August 27, 2006

Amnesty warns of new human rights crisis in Darfur

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan is engaged in a military
build-up in its remote Darfur region despite a May peace deal,
threatening to create a new human rights catastrophe unless
U.N. troops are deployed soon, rights groups Amnesty said on

The Security Council will on Monday discuss a draft
resolution proposing deployment of around 20,000 U.N. troops
and police, despite Khartoum's rejection of any Darfur mission.

But Amnesty International in a statement on Monday
supported U.S. claims that the government was preparing a new
offensive in Darfur against some rebel factions who did not
sign the May peace deal.

"Eyewitnesses in el-Fasher in North Darfur are telling us
that Sudanese government military flights are flying in troops
and arms on a daily basis," said Kate Gilmore, Amnesty
International's executive deputy secretary general.

"Displaced people in Darfur are absolutely terrified that
the same soldiers that expelled them from their homes and
villages may now be sent supposedly to protect them."

Khartoum submitted a plan to the Security Council which
would send 10,5000 more government troops to Darfur to stop the
violence instead of a U.N. force.

But Amnesty and Washington say the 2.5 million war victims
who fled their homes to miserable camps in Darfur viewed
government soldiers as part of the problem not the solution.

"How can Sudan -- which appears to be about to launch its
own offensive in Darfur -- realistically propose being a
peacekeeper in a conflict to which it is a major party and
perpetrator of grave human rights violations?" Gilbert said.

After mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003,
Khartoum armed militia to quell the revolt. Those militia stand
accused of a campaign of rape, pillage and murder that
Washington called genocide.

Khartoum rejects the charge but the International Criminal
Court (ICC) is investigating alleged war crimes in the region.

Critics say Khartoum rejects U.N. troops because it fears
those soldiers would arrest any officials likely to be indicted
by the ICC, even though the two institutions are separate.

But with an African Union force monitoring a shaky truce in
Darfur struggling to find cash to pay its around 7,000 soldiers
and failing to stem the violence, time is running out for a
U.N. transition.

Rebels and the United Nations have accused Khartoum of
bombing in Darfur since the May deal in violation of a U.N.
Security Council resolution prohibiting offensive flights in
the remote west.