Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Sudan rejects human rights report on Darfur

The Sudanese government has slammed a report by Human Rights Watch over the strife-torn western region of Darfur and accused the organisation of attempting to provoke the UN Security Council into imposing sanctions against the country.

Human Rights Watch charged in a report that Sudanese government officials are directly involved in recruiting, arming and other support to the Janjaweed militia that terrorise the black population of Darfur.

"It is nothing new of this organisation to take up this role that raises suspicion," Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail told journalists, referring to the US-based watchdog.

"The suspicion in the aims of the organisation is particularly raised by the timing it has chosen for releasing its report," Mr Ismail said, adding that HRW intended to pressure the UN Security Council into adopting a resolution imposing sanctions against Sudan.

The Darfur region is in the throes of what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with a major famine looming and humanitarian relief operations hampered by rains.

Up to 30,000 people have been killed in Darfur since rebel groups rose up in February 2003, prompting a heavy-handed response from Sudanese forces and government-sponsored Arab militia.

Citing Sudanese government documents, the Human Rights Watch called for an immediate, strongly worded UN resolution that sanctions Khartoum and government officials responsible for crimes against humanity.

It said the confidential documents in its possession implicate high-ranking government officials in a policy of militia support.

"It's absurd to distinguish between the Sudanese government forces and the militias, they are one," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Africa Division. "These documents show that militia activity has not just been condoned, it's been specifically supported by Sudan government officials."

Mr Ismail rejected the report as "lies" and said the documents used to back its assertions are "100 per cent false". He said he was planning to telephone UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and explain to him Khartoum's viewpoint on the developments in Sudan.

By In Solidarity 21 July 04


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