Expected Council Action
In March, the Council will consider two reports on the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), both were expected to be released before the end of February. These are the quarterly report on UNAMID and a special report that analyses the implementation of the strategic review of the mission conducted last year and includes “recommendations for the future mandate, composition, configuration and exit strategy of UNAMID” per resolution 2173 of 27 August 2014.
The mandate of UNAMID expires on 30 June.
Key Recent Developments
Since late last year, there has been significant tension between the UN and the government of Sudan. First, the government has restricted UNAMID’s access to Tabit, a village in North Darfur where more than 200 girls and women were reportedly the victims of a mass rape perpetrated by the Sudan Armed Forces in late October 2014. Second, in November 2014, Sudan transmitted a note verbale to the mission indicating that UNAMID needed “an exit strategy”. Finally, Sudan announced its decision to expel UNDP Country Director Yvonne Helle (Netherlands) and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ali al-Zaatari (Jordan) on 24 and 25 December 2014, respectively.
In December 2014, a joint AU/UN assessment mission visited Sudan in keeping with the request in resolution 2173 that the Secretary-General “conduct an analysis of the implementation of the Council’s review of UNAMID” in close consultations with the AU. It appears that the assessment team concluded that UNAMID needs to adapt its approach to protecting civilians while also noting ongoing challenges facing the mission with regard to facilitating humanitarian access. (The review of UNAMID’s mandate was requested in resolution 2113, which renewed the mission on 30 July 2013 in the context of a deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Darfur and a lack of progress in implementing the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.)
When Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed the Council on 4 December 2014, he stated that while Sudan had called for the departure of UNAMID, it had also “clearly established that this is not about leaving tomorrow” and that “we need to agree on a strategy”.
Fighting continues to result in thousands of additional internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Central and North Darfur. On 8 February, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that since the start of 2015, more than 38,500 displaced people had entered IDP camps in North Darfur. It also noted a high number of recently displaced people in parts of Central Darfur, including Golo, Jebel Marra and Rokero.
On 6 February, Ambassador Rafael Ramírez (Venezuela), chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, provided the quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work in consultations. (This broke with the recent practice of holding sanctions committee briefings in a public session, followed by consultations.) Ramírez told Council members that the Committee recognised the quality of the final report by the Panel of Experts. He added that the Committee was concerned about attacks on civilians and UN personnel while noting that several Committee members had underscored continued violations of the arms embargo.
On 12 February, the Council adopted resolution 2200, renewing the Panel of Experts’ mandate for an additional 13 months until 12 March 2016. The resolution built largely on last year’s resolution 2138 to renew the Panel’s mandate. However, some adjustments were made. For example, the resolution strengthened the language regarding restrictions against the movement of weapons and ammunition by Sudan and government-affiliated armed groups into Darfur. It also requested that the Panel of Experts share any evidence of potential non-compliance with the assets freeze and travel ban with the Committee as soon as possible.
Human Rights-Related Developments
Human Rights Watch released a report on 11 February titled “Mass Rape in Darfur: Sudanese Army Attacks Against Civilians in Tabit”, which documents 27 first-hand accounts of rape and credible information about an additional 194 incidents of rape perpetrated by members of the Sudanese Armed Forces in Tabit over 36 hours beginning on 30 October 2014. The findings of the report are based on more than 130 interviews conducted by telephone, as Human Rights Watch was not able to visit Tabit due to government restrictions on access. The report contains recommendations for the Security Council, such as adopting a resolution demanding that Sudan allow UNAMID immediate and unrestricted access to Tabit, including the establishment of a permanent presence in the town, and imposing travel bans and asset freezes on individuals responsible for the attacks. Other recommendations call for the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct investigations into the alleged abuses in Tabit.
The underlying issue is the on-going security and humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, which is marked by widespread violence, impunity and displacement and shows no signs of improving, despite the fact that UNAMID has been deployed for more than seven years.
Given the political, logistical and financial challenges of the hybrid peacekeeping model, a related issue is whether and how this model can be improved.
Another key issue is the future of UNAMID, given requests by the government for the mission to develop an exit strategy despite the difficult environment on the ground.
Also an important issue is how the Council decides to respond to the recommendations proposed by the Secretary-General in his special report.
One option is for the Council to consider the Secretary-General’s reports but to take no concrete action at the present time. This would provide members with the time to think strategically about the Secretary-General’s recommendations and how to respond to them prior to the expiration of UNAMID’s mandate on 30 June.
Another related option would be for the Council to direct the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations to study the Secretary-General’s special report and convey its views back to the Council regarding the mission’s future.
The Council could also consider establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations of mass rape in Tabit.
The Council is divided on its approach to Darfur. Some members are critical of Khartoum for what they see as a consistent pattern of attacks against civilians and antagonistic behaviour toward the UN presence in the country. Other members tend to be more supportive of the government and focus the blame for the situation in Darfur primarily on the rebel groups.
Regarding the allegations of mass rape in Tabit, some members, such as Lithuania, the UK and the US, have argued that UNAMID needs to be provided unfettered access to the town for further investigations. This is in keeping with the 19 November 2014 press statement in which Council members “noted that proper access to Tabit and its population for UNAMID…is essential to conducting a full investigation into the allegations in order to determine their veracity and, if verified, to ensure accountability”. Chad likewise has stated that there needs to be “a more thorough, independent and impartial investigation”. On the other hand, Russia has stated that the allegations are “scurrilous”, as they were initially made by the “anti-Khartoum broadcasting of Radio Dabanga” and Khartoum’s own investigation failed to uncover evidence of rape.
The UK is the penholder on Darfur while Venezuela is the chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 February 2015 S/RES/2200||This resolution renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts.|
|27 August 2014 S/RES/2173||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNAMID for 10 months.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|4 December 2014 S/PV.7326||This was a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous presenting the quarterly UNAMID report and that Sudan had publicly called for UNAMID’s departure.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|19 November 2014 SC/11658||This press statement called for Sudan to provide UNAMID with access to Thabit and throughout Darfur.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|19 January 2015 S/2015/31||This was the final report of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts.|