Saturday, January 8, 2011

UN should publish Darfur reports - rights groups

The United Nations should publish reports on rights abuses and a humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region where violence has flared in recent months, a coalition of rights groups said on Saturday.
Violence in Darfur has increased with new clashes forcing thousands more to flee their homes. Government troops have resumed hostilities with the only insurgents who signed a 2006 peace deal and there has been more fighting with other rebels.

"An important first step to improving protection of civilians is to ensure public reporting on the human rights and protection needs," said Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights in a joint statement for 17 advocacy groups said.
"The U.N. should at the very least provide regular, thorough and independent public reports on the humanitarian and human rights situation," the statement said.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide in Darfur, the only sitting head of state the court has indicted.
The United Nations estimates some 300,000 people have died since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Sudan's west against Khartoum in early 2003.
The world's largest U.N.-funded peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) works in Darfur but has struggled to stop clashes. After the ICC warrant for Bashir, he expelled 13 aid agencies working in Darfur and a wave of kidnappings targeting foreigners has restricted those remaining to the main towns.

After a string of expulsions, aid agencies fear releasing information on Darfur and the United Nations used to fill that role. Some U.N. officials have come under fire in recent months for withholding information on the region.
"The U.N.'s humanitarian coordination office stopped publishing humanitarian needs profiles for Darfur from late 2009," the coalition said.
Darfur's conflict received little attention in its early and most violent months because of the international focus on north-south peace talks which ended a separate civil war there.
Culminating that deal, southerners will vote on Sunday on independence and most expect them to choose secession.
"The international community must not repeat the mistakes of the past and allow conflict to flare up in Darfur when its attention is elsewhere," said Dr. Monica Serrano, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.
"By accepting this information blackout, it is turning its back on its commitment to protect civilians from the violence in Darfur," she added.
The south had been hosting some Darfur rebel leaders, sparking tensions ahead of the secession referendum. But after a conciliatory visit by Bashir to the southern capital Juba this month, the insurgents were asked to leave.

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