Press Notice 23b, Session 2004-05

MPs SLAM WORLD’S RESPONSE TO CRISIS IN DARFUR AND DEMAND DECISIVE ACTION NOW - LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY HAS LED TO A SCANDALOUSLY INEFFECTIVE RESPONSE.

A hard-hitting report published today by the International Development Committee (“Darfur, Sudan: The responsibility to protect” - HC67, Volumes I and II) reveals the true extent of the international community’s failure to protect the people of Darfur from the atrocities committed against them by the Sudanese government.

It warns that two years after the crisis in Darfur erupted, 300,000 people are estimated to have died; nearly two and a half million people are in need of humanitarian assistance - a figure likely to rise to four million this year; and more than two million people have been forced to flee from their homes.

The blame for the crisis in Darfur rests primarily with the Government of the Sudan, but the report points to a catalogue of failings by the international community - by governments including the UK’s, by the humanitarian system and by the United Nations Security Council. Early warnings about the emerging crisis were ignored, humanitarian agencies were slow to respond, responsibilities for helping displaced people and managing camps were unclear, and the UN suffered from an avoidable leadership vacuum in Sudan at a critical time.

The UN Security Council also comes in for criticism with MPs saying that it is failing to protect the people of Darfur, and to maintain international peace and security. Driven by Member States’ interests in oil and in exporting arms, it has been divided, weak and ineffective, the report concludes. The Darfur situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court, and there should be targeted sanctions and an extension of the arms embargo to cover the Government of the Sudan.

The report describes the priority given to the North-South peace process in Sudan by the international community as ‘misguided’, saying that it had predictable and deadly consequences for Darfur. A ‘whole of Sudan’ approach to peace-building was possible, preferable, and would have provided a more secure basis for a sustainable country-wide peace.

Members of the cross-party committee welcome the involvement of the African Union, but believe that much stronger political pressure on all sides is now vital if civilians are to be protected, security enhanced and a political solution found. The African Union must be supported, but it must not become an excuse for inaction by others.

Commenting, Committee Chairman, Tony Baldry MP, said:

“The crisis in Darfur is a tragedy. More than two million people have had to flee their homes. Hundreds of thousands have died.

“The world’s failure to protect the people of Darfur from the atrocities committed against them by their own government is a scandal.

“Decisive action is needed now. Continuing humanitarian relief is essential. But unless security improves and there is progress towards a political solution, that will be in vain.

“The African Union needs a stronger mandate and more troops. The UN Security Council, which has dithered for far too long, should impose sanctions, extend the arms embargo, and refer Darfur to the International Criminal Court.

“And, in its dealings with Sudan, the international community must ensure that whilst it supports the North-South peace process generously, its support to the regime in Khartoum is strictly and clearly conditional on a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Darfur.

“Crises such as Darfur require the world to respond collectively and effectively. Passing the buck will not do. After the genocide in Rwanda, the world said ‘never again’. President Bush said ‘not on my watch’. These words should mean something.

“The international community must now fulfill its responsibility to protect the people of Darfur. Attacked by the government which is meant to protect them, the people of Darfur, whom we have collectively and demonstrably failed, deserve no less. We demand that there is action now.”

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. Embargoed advance copies of the report are available to members of the press and witnesses on Tuesday 29 March at 11 am from the press gallery of the House of Commons, or reception at 7 Millbank. The report will also be available on the Committee’s website from 3.30 pm on the day of publication.

2. Full terms of reference along with evidence transcripts are available on the Committee’s website.

3. Committee Membership is as follows: is as follows: Tony Baldry (Chairman) (Conservative, Banbury), John Barrett (Liberal Democrat, Edinburgh West), Mr John Battle (Labour, Leeds West), Mr John Bercow (Conservative, Buckingham), Hugh Bayley (Labour, City of York), Ann Clwyd (Labour, Cynon Valley), Mr Tony Colman (Labour, Putney), Mr Quentin Davies (Conservative, Grantham and Stamford); Mr Piara S. Khabra (Labour, Ealing, Southall), Chris McCafferty (Labour, Calder Valley), and Tony Worthington (Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie).

4. News Release: No. 23b 2004-5

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