This Day (Lagos)

5 August 2009

Nigeria: 'Bring Human Rights Abuse Perpetrators to Book'

Lagos — The African Commission and the International Criminal Court have been enjoined to bring all those found culpable in human rights abuse in Darfur region of Sudan to book; as a deterrent to other regions in Africa.

The call was made recently by a Commissioner with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and the Commissioner in charge of Sudan, Mrs. Dupe Atoki.

Atoki, who drafted a report titled, 'Sudan and The ICC - Wither The Victims', said opinions have been expressed in different tones and through different media on what has now turned a debate for and against International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of president Omar Al Bashir of Sudan.

"The arraignment and conviction (if it ever happens) of Al Bashir will not end the Darfur and indeed the Sudan crisis. The ethno-religious complications in the Sudan polity and the resource competition are too deeply engraved in the fabric of the Sudanese for such a one slab solution", she said.

To her, the political confrontations that have plagued the country are a manifestation of such racially and religious-based relation.

"The situation in Sudan has a complex mix of race, religion and resource competition the resolve of which may not be available in the conviction of the president."

"Whilst the battle to fight impunity goes on, the quest to bring perpetrators of human rights abuse to book should not only be encouraged but must be assured. The search for lasting peace in Sudan must run concurrently with the fight against impunity."

In spite of various measures put in place by government, the end of the conflict and the return of the displaced population are yet to be realised. One of the major challenges is the failure to address the human rights violations adequately and appropriately.

During the 45th Ordinary Session held in May 2009 in Banjul, the African Commission was informed by the Sudanese delegation that the Government was addressing the peace and justice challenge, and the problems of impunity, through measures such as the establishment of a tribunal to try those who are suspected of violation of human rights in Darfur.

The Government Prosecutor charged with the task of investigating and prosecuting the cases of human rights violations, told the Commission that he faces challenges in implementing his mandate in Darfur.

These included the logistical difficulties in conducting investigation in Darfur due to its size, transport problems and lack of qualified personnel.

At the end of a fact finding mission undertaken by the African Commission to Sudan in 2004, it made the following recommendation, which is still apt to date.

It then urged the Government of Sudan to rehabilitate the destroyed physical security infrastructure, and to suspend any police or security agents who are alleged to have been involved in the violation of human rights, pending the finalisation of investigations.

The government was also implored to ensure that all reports on rape already lodged with the police are investigated by the police and the culprits are brought to justice.

"These recommendations are still appropriate and if effected will jump-start the long process to reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the victims of this long drawn war", Atoki said.

"In order to ensure the attainment of a comprehensive and inclusive Darfur Peace Agreement, all parties to the Darfur conflict and the victims must be engaged in the processes. Their participation is crucial for legitimising the process and the outcome", she added.

According to her, proper and credible investigation should be conducted to determine their role and responsibility for the alleged violations, and if found culpable be prosecuted. "The victims of Darfur conflict are crying for justice", she said.

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