Methodist Church calls for action to end Darfur violence

The Methodist Church urges a commitment to action following thepublication of the report of the International Commission ofInquiry on Darfur to the UN. It is estimated that 70,000 peoplehave died in the conflict, which has forced 1.8 million to leavetheir homes.

The report, published 1 February 2005, describes in some detailactions perpetrated by the Sudanese government and governmentallied militias including "killing of civilians, enforceddisappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms ofsexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughoutDarfur."

The report also documents ceasefire violations by rebel groupsthat are fighting the Janjaweed militia, but it is particularlycritical of the Sudanese Government's actions and failure toprotect civilians. On 16 January, the bombing of civilians tookplace even while the assessment team of the InternationalCommission were still in Sudan. George Somerwill, a spokespersonfor the UN assessment team, said: "It has been confirmed that thevillage of Hamada was nearly totally destroyed and that up to 105civilians may have been killed, with the majority of victims beingwomen and children." On 27 January aerial bombardments by theGovernment on the town of Shangil Tobai in North Darfur caused thedeaths of around 100 people and more suffering for the people ofthat region.

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

The report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfurrecommends trying those responsible in the International CriminalCourt. The UN Security Council will meet soon to decide if actionshould be taken against the Sudanese Government. British Ambassadorto the UN Emyr Jones Parry has said "The British Position is thatthis is a case that is tailor-made for the International CriminalCourt." The US has resisted the use of the International CriminalCourt calling instead for an international tribunal to beestablished.

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

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

"The International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur has concludedthat the Justice System in Sudan is incapable of prosecuting thoseaccused of war crimes," says Steve. "It is right that persuasionshould be used before sanctions; however, the time for persuasionhas passed. In the light of continued aerial bombardment ofcivilian targets the UN Security Council must live up to itspromise in September 2004 to take effective action to ensure fullcompliance with Security Council resolutions 1556 and 1564. We urgethe UK Government to press for the force to be increased in sizebeyond the number promised so far and for a review theeffectiveness of its current mandate. The Security Council mustalso ensure that those accused of killing, torture and rape arebrought to justice".