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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
'Culture of impunity' in Darfur
By Jonah Fisher
BBC, Khartoum

Displaced Sudanese woman prepares mud bricks
More than 2m have fled their homes in Darfur
A senior United Nations official has given a damning assessment of the Sudanese government's efforts to bring peace to Darfur.

Special UN advisor on preventing genocide Juan Mendez said Khartoum had done little to disarm militias or end the "culture of impunity" there.

He said Sudan's authorities remained in denial about the extent of the problem.

Mr Mendez was speaking after his second trip to Darfur, where the conflict has displaced more than two million people.

Disconnect

Mr Mendez's job is not to decide if genocide has taken place in Darfur. That has been left to other people.

The United States having decided it was and a UN commission disagreeing.

A former political prisoner and human rights lawyer from Argentina, Mr Mendez was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to warn him of situations that could potentially lead to genocide.

After visiting Darfur for the second time and hearing what Sudanese officials had to say he said problems were continuing.

"I perceived a significant disconnect between the account of the government - and the accounts of Darfuris who we met."

There have been some improvements he said - in part brought about by the presence of the African Union peacekeepers.

Among Darfur's displaced people he said the rape of women remained much too prevalent with a deep level of mistrust of the Sudanese police.

Impunity

In the early days of the Darfur crisis the Khartoum government armed Arab militia to fight the rebels.

Ever since the international community has regularly called on them to reign in the "Janjaweed" militias.

Mr Mendez says the plea is still falling on deaf ears.

"We don't see a serious good faith effort on the part of the government to disarm."

Earlier this year the United Nations Security Council referred Darfur's atrocities to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Sudan says they won't cooperate and have set up their own special courts in Darfur to try suspects, but Mr Mendez says this has not changed behaviour so far on the ground.

Mr Mendez will now meet Mr Annan to deliver his findings and make recommendations as to how the United Nations can prevent a further deterioration in the situation.

The last few weeks have seen the resumption of peace talks in Nigeria but also an escalation in fighting.

Darfur's conflict shows little sign of ending.


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