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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 February, 2005, 02:48 GMT
UN rules out genocide in Darfur
A girl drinks water in Darfur refugee camp
About two million people have been forced to flee their homes in Darfur
A UN report has said Sudan's government and its militia systematically abused civilians in Darfur - but it stopped short of calling the violence genocide.

It said those responsible should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Where genocide is found to have taken place, signatories to a UN convention are legally obliged to act to end it.

The report also said rebel forces in Sudan's western region had committed serious human rights violations.

More than 70,000 people have been killed and two million more forced to flee their homes in Darfur since February 2003.

Khartoum denies arming the pro-Arab Janjaweed militias and blames Darfur's rebel groups for starting the conflict.

'Genocidal intent'

The report was initiated in October by the UN Security Council which had asked Secretary General Kofi Annan to set up a commission to investigate alleged human rights violations in Darfur.

"The commission found that [Sudan's] government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks," the report by the five-member commission said.

It said those included "killing of civilians, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur".

The commission concluded that the Sudanese government "has not pursued a policy of genocide", but added that the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur might be no less serious.

It said some individuals - including government officials - may have committed "acts with genocidal intent". However, it did not name names.

Genocide is defined as intent to destroy a group on national, ethnical, racial or religious grounds.

The commission also found evidence that rebel forces were responsible for serious human rights violations "which may amount to war crimes".

The commission recommended the situation in Darfur should be referred to the ICC, founded to try cases of genocide and war crimes.

However, the US, which has already said genocide took place in Darfur, would rather see a separate tribunal set up, reports the BBC's Susannah Price at the UN headquarters in New York.

Parts of the report were leaked in advance by the Sudanese government.

Details of the UN's report

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES: U.N. Envoy Says Horrified by Fresh Darfur Attacks - 1 hr ago
San Francisco Chronicle Envoy denies genocide in Darfur - 2 hrs ago
Chicago TribuneBoth sides criticize UN's Darfur report - 4 hrs ago
The Scotsman UN brands Sudan killings 'war crimes' - 5 hrs ago
Peoples Daily Online Sudan calls UN report on Darfur unfair - 7 hrs ago
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