Human Rights Council on Darfur

The new Human Rights Council has just issued its first report on Darfur. The results are devastating: “The Mission…concludes that the Government of the Sudan has manifestly failed to protect the population of Darfur from large-scale international crimes, and has itself orchestrated and participated in these crimes. As such, the solemn obligation of the international community to exercise its responsibility to protect has become evident and urgent.”

Jody Williams, who won a Nobel Prize for her campaign against land mines, headed the Human Rights Council mission to Sudan. But like many other international investigators, NGO workers and journalists, her team could not secure visas to conduct their work in Sudan. According to the report, the mission asked for visas twelve times in a twenty day period. Even Secretary General Ban Ki-moon personally appealed to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, but to no avail.

Denied entry to Sudan, the team conducted most of its work from refugee camps in eastern Chad. Still, the new Council showed its utility by collecting evidence of war crimes and making a number of recommendations to the international community. Interestingly, one such recommendation asks the General Assembly request that the Council compile a list of foreign companies that “have an adverse impact on human rights in Darfur.”

For now, the report is a tool that member states can use to pressure Khartoum into reversing course in Darfur. Whether or not member states decide to follow though with the recommendations included in the report will ultimately determine how much impact it will have.