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Darfur: US says UN Council Not Enforcing Sanctions

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UNITED NATIONS - Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, criticized the 15-nation Security Council for failing to enforce an arms embargo in Sudan's Darfur region, saying there were "cavalier violations" of UN sanctions as well as offensive military actions by Khartoum.

"We heard that there have been, and continue to be, major and frequent
violations of UN sanctions on Sudan that were imposed in 2005. We know
that weapons continue to flow into Darfur, acts of sexual and gender-based violence continue unabated and with impunity, military over-flights and offensive actions continue. And though there has been the recent signing of the framework agreement (between the government and the Justice and Equality rebel group), the fact is we continue to receive reports of offensive military actions by the Government of Sudan in Darfur."

Rice spoke after a closed-door Council session Thursday on the implementation of sanctions against Sudan, particularly an arms embargo. The Council's committee monitoring the penalties was reviewing a devastating October report from its independent panel of experts. Among the recommendations was a resolution that would give guidelines to the private sector not to sell vehicles, aircraft and other products that could be used in for military purposes in Darfur. China objected to that, diplomats said.

The diplomats noted the continuous flow of weapons into Darfur to both the government and rebels, which Rice said were supplied by countries in the region, among others. The expert panel had reported that many armaments originated in China, although not transported to Darfur by Beijing. It said Chinese manufacturers and the Beijing government had not been forthcoming on information.

Recommendations Rejected

Saying some of the panel's recommendations had been rejected, Rice told reporters:

"We expect, the United States expects, the Committee to find points of consensus and work together to improve implementation of the sanctions regime... We want this Committee to be active and engaged and to shine a spotlight on sanctions violations into Darfur, and do much to protect civilians who remain at grave risk."

"It's the U.S.'s view that when the Council imposes measures, whether on Iran, or North Korea, or Sudan, that those measures need to be fully and faithfully enforced. And in this instance, and frankly in contrast to some others, the level of commitment and energy behind enforcement is inadequate and we're working to change that."

Council committees operate by consensus, thereby giving each member a veto. The arms embargo is for Darfur only, not the remainder of Sudan.

Rice, who is regarded as more militant on Darfur than President Obama's special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration (who once said he would win over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with "cookies...gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.") nevertheless was indirectly criticized by Enrico Carisch, the Swiss head of the panel that wrote the October report.

Carisch, who has now left the panel, told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in December that the United States "appears to have now joined the group of influential states (Britain and France included) who sit by quietly and do nothing to ensure that sanctions work to protect Darfurians." He praised Gration for seeking a dialogue with all concerned but said this must include "support of basic human rights and humanitarian principles."

But the dynamics in the Council are more complicated, even before President Obama took office. The objective of China, Russia along with Libya, Vietnam and South Africa (those three countries are no longer on the Council) appeared to avoid any measures that might endanger the Sudan government.

The African Union (whose chair in 2009 was Libya), which supplies most of the peacekeepers in Darfur, and the United Nations were often at cross purposes. Many negotiations with Sudan and various rebel groups in 2008 were far away from New York (Libyan initiatives, Egyptian initiatives, regional monitors). Few needed to report to anyone, sidelining the Security Council, which never organized a working group to analyze all the pieces.

In the end the Council's sanctions committee, now headed by Austrian Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting (complimented by Rice for pointing out abuses to women), did the most work although it could not reach unanimity.

Rape, Impunity, Torture

But it was obliged to issue regular reports from the independent panel, which found rampant violations of Security Council demands:

Ignoring the arms embargo, especially by the Sudan Government and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement; a limp Sudan court system and impunity for perpetrators of abuses; indiscriminate killings and mass displacement of civilians; rape of women and girls; child soldiers recruited by all parties; illegal arrests by Sudan security services, including torture.

And the panel said it found "strong evidence" that the Janjaweed militia, made up of nomadic Arab tribes, were still functioning as auxiliary forces of the Sudan military.

In early in 2003, African rebels rose up against the Sudanese government, claiming discrimination. In response Khartoum armed the Janjaweed, which pillaged, killed and raped, a charge the government denies. An estimated 300,000 have died from violence and diseases and 2.7 million were driven from their homes.

Still, the focus of the Thursday meeting was violation of the arms embargo for Darfur. Since the United States and its allies were unable to have it apply to the whole of Sudan, preventing weapons from flowing into Darfur is wishful thinking.