Imogen Foulkes / BBC News – 2004-04-22 00:08:38
GENEVA (April 21, 2004) — The BBC has seen a preliminary report prepared by a UN human rights team that found widespread abuses and alleged atrocities in Darfur, western Sudan.
Government-backed militias have forced some 670,000 people to flee from their homes into neighbouring Chad. The refugees speak of rape, arbitrary killings, and the destruction of homes.
But the report has been delayed because the UN has had difficulty getting into Darfur to speak to people about the alleged atrocities.
UN human rights investigators spent days trying to get into Darfur but were refused access by Sudan. After spending time with refugees in Chad, the team returned to its UN base in Geneva. As soon as they arrived in Geneva however, permission to visit Darfur was granted — so their preliminary report has been held back by the Human Rights Commissioner while they complete their investigation in Darfur itself.
The UN’s Human Rights Commission is due to consider a motion condemning human rights abuses in Darfur. Human rights groups are furious that the report will not be available to the commission before the debate on Sudan. Although it is not yet available to the commission, the preliminary report is a shocking picture of alleged atrocities in Darfur.
A copy of the report obtained by the BBC provides detailed evidence of serious human rights abuses. So serious are the abuses, the report says, that they amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
And the investigators conclude the Sudanese government has not only allowed militia groups to commit these atrocities with impunity, but it has worked with them using its air force to bomb villages and its own troops to drive out the population.
The fact that this evidence will not be officially presented to the Human Rights Commission before its debate on Thursday is yet another blow to the credibility of the commission which has already been criticised for allegedly bowing to political pressure from member states.