Arria-Formula Meeting on the Human Rights Situation in Darfur
On Friday morning (19 June), Council members will participate in a closed Arria-formula meeting on the human rights situation in Darfur. Called at the initiative of the US, the meeting is intended to mark the 10th anniversary of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on Darfur, which was submitted to the Council on 31 January 2005 (S/2005/60). The COI had been established under resolution 1564: “to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, to determine also whether or not acts of genocide have occurred, and to identify the perpetrators of such violations with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.” The meeting will explore how the human rights situation has evolved over the past decade in Darfur. Former COI member Hina Jilani; Abdelrahman Gasim of the Darfur Bar Association; and Hawa Abdalla, an IDP camp leader and activist on women’s issues, are expected to brief.
The 2005 COI report concluded that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in Darfur. It found that “Government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks…on a widespread and systematic basis,” stating that the “vast majority of the victims of all of these violations have been from the Fur, Zaghawa, Masalit, Jebal Aranga and other so-called ‘African’ tribes.” The report found that rebel groups were responsible for “serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”
Council members may be interested in hearing from the speakers about the continuities and changes in the human rights situation in Darfur. They may seek advice from the speakers on how the Council can make its engagement on Darfur more effective. In spite of the large scale international investment in resources and effort since the release of the COI’s report a decade ago—including the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the establishment of the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), and several mediation processes—progress on human rights issues in Darfur has been limited.
Although conflict dynamics in Darfur have evolved in recent years with an increase of fighting among Arab communities, the violence in the region continues to have a devastating impact on the civilian population. On 10 June, Assistant-Secretary-General Edmond Mulet told the Council that there is “significant concern about reports of indiscriminate attacks against civilians and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” (S/PV.7460). Mulet’s concern mirrored the reports of armed attacks, sexual and gender-based violence, abductions and arbitrary arrests outlined in the Secretary-General’s 26 May report (S/2015/378). According to the report, recent violations are attributable to unidentified armed elements or “were allegedly perpetrated by the Government of the Sudan security forces and proxy entities.”
Friday’s Arria-formula meeting comes at a critical juncture regarding the Council’s engagement in Darfur. Although the full membership of the Council has yet to receive a draft, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of UNAMID later this month with an exit strategy for the mission among the issues to be addressed. Additionally, the semi-annual briefing of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on the court’s work in Darfur is scheduled for 29 June, which is notable considering that Bensouda announced at her last briefing, in December 2014, that the ICC was suspending its investigations in Darfur because of the Council’s inaction.
The P3 and several other members are pessimistic about the current human rights situation in Darfur, accusing Sudan armed forces, affiliated militias and rebels of attacking civilians and other human rights violations. In a 12 December 2014 Council meeting, the US noted that “the same crimes that the commission of inquiry uncovered and the Security Council denounced…have been committed and continue to be committed.” Other members, notably China and Russia, tend to be more sympathetic toward Sudan, while downplaying the severity of the security situation and focusing the blame for instability in Darfur on the rebel groups. Members have been disappointed with the lack of progress on the political front, although Jordan, Nigeria and Russia reportedly showed support for the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) as the basis for negotiations in recent consultations on the Sudan sanctions.
In light of Sudanese President and ICC-indictee Omar al-Bashir’s trip earlier this week to South Africa, an ICC state party, without being apprehended, the ICC’s work in Darfur may be a topic of discussion. Such a discussion would be in keeping with the view that the meeting is a stock-taking exercise of events since the COI report. That report strongly recommended that the Council refer the situation in Darfur to the ICC, and the Council followed through on this recommendation with the adoption of resolution 1593 on 31 March 2005. If the ICC is raised in the meeting, divergent views are likely to be expressed. A number of members—Angola, China, Malaysia, Russia and the US—have not ratified the Rome statute, although the US has been supportive of the court’s work in Darfur. Among the ICC state parties, Chad has hosted Bashir in the past without apprehending him, and has reportedly been reluctant to acknowledge Sudan’s non-compliance with the ICC.