report, Asma Jahangir, the U.N. investigator on executions, said there was "overwhelming evidence" that killings in Darfur were carried out "in a coordinated manner by the armed forces of the government and government-backed militias."

"The current humanitarian disaster unfolding in Darfur, for which the government is largely responsible, has put millions of civilians at risk, and it is very likely that many will die in the months to come as a result of starvation and disease," the Pakistani lawyer said in the report, which was based on a 13-day visit to the region in June.

The scale of violations means they "could constitute crimes against humanity for which the government of the Sudan must bear responsibility," she said in the 26-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) toured camps in eastern Chad that were holding hundreds of thousands of refugees and said he would investigate the relationship between the Sudanese government and the militias.

He also said the threat of U.N. sanctions against Sudan was not enough to end the violence.

Frist said he planned to talk with other U.S. lawmakers about remedying that, but he did not elaborate.

The U.S. Congress has labeled the atrocities genocide, and the United Nations has described the conflict in Darfur, which began with a rebellion early last year, as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution giving Sudan 30 days to curb the pro-government Arab militias blamed for the violence, or face diplomatic and economic penalties. The militias, called janjaweed, have been blamed for violence that has killed 30,000 people, forced a million from their homes and left an estimated 2.2 million in urgent need of aid.

The U.N.-Sudan agreement is to be signed Monday in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.

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