Dueling draft resolutions on Darfur

Urged on by the SG (who thought, as the U.S. and Israel do, that Israel was getting too much attention and criticism from the new UN Human Rights Council in Geneva because of its mistreatment of Palestinians), the Council obediently convened a fourth Special Session, on the human rights situation in Darfur.

Kofi Annan sent a video-taped message to today’s meeting (there are six hours’ time difference, after all, and he can’t be expected to wake up in the middle of the night in New York to address a meeting in Geneva), in which he observed that for more than three years now, the people of Darfur had “endured a nightmare”, and that it was nearly two years since an International Commission of Inquiry had submitted its report with shocking findings.

So, apparently it seems a good idea to send another Commission of Inquiry.  Annan wrote: “I urge you to lose no time in sending a team of independent and universally respected experts to investigate the latest escalation of abuses … It is urgent that we take action to prevent further violations, including by bringing to account those responsible for the numerous crimes that have already been committed. That is the very least you can do to show the people of Darfur that their cries for help are being heard”.

At a regular bi-weekly briefing for journalists at the UN Office in Geneva (UNOG), Jose Luis Diaz of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) drew attention to the High Commissioner’s statement to the Special Session this morning in which she had said that “victims and other vulnerable civilians are entitled to expect from you [the Human Rights Council] a credible response”.

Mr. Diaz told journalists that two [competing] draft resolutions had been submitted to the Council — the first, submitted by Finland, who had convened the Special Session, called for sending an urgent assessment mission to Darfur headed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan. The mission would be requested to report to the Council at its next session early next year.  Mr. Diaz explained that the second draft resolution, submitted by the African Group, also called for the Council to dispatch a mission to assess the human rights situation in Darfur, but this mission would be headed by the President of the Council and would include the members of the Bureau and the regional group coordinators members of the Council. That mission would also report back to the Council at its next session.

The Special Session was to continue into Wednesday.

Meanwhile, at UNHQ/NY, the UN Spokesman told journalists that “In the context of the follow up of the implementation of the UN light support package to the African Union mission in Darfur (AMIS), the Tripartite Mechanism composed of representatives of the United Nations, the African Union and the Government of Sudan will hold its first meeting tomorrow.  The Tripartite Mechanism aims at ensuring a more transparent, systematic, and efficient provision of UN support to AMIS. During tomorrow’s meeting, UNMIS will present a list of equipment and personnel ready to be deployed in support of AMIS.  Insecurity continues to prevail in many parts in Darfur.  For instance in West Darfur, a vehicle donated by a UN agency to the local ministry of health to assist in mobile vaccination and immunization of infants and children was hijacked alongside with the driver outside of a camp housing displaced persons. Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency reports that the voluntary return of Sudanese refugees to south Sudan is set to gather new momentum this week with the scheduled re-launch of return convoys from Ethiopia starting tomorrow (Wednesday), and from Central African Republic (CAR) on Saturday.

That’s the way the UN talks.