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Eight Human Rights and Humanitarian Groups Urge a Leadership Role for the US on Darfur

June 2006

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20006

June 5, 2006

Dear President Bush:

As human rights and humanitarian organizations, we are gravely concerned that the hopes raised when the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed one month ago today are quickly vanishing. Violations of the Agreement are mounting and missed deadlines are being met with silence from the international community. Understandably, the people of Darfur are losing confidence in this accord, and the parties to the Agreement have little reason to believe they will be pressed to meet their commitments. Far from fulfilling its obligations under the DPA, the Government of Sudan has continued to block humanitarian aid and to deny access to aid organizations and media outlets seeking access to Darfur. The Government arrested human rights lawyers in Darfur within days of signing the accord. As of today, major stakeholders in Darfur have yet to sign the agreement. In addition, key questions of how security and economic opportunity will be provided to those who have lost all they own are not detailed in the document and need to be developed within the framework of the Agreement.

We address you and your administration today with a sense of great urgency. The United States was a key broker of the agreement and is a leading donor of humanitarian assistance funds to agencies assisting the Darfurian people. We appeal to you to engage intensively in the weeks and months ahead to prevent greater bloodshed, displacement and the worsening of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and in neighboring Chad. Continued US leadership is critical. First, violence must cease - without security, nothing else is possible. Second, the US must increase its efforts to stem the on-going humanitarian crisis. Third, the US must continue to play an active role in laying the groundwork for peace and justice in Darfur. To this end, we urge you to take the following steps:

  1. Support and contribute to the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force of 20,000 troops under Chapter VII no later than October 2006. This force, which should be composed of a substantial contingent of soldiers from Muslim and African nations, will be tasked with protecting civilians and overseeing the security arrangements in the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), notably the disarming of the Janjaweed militias and rebel forces. The US should insist that Khartoum accept this force and should encourage other members of the UNSC who are traveling to Darfur next week to do the same.
  2. Strengthen the African Union force (AMIS) by retaining and immediately allocating the $173 million in the FY 2006 supplemental appropriations bill after it is enacted into law. We urge you to provide additional resources and logistical support while simultaneously encouraging the other G8 nations to increase their assistance to the under-resourced force.
  3. Continue to give generously to humanitarian assistance programs in Darfur which are desperately under-funded. The FY 2006 supplemental appropriations bill includes additional funding in humanitarian assistance for the people of Darfur. Currently, US agencies such as the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) are borrowing funds from other accounts to meet basic emergency needs in Darfur. Funding must be allocated and dispersed as soon as possible to avoid a stoppage to existing emergency programs. Urge other G8 nations to increase their humanitarian funding, and to quickly make good on their pledges with cash on the ground. At the same time, signal the Government in Khartoum that interference with the delivery of humanitarian aid is unacceptable, and that all obstructions, refusals of visas for aid workers and other delay tactics will be considered violations of the DPA and will trigger targeted sanctions through the UN Security Council.
  4. Rigorously demonstrate US intentions to hold all parties accountable to their obligations under the DPA, particularly regarding implementation of the ceasefire, civilian protection, and disarmament of the Janjaweed. Within the UN Security Council, violations of the DPA and failure to meet agreed- upon deadlines must result in targeted sanctions against individuals obstructing or delaying the process.
  5. Hold the Governments of Sudan and Chad accountable for violating of the terms of the Tripoli Agreement of February 2006, in which both sides pledged to end cross-border attacks. Violations are exacerbating an already-disastrous humanitarian situation; increasing refugee flows between the two countries, and contributing to heightening violence in the volatile border area.
  6. Maintain diplomatic pressure on the Government of Sudan to significantly increase its funding of compensation for victims to build towards a more appropriate figure. The $30 million commitment by the GOS, currently included in the DPA, is an insult to the victims who have sustained great economic and personal losses. For each of the nearly 800,000 families affected to receive even $1,000, which represents a fraction of the losses sustained by most, would require nearly $1 billion. Victim assistance and individual support to rebuild lives and livelihoods is a central demand of all the affected populations and may well be the single most critical issue for securing peace and the rights of the general populace to this form of redress.
  7. Promote accountability by ensuring that all perpetrators are held responsible for their actions through proper judicial processes. Vow that the US will support international, multi-lateral efforts to prosecute those who have committed atrocities in Darfur.

We believe that your full backing and active support for the rapid appointment of a high-level Envoy for Peace in Sudan would facilitate the above actions while demonstrating US leadership. This senior Envoy could coordinate closely with donors on humanitarian and development assistance, exert sustained diplomatic pressure on all parties to abide by their commitments, and work with hold-out rebel groups to encourage them to sign the DPA. An Envoy could also work with donor nations and the UN to monitor negotiations between the Government of Sudan and rebels in the east, to exert pressure on both the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups to adhere to the CPA, and to cut through bureaucratic red tape obstructing US assistance to South Sudan, especially for the SPLA. With Secretary Zoellick's impending departure and the Darfur peace process hanging by a thread, the time is right for this move.

President Bush, we urge you to assume a stronger and more public leadership role on the issue of Darfur, and to exhort the other nations of the world to more fully respond to this ongoing tragedy with the requisite urgency. Time is running out in Darfur. The nations most invested in the Darfur Peace Agreement have a narrow window during which they must prove that they are willing to hold parties to their obligations, and that they are willing to field a UN Force capable of establishing real security. If this crucial period passes without concerted and coordinated US and international action, many tens of thousands more lives will likely be lost.

Sincerely,

Ann-Louise Colgan, Acting Co-Executive Director
Africa Action

Ruth Messinger, Executive Director/President
American Jewish World Service

Mark Hanis, Executive Director
Genocide Intervention Network
Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director
Human Rights First

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director
Human Rights Watch

Erin Mazursky, Executive Director
National STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur) Coalition

Leonard S. Rubenstein, Executive Director
Physicians for Human Rights

David Rubenstein, Coordinator
Save Darfur Coalition

Cc: Vice President Cheney
Secretary Rumsfeld
Secretary Rice
Deputy Secretary Zoellick
Charge d'Affaires Hume
Chairman Lugar
Chairman Hyde

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