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For Immediate Release

32 NGOs Urge UN Secretary General Ban to Pressure Sudan to Accept a Joint African Union/United Nations Peacekeeping Force for Darfur

Cambridge, Mass - 01/18/2007

Thirty-two human rights, humanitarian, religious and conflict prevention organizations praised UN Secretary General Ban in a statement released today for his intention to make ending the violence in Darfur a top priority, while strongly urging him to continue pressuring the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, to accept a joint African Union (AU) – United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force of 17,000 soldiers and 3,000 police.

Meanwhile, despite Bashir’s December 27, 2006 acceptance of the phased deployment plan for the AU-UN peacekeeping force, the security situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate. Fighting has spread into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic. Villages in Darfur have been bombed by the Sudanese Air Force as recently as January 16, 2007.

"We are concerned that Sudan may not act in good faith,” said Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights. "President Bashir is the same man who violated the terms of the Darfur Peace Agreement almost immediately upon signing it, and even now continues to attack villages in Darfur as he negotiates with the United Nations over the deployment of the peacekeepers.”

The first phase of the three-phased plan would add 105 military officers, 33 U.N. police, 48 international staffers, 36 armored personnel carriers, night-vision goggles and Global Positioning equipment to the African Union force, according to a U.N. report last month. The second phase would include the deployment of several hundred U.N. military, police and civilian personnel to the African Union mission along with substantial aviation and logistical assets. The third and final phase would be the enlargement of the current AU force of approximately 7,000 troops to the 17,300 military personnel and 3,300 civilian police originally outlined in UNSC Resolution 1706 passed last year.

While President Bashir has accepted Phase I and 25 advisors have arrived in Darfur, he has yet to formally agree to Phases II or III. There is neither a timeline nor a decision on the composition or size of the force to be deployed in Phase III. Bashir’s deputies have announced that the UN can only contribute financial and logistical support to the mission, but that Sudan has no intention of allowing UN troops to be deployed.

"We appreciate the Secretary General’s recent attempts to broker an agreement with the Government of Sudan (GOS), but we will not trust the government’s intentions until there is a fully equipped force -- a combination of UN and AU forces -- deployed that is capable of protecting civilians,” said Moataz El Fegiery Programs Director of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies. "Mr. Ban must continue to press President Bashir for a timetable for troop deployment and for the composition and mandate of the force for Phase III.”

The Government of Sudan and its proxy forces, the Janjaweed militias, are responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and the displacement of nearly three million people from their homes in Darfur since violence erupted in early 2003.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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