UNITED NATIONS, (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and 20 other government, military and Janjaweed militia members should be investigated for ordering, condoning or carrying out atrocities in the Darfur region, a leading human rights group said.
The 85-page report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, released on Sunday, documents through eyewitness accounts, government papers and its own investigations of their alleged role in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur since mid-2003.
"The Sudanese government at the highest levels is responsible for widespread and systematic abuses in Darfur," the report said. "The Sudanese government”s systematic attacks on civilians in Darfur have been accompanied by a policy of impunity for all those responsible for the crimes."
The report was prepared for use by the International Criminal Court, which the U.N. Security Council assigned in March to indict individuals responsible for the abuses. Its prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, addresses the council on Tuesday but has not yet ordered any indictments.
In addition, the rights group said the U.N. Security Council should incorporate the list of names in its register of suspects eligible for travel and other sanctions. The council voted for the sanctions nine months ago but has taken no action.
Tens of thousands of Sudanese have been killed since a revolt in Darfur began in early 2003 by non-Arab villagers who accused the government of neglect and repression. The report charged that Khartoum in retaliation armed Arab Janjaweed militia and drafted them into police and other security forces as they looted, raped and drove 2 million people out of their homes.
The Khartoum government over the past two years has vigorously denied its affiliation with the Janjaweed and set up its own special courts to try suspects. But Human Rights Watch said the government has made no "genuine" effort to investigate, discipline or prosecute those responsible.
By early 2004 it was clear, even to some soldiers, that civilians were the targets, said the report, entitled "Entrenching Impunity: Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur."
YOU HAVE TO ATTACK THE CIVILIANS”
One former soldier was quoted as telling Human Rights Watch that when he protested to his commander, he was told, "You have to attack the civilians."
Although the Sudanese government probably does not have full control over all militia any longer, the report says the "out of control" state of affairs provides the government with the deniability it believes it needs to counter international protests."
Bashir, a lieutenant general, who is also commander-in-chief of the army, played a pivotal role, the report said. Even his public statements were "precursors to the call to arms and peaks in the violence, and no doubt echoed the private directives given to the civilian administration, military, and security services."
Also on the list is Vice President Ali Osman Taha, who has been praised for negotiating the north-south peace agreement that a year ago ended decades of civil war.
The report acknowledged there was little documentary evidence about Taha. But it quoted community leaders who said he arranged for the release from prison in 2003 of Musa Hilal, an acknowledged Janjaweed figure. They contended Hilal, also on the rights group list, took orders from Taha alone.
Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Abduraheem Mohammed Hussein, the formerinterior minister, was Bashir”s envoy in Darfur in 1994.
The report said he appeared to have played a central role in coordinating the "ethnic cleansing" campaign, with his deputy, Col. Ahmed Mohammed Haroun, also on the list.
"Both were named by numerous witnesses who noted that their visits to Darfur always preceded military offensives and militia attacks," the report said.