03 February 2005

Methodist Church calls for action to end Darfur violence

The Methodist Church urges a commitment to action following the publication of the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the UN. It is estimated that 70,000 people have died in the conflict, which has forced 1.8 million to leave their homes.

The report, published 1 February 2005, describes in some detail actions perpetrated by the Sudanese government and government allied militias including "killing of civilians, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur."

The report also documents ceasefire violations by rebel groups that are fighting the Janjaweed militia, but it is particularly critical of the Sudanese Government's actions and failure to protect civilians. On 16 January, the bombing of civilians took place even while the assessment team of the International Commission were still in Sudan. George Somerwill, a spokesperson for the UN assessment team, said: "It has been confirmed that the village of Hamada was nearly totally destroyed and that up to 105 civilians may have been killed, with the majority of victims being women and children." On 27 January aerial bombardments by the Government on the town of Shangil Tobai in North Darfur caused the deaths of around 100 people and more suffering for the people of that region.

Kofi Annan has said: "The crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide." Mr Annan said that 'Action will have to be taken' and stated his belief that sanctions should be seriously considered against the Sudanese Government.

The report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur recommends trying those responsible in the International Criminal Court. The UN Security Council will meet soon to decide if action should be taken against the Sudanese Government. British Ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones Parry has said "The British Position is that this is a case that is tailor-made for the International Criminal Court." The US has resisted the use of the International Criminal Court calling instead for an international tribunal to be established.

African Union forces operating under a limited peace keeping mandate currently number 1,400 though it has been promised that this number will be increased to 3,200 later this month.

Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs said "There is a great deal of concern among many in the Methodist Church that in spite of consistent warnings of escalating violence in Darfur, there is little action being taken to impose a ceasefire. It is all too apparent that the size of the African Union peacekeeping force is wholly inadequate."

"The International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur has concluded that the Justice System in Sudan is incapable of prosecuting those accused of war crimes," says Steve. "It is right that persuasion should be used before sanctions; however, the time for persuasion has passed. In the light of continued aerial bombardment of civilian targets the UN Security Council must live up to its promise in September 2004 to take effective action to ensure full compliance with Security Council resolutions 1556 and 1564. We urge the UK Government to press for the force to be increased in size beyond the number promised so far and for a review the effectiveness of its current mandate. The Security Council must also ensure that those accused of killing, torture and rape are brought to justice".

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