Thursday 14 December 2006
Last Update 14 December 2006 12:00 am
GENEVA, 14 December 2006 — The United Nations Human Rights Council was still struggling yesterday to reach an agreement on a fresh fact-finding mission to the strife-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, despite intense diplomatic pressure. The special session on rights violations in Darfur was moved behind closed doors, as Western and African member states remained at loggerheads over the composition of a mission.
The 47 member states in the council had been scheduled to vote on Tuesday on whether to send a mission to the strife-torn Sudanese province, but the debate spread into a second day. Western states, backed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbor, want any mission to be headed by the UN’s human rights expert on Sudan and composed of specialists.
African states by contrast propose the president of the council, Mexican Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, and other diplomats head the mission. On Tuesday, Annan had urged the UN’s top human rights forum to “lose no time” in sending a team of “independent and universally respected experts” to investigate the latest escalation of violence affecting civilians. “It is essential that this council send a clear and united message to warn all concerned, on behalf of the whole world, that the current situation is simply unacceptable and will not be allowed to continue,” he added.
The advocacy group Human Rights Watch said it was essential the mission be headed by the UN’s “special rapporteur” or independent expert on Sudan. HRW spokeswoman Mariette Grange said the group was concerned at the text getting “watered down” any further. “In our view it would be a failure of the Council if this mission were not to be led by experts,” she added.
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court plans to indict suspects for atrocities in Darfur by February, nearly two years after the UN Security Council asked him to probe the Sudan region. In a report ahead of his address today to the council, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his office was preparing submissions for arrest warrants to judges of the ICC’s pretrial chamber. “We are planning to complete this work no later than February,” Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine, said in the report, obtained by Reuters.
Arrest warrants are equivalent to indictments at the ICC, the world’s first permanent criminal court based in The Hague, Netherlands. Moreno-Ocampo said that since the start of the investigation, his team has carried out more than 70 missions to 17 different countries and conducted more than 100 interviews, many of which were with victims of crimes in Darfur. But he said that due to the violence in Darfur, he interviewed witnesses outside of Sudan, an arduous task.