Expected Council Action
In December, the Council will receive a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous, on the quarterly report on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is also expected to provide the semi-annual briefing on the Court’s work in Darfur. At press time, no Council outcome regarding Darfur was anticipated in December.
UNAMID’s mandate expires on 30 June 2015.
Key Recent Developments
In early April, Foreign Policy published a series of articles claiming that UNAMID had distorted its reporting to cover up crimes against civilians and peacekeepers. The fourth and final piece in the series was a 9 April article in which Aïcha El Basri, a UNAMID spokesperson from August 2012 to April 2013, wrote that “UNAMID lied to the media and failed to protect…civilians in the region”.
El Basri’s claims resonated with the ICC Prosecutor. In a 10 June written report, which served as the basis for her 17 June semi-annual briefing to the Council on the ICC’s work in Darfur, Bensouda argued that allegations of distorted reporting by UNAMID were supported by documents made public by El Basri. During the briefing, Bensouda called for a “thorough, independent and public inquiry” into allegations that UNAMID reporting had been manipulated “with the intentional effect of covering up crimes committed against civilians and peacekeepers”.
On 2 July, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric announced that the Secretary-General had “instructed the Secretariat to review the reports of all [UNAMID] investigations and inquiries undertaken since mid-2012 to ensure that their recommendations have been implemented and that any relevant issues have been fully addressed”. The Security Council welcomed this review, which was led by a former high-level UN official, in resolution 2173 on 27 August.
The Secretary-General submitted a letter to the Council on 29 October that summarised the findings of the investigation’s review team. An executive summary of the review team’s report was attached to the letter, although Council members have yet to be given access to the entire report. According to the letter, UNAMID “did not provide United Nations Headquarters with full reports” on the circumstances of five of 16 incidents investigated. The Secretary-General stated in the letter that the mission tended “not to report anything if not absolutely certain of the facts, even when there was enough evidence to make an informed judgement about the circumstances surrounding an incident”. He added that government or pro-government forces were guilty of crimes in the five cases investigated.
On 30 October, Sudan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman Elnor, claimed in a letter to the Secretary-General that UNAMID had benefited from strong cooperation with Sudan. Elnor stated that in light of Ban’s letter, Sudan would have to revisit its cooperation with the mission.
On 24 November, the Council received the quarterly briefing, followed by consultations, from the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador María Cristina Perceval (Argentina), on the Committee’s work in Darfur. Perceval said that she was briefing in an open session to promote the transparency of the work of the Sanctions Committee. She gave an overview of the 13 November Committee meeting, which was attended by Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan, in addition to Council members. Perceval noted that the representative of Sudan referred to the establishment of border monitoring mechanisms with Chad and Libya to stem the flow of illicit weapons into Darfur. However, she added that one Council member affirmed that the real issue is that there are weapons flowing between the government of Sudan and Darfur. (The most recent final report of the Panel of Experts, released in February, found that Sudan was responsible for violations of the arms embargo.)
The security situation in Darfur remains unstable. The Sudanese Central Reserve Police set fire to 26 homes and 12 businesses at the Zam Zam camp for displaced persons in North Darfur on 22 October, one day after camp inhabitants hanged a member of the police who allegedly had extorted traders there. On 29 October, three UNAMID peacekeepers were wounded when they were attacked by unidentified assailants near Kutum, North Darfur. On 7 November, previously unexploded ordnance blew up at a house in Twisha locality, North Darfur; five people were killed and four others were wounded.
On 4 November, media reports indicated that a mass rape of approximately 200 women and girls had occurred in the North Darfur village of Tabit, purportedly by members of the Sudan armed forces. For several days, efforts by UNAMID to investigate the allegations were rebuffed by the Sudanese military. Finally, on 9 November, a UNAMID verification team was permitted to enter the village, where they interviewed several residents.
In a 10 November press release, UNAMID said that “none of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report”. The press release further stated, “Village community leaders reiterated that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area”. The release also noted that UNAMID intends to undertake “further follow-up actions on the matter, including possible further investigations and patrols; in coordination with relevant host authorities and in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement between the Government of Sudan and UNAMID”.
On 10 November, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet and Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura (who participated via video-teleconference from Geneva) briefed Council members in consultations under “any other business” on the alleged rapes in Tabit and on UNAMID’s efforts to investigate the allegations. Mulet confirmed that access had been denied to Tabit from 4 to 9 November. Bangura expressed concern that there was a heavy military presence in Tabit when the UNAMID investigators were permitted entry there. She added that it was crucial that UNAMID have unfettered access to for additional investigations into the rape allegations and to deliver humanitarian and medical assistance. A subsequent UNAMID effort to follow up the 9 November visit to the village was rebuffed by Sudanese officials. In a 16 November letter to the Council, Sudan rejected the allegations of mass rape and stated that it will “not allow UNAMID to visit the village again.”
The Secretariat and the Council both called for additional access to Tabit. On 17 November, the Spokesman of the Secretary-General released a statement confirming that the “heavy presence of military and police in Tabit made a conclusive investigation difficult,” calling for a full UNAMID investigation and urging the Sudanese authorities to provide UNAMID with unhindered access. This was followed by a Council press statement on 19 November calling on Sudan to provide proper access to Tabit and its people to enable UNAMID to “verify whether these incidents have occurred”.
On 21 November, Abdallah al-Azraq, a representative of Sudan’s foreign ministry, said in a press briefing that UNAMID should prepare to leave Sudan. On the following day, UNAMID spokesman Ashar Eissa confirmed that Sudan had transmitted a note verbal to the mission indicating that the mission needed “an exit strategy.”
Negotiations between the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement–Minni Minnawi, two Darfur rebel groups, and Sudan were convened in Addis Ababa on 24 November.
Human Rights-Related Developments
A five-day human rights workshop organised by the Sudan National Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with UNDP and UNAMID, which began on 1 November in Khartoum, brought together participants from the National Commission, civil society and women’s groups. International human rights mechanisms, functions and processes as well as the roles of national institutions were discussed. Participants identified a number of recommendations, including the formation of a joint working group from both the National Commission and civil society organisations; the appointment of a commissioner to follow up the issue of classification within the international coordination committee; and collaboration between the National Commission, civil society groups and the Human Rights Council.
The underlying key issue is the ongoing security and humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, which is marked by widespread violence, impunity and displacement.
Restrictions by the government of Sudan on humanitarian access represent a recurring issue, highlighted by the recent access impediments on UNAMID personnel attempting to investigate the alleged mass rape in Tabit.
Also a key issue is the recent investigation of allegations that UNAMID reporting was manipulated, as it points to likely involvement in attacks against civilians by government and pro-government forces.
A related issue is the ongoing impunity for those who continue to attack civilians in Darfur.
One option for the Council would be to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations of mass rape in Tabit and other human rights crimes purportedly committed by government and pro-government forces in UNAMID’s area of operation in recent years.
Another option is for the Council to adopt a presidential statement that:
- requests that the full report of the review team be made public;
- condemns the government of Sudan for its continued efforts to curtail the movements and access of UNAMID peacekeepers; and
- demands an end to impunity for those who attack civilians and peacekeepers in Darfur.
During the 10 November consultations, several Council members, following Mulet and Bangura’s briefings, expressed their concern about the restrictions placed on UNAMID personnel attempting to investigate the alleged rapes in Tabit and the heavy military presence there on 9 November when UNAMID’s verification team was finally allowed into Tabit. There is a sense among a number of Council members that further investigation is needed to determine precisely what happened in Tabit.
Another Darfur-related issue on the minds of Council members is the investigation into allegations that UNAMID reporting was manipulated. Some members are disappointed that they have not been given access to the review team’s full report. These members also believe that those responsible for “the tendency not to report fully on incidents involving attacks on civilians and United Nations peacekeepers” should be held accountable for their approach to reporting.
The UK is the penholder on Darfur.
UN Documents on Darfur
|Security Council Resolutions|
|27 August 2014 S/RES/2173||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNAMID for 10 months.|
|31 March 2005 S/RES/1593||This resolution referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|19 November 2014 SC/11658||This press statement called for Sudan to provide UNAMID with access to Tabit and throughout Darfur.|
|Security Council Letters|
|17 November 2014 S/2014/819||This was a letter from Sudan containing a statement from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs denying accusations of mass rape in Tabit.|
|29 October 2014 S/2014/771||This contained the Secretary-General’s overview of the report into allegations that UNAMID’s reporting had been manipulated, as well as the executive summary of the report.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|24 November 2014 S/PV.7320||This was the quarterly briefing on the work of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.|
|7 August 2014 S/PV.7238||This was a briefing on Darfur by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur and head of UNAMID.|
|17 June 2014 S/PV.7199||This was the semi-annual briefing on Darfur by the ICC Prosecutor.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|14 November 2014 SC/11648||This was a press release stating that the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee convened a meeting with Sudan and regional states.|
|7 February 2014 S/2014/87||This letter transmitted the final report of the Panel of Experts.|
|22 July 2014 S/2014/515||This was a Secretary-General’s report on UNAMID.|