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TRAGEDY IN DARFUR IS MANMADE AND CAN
BE STOPPED, ACTING HIGH COMMISSIONER
TELLS HIGH-LEVEL GENEVA MEETING

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Statement by the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Mr. Bertrand Ramcharan,
to High-Level Donors’s Meeting on Darfur

Geneva, 3 June 2004

It is a privilege for me to take part in today’s discussions on Darfur to see how, collectively, we can address and resolve a crisis that is inflicting so much pain on so many people.

In early May, I issued a report to the Commission on Human Rights outlining the human rights dimensions of the crisis that has been unfolding in western Sudan: in Darfur. I shall not go into its details today – it is a publicly available document – but I would like to emphasis three points.

First, the scale of the tragedy in Darfur would be difficult to believe if it were not for the terrible fact that it is a reality. As we meet here in these wonderful surroundings in Geneva, more than one million Sudanese from Darfur are existing – barely – in desperate circumstances. They have been subjected to systematic and egregious assaults on their most basic physical security. The consequence of this is a humanitarian crisis on a massive scale. Let me say it again: more than one million people are utterly vulnerable, living in a state of fear and without any means of protection. Added to this, they have the prospect of the ever more imminent rains to look forward to. We know all this, we have no excuse for not knowing it: now is the time not to assess but to act.

Second, and as I had intimated above, this humanitarian crisis has as its genesis, a human rights crisis. One led into the other as night follows day. It is not impersonal, unswayable elements that are behind this tragedy; this tragedy is entirely manmade.

Thirdly, and following on from this, this crisis is eminently soluble. It can be stopped and its impact – for the refugees and other displaced – can be reversed. This must be our focus here today.

In my report to the Commission on Human Rights, I outline a number of recommendations for follow-up action, by the Government of Sudan and the international community. I have been in touch with the Government of Sudan in follow-up to this report and encouraged it to take both the report’s contents and recommendations in the spirit in which they were intended: as a very sombre and very honest assessment of the situation and as aiming to provide constructive proposals for addressing it. It is, after all, the Government of Sudan who bears the ultimate responsibility for resolving this crisis in line with its legal obligations.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stands ready and willing to assist, in any way it can, in achieving such a resolution. Our Office is ready to work with the Government of Sudan and all its partners to ensure the timely implementation of my recommendations, and, in line with the Security Council statement, provide timely and accurate reports to the Secretary-General on the human rights situation.

In this regard, as with you, one of my key concerns is that there are presently no human rights or protection mechanisms currently in place to help address the utter vulnerability of so many civilians in Darfur. This makes the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance – such a pressing need – all the more difficult.

With this in mind, we have developed a 90 day action plan, in coordination with our United Nations colleagues, as a first step towards preventing the continuation of violations, and towards enhancing capacity to protect civilians and provide effective rehabilitation for victims. This action plan is available to you today and I commend it to you.

In short, I have requested my Office to dispatch six human rights officers as soon as possible to Darfur to provide support to our United Nations counterparts in the area of human rights monitoring and protection of civilians. Two additional human rights officers will be based in Khartoum to help strengthen coordination within the United Nations Country Team on this critical issue.

In the meantime, I have also asked my Office to explore ways of assisting and working closely with the African Union to ensure that a human rights observer component is included in their ceasefire monitoring mission to Darfur.

While it is common sense to us all that humanitarian assistance and adequate protection are two sides of the same coin, we need to put this common sense fully into action No more can we countenance hearing stories of the displaced appealing for the non-delivery of assistance as a means to ensure their greater security from further pillage and violence.

I repeat to you again: this crisis can end and can end quickly. Now is the time and here is the place when our collective commitment to bring it to an end must be realised through practical and constructive means.

I thank you for your attention.