AI urges AU, UN to protect civilians in eastern Chad

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- As leaders of the African Union prepare for their summit in Gambia and the UN Security Council discusses the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur, Amnesty International is seeking urgent action by the international community to protect civilians in eastern Chad from cross-border attacks originating in Sudan.
"This is a key opportunity for both the African Union and the United Nations to deliver a coordinated and effective response to the longstanding human rights crisis in Darfur -- a crisis which is now spilling across the border into Chad, and could destabilise the region," said Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International.
"The Chadian government must step up to its responsibility to ensure the protection of its civilians and seek the assistance of an international force if necessary," she said Wednesday in press statement.
The statement came as Amnesty International (AI) released a video footage graphically revealing the murder and destruction taking place alongside Chad's border with Sudan, together with a report analysing the abuses and highlighting the failure of both governments to live up to their responsibilities.
"The Chadian government has virtually abdicated responsibility for protecting its own citizens along the border with Sudan, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by the Janjaweed militia and exploitation from the Sudanese armed groups present in eastern Chad.
" "The Sudanese government is allowing Janjaweed militia to attack Chadian civilians across its border with impunity -- killing, looting and de-populating land along the border," AI alarmed.
"The Janjaweed are targeting virtually defenceless communities -- unhindered by the governments of either Sudan or Chad.
Effective action must be taken now by the international community -- before the situation deteriorates even further.
" "The AU Summit meeting this week needs to send a clear signal to Sudan that it cannot continue to block the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation without consequences.
The AU should establish a clear programme of action to pressure the Sudanese government, which could include sanctions as well as suspending the decision to allow Sudan to take the AU Chairmanship in 2007," AI implored.
The UN Security Council will consider this week the results of the UN assessment mission on the deployment of a peacekeeping mission to Darfur.
And "the unfolding crisis in eastern Chad indicates that time is running out, and it is imperative that Council members show greater resolve to pressure the Sudanese government to accept a peacekeeping operation in Darfur with a protection mandate and the ability to prevent the cross-border incursions.
" "The human rights tragedy unfolding in eastern Chad is a direct product of the conflict in Darfur, and that makes it incumbent on the international community to address the human rights and humanitarian crisis on both sides of the border," the statement pointed out.
"Not only must the UN Security Council show a greater readiness to address the protection vacuum in eastern Chad -- it must do so urgently and not wait for the Sudanese government to move on Darfur.
The civilians in eastern Chad are in desperate need of protection and should not be held hostage to the pace of negotiations with Khartoum.
" "As a political and protection vacuum develops in eastern Chad, there is a real risk that the situation could worsen," said Ms.
Khan.

28 june 2006 19:43:00




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