Civilian protection a priority in Sudan

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The safety of civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan, where a genocidal conflict has raged since February 2003, and indeed in Southern Sudan, newly semi-autonomous after a 21-year civil war, are pressing human rights challenges.

We welcome the decision by the pretrial judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The bold indictment of a sitting head of state makes explicit international opinion of a campaign of mass murder that has left more than 300,000 civilians dead and displaced 2.7 million.

However, we reiterate that the largely symbolic strike at Bashir is only useful alongside concrete plans to ensure the region’s black African Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes are safe from Janjaweed militia and government strikes.

Increased support to the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, whose commander has complained in these pages of inadequate troops and equipment, is needed urgently to forestall any backlash.

Communal Violence

Southern Sudan, on the other hand, remains unacceptably lawless. A Human Rights Watch report released yesterday says civilians need protection from armed communal violence and excessive use of force by security forces. With Kenya increasing its strategic security and economic ties with the region, our Government must push the SPLM-led government there to take urgent steps to uphold human rights.

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