According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 , human rights are described “as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping constantly in mind(the declaration), shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
” These conventions were agreed upon by the general assembly which consisted of all the member states at the time. According to the articles, the rights of the individual are described in detail the first one being that “human beings are born free with equal rights, dignity reason and conscience” (Universal Declaration Of Human Rights) Today human rights are a hot contentious issue as abuse of human rights is much more visible, thanks to media and information technology.
Contemporary human rights issues according to amnesty international range from: extrajudicial executions where either confirmed or possibly carried out in at least 47countries in 1998 and still continues in some countries especially developing countries; disappearances of people from previous years has been noted in at least 37 countries across the globe; torture and ill treatment perpetrated by security forces, government agencies and police was reported in more than 125 countries plus inmates subjected to inhuman conditions leading to death was also reported as rampant in 51 countries; prisoners of conscience either suspected or confirmed have been held in the past years in more than 78 countries; Unfair trials of suspects is common was noted in 35 countries in 1998; detention without trail of activists and opposition members has been noted in 66 countries; death penalty still being practiced by many countries in the world was carried out in 38 countries and sentences handed out to prisoners in 77 countries. Armed opposition groups are perhaps the most recent notorious of the human rights abuses. Deliberate and arbitrary killings, torture, maiming and hostage taking of civilians has been noted in at least 37 countries and the numbers are growing every day. This paper will deal specifically with human rights abuses connected to the armed resistance groups in the Darfur region of Sudan, showing the background, level of interest, the belief principle behind the actions and the characteristics.
I will further look at the consequences and how the issues can be resolved and finally the outcome of such attempts to resolve the issues. Human rights have been traditionally a function of the government to regulate the relation between the state and the individual (UNHCR). This does not however mean that the role of observing human rights is purely a states function. According to the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, it means “’ every individual and every ‘organ of society’ has an obligation to contribute to an atmosphere conducive to the enjoyment of human rights. This obligation is universal and concerns all – state and non-state – actors. ”(IHRC)
The actors in this case can be government agencies such as the military, the police intelligence agencies, as well s NGOs, indigenous groups and minority groups paramilitary groups human rights defenders (semi-) autonomous groups; international territories, terrorists, autonomous area, multinational groups and individuals. All of them capable of either upholding or flouting the human rights. (IHRC) An armed resistance is a movement which is born from oppression and firmly rooted in eternal quest for equality and freedom. Though brought about by a natural desire to be free, it is illegitimate because it breaches the laws of the land and seeks to supplant it. However it acquires legitimacy and becomes “lawful” through exhibiting success and growth not because the ends it seeks to achieve are just but because its control and capture of a territory justifies the means by which the goal is achieved (Satyendra, 2007) Africa
Africa has had its fare share of armed resistance groups most of which evolved from disgruntled groups feeling they got a raw deal from the African led governments which inherited the oppressive colonial ruling style. In Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Democratic republic of Congo, Sudan Ethiopia and Nigeria are some of the glaring examples of armed resistance groups which seriously flout human rights. Somalia however is a case of its own because it has no government. Most of these armed groups were after political and economical autonomy and yet others were keen on overthrowing the government to hold power. In Africa the longest war waged by an armed resistance group was that of the Southern Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) which lasted more than two decades since its inception in 1983.
Since the end of the war and formation of the unitary government all the human rights abuses by the group on its own people such as forced child soldiers and torture seem to be water under the bridge. However there are still other insurgencies going on around in Africa though none has caught the attention of the media like that of the LRA in Uganda. Since war between the group and government broke out in 1986 atrocities against children have been a characteristic of LRA. Children have been abducted and forced to trek thousands of miles to fight in Sudan / Uganda border, forced to commit atrocities against themselves such as shooting and maiming and girls used as sex slaves for the LRA commanders.
“According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the LRA and other rebel groups have abducted approximately 65000 persons since 1986; however with its leader Joseph Kony still on the run though his warrant of arrest has been issued by the International Criminal Court he continues to wreck havoc in the communities in northern Uganda. (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor 2006 March 6, 2007). Though LRA are definitely on the wrong end, the state owned /sponsored armed resistance groups have also been notorious for abusing human rights. In Western Sudan, the Darfur region has seen the Janjaweed, an outfit supported by the Northern Sudan Islamic government reign terror on the Black Muslim population using sophisticated heavy weapons and firearms.
The case is similar in Uganda where the Government forces have been used to torture dissidents and conduct arbitrary arrests and beatings. For example Security forces have been blamed for “a number of deaths in custody, some due to torture. Some people suspected of being allied to rebel forces have been tortured to death in military custody in Kololo, a Kampala suburb, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. ” (UN News) Sudan Sudan, before the formation of the joint government between the state of southern Sudan and central government in Khartoum, was presumably an Arab Islamic state. It had membership in the Arab league and subjugated the people of Southern Sudan for more than 2 decades before the end of the civil war in 2004
Sudan has a population of not more than 40 million according to CIA fact book, since no official census has been carried out since the end of the civil war. It covers an area of 2. 376 million square kilometers, slightly more than one quarter of the United States. It is the largest country in Africa bordering 8 other countries on all sides. It has rich reserves of oil and minerals which has been the source of the prolonged wars between the Khartoum government and rebel forces. Though it is also a member of the AU African Union, Sudan like many of the African countries has a despotic leader who has been named in various human rights violations and is currently facing a warrant of arrest by the ICC International court of justice in Geneva. Darfur
Darfur covers a larger area of the western side of Sudan which is approximately the size of France. It borrows its name from the Arabic Language where ‘Dar’, meaning house was combined with the name ‘Fur ‘the local people who are the predominant tribe in the area. The country has had a long civil strife with two wars raging in the South and West following the departure of the British who had left everything under the control of the Arab dominated government in Khartoum. The disparities between the regions in the south north east and west were too wide to allow a common religion language or culture. Soon a civil strife was born on the mature ground of racism, social and economic injustice perpetrated by the Khartoum government.
This was further aggravated by the introduction of the Sharia law which sent the south and the Khartoum government in a long protracted war of autonomy from 1983 to the late 2003 when a peace agreement was signed and a new federal government formed. Soon after, the Western part of the country, Darfur was thrown into tumult. This cropped from the confrontation and competition for resources between the nomadic herders of Arabic descent and African tribes who mainly practiced crop farming. Given that the area is sparsely populated and limited in resources, both sides of the divided find themselves competing for fertile land for their livestock and crops. The Arab side of the divide forcefully invaded the fertile brooks and valleys which were the homes of the majority “black” African tribes, in order to get access to water for their animals.
This gave way to a conflict which the government intervened on the side of the Arabs and supported the Arab militia (Janjaweed) militia men against the black population. With no choice but to defend themselves, the black African tribes took up arms against the government forces and the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed retaliated. They attacked non-Arab tribes burning their houses, raped and defiled young children, killed adults and drove the survivors to death and oblivion in the desert. (Everything. com) The Janjaweed were able to perform such acts to a pin point precision using help enlisted form the government, both military and intelligence. The black tribes were forced into refugee camps in neighboring countries such Chad .
behind, them the Janjaweed burned their crops to the ground ensuring that no one survive without food. Even in the refugee camps the Janjaweed followed them and surrounded the camps and regularly raped women and killed men whenever they strayed out of the camps. The rebel groups supporting the black tribes have continued to launch serious attacks on the government facilities which the Janjaweed use as their bases. For instance in 2008, they attacked a government army barracks and completely destroyed artillery and supplies. This sent a warning sign to the government that thought the group was not entirely well endowed in military equipment; it was able to dismantle government military facilities (Everything . com).
By the time international media had started paying attention to the Darfur crisis, genocide had already began. El-Bashir the president of Sudan had already relinquished some of his executive military powers, the first ever action by a sitting head of state, to one of his aides governing the north Darfur region. The systematic killing of the black people began in earnest. Human Rights violations The humanitarian situation in Darfur is grave. Many people have turned a blind eye on the atrocities being committed by both sides of the divide especially the government sponsored Janjaweed. The Sudan government continues to supply the Janjaweed with military equipment imported form China and Russia who are major trading partners with Sudan.
China relying on Sudan’s oil, has chosen to separate politics from trade by finding no connection between weapons they supply to Sudan and the deaths of millions of people from the same weapons transferred to the Janjaweed. The President himself has appeared before national television “after a massacre in which 225 peasants were killed to declare [that he] “… will use all available means, the Army, the police, the Mujahideen, the horsemen, to get rid of the rebellion. “. He later firmly denied his government association with the militia and sought to blame the killings on some tribal faction fighting in the area. Though a lot of light has been shed on the issue since, human rights violations continue till today. The rebels like any other armed group in history have sorted to using children as child soldiers to advance their course.
These and many more human rights violations would not have been known had it not been the works of actors such as the United Nations, NGOs, relief and human right s organizations which played a big part in giving first hand information of the situation on the ground (Sudan Watch n. d). Children are being used and abused by the militia men in Sudan. The activities of Joseph the wanted rebel leader fighting the government of Uganda is evident in thousands of children being abducted and sold to fighters in Darfur. According to Koffi Annan the then Un secretary general, …” child soldiers are used in the Darfur by the Arab militia known as the Janjaweed, which has killed, maimed and committed grave sexual violence against children. ” (Sudan watch n. d)
According to the Washington post Tuesday, July 3, 2007, “the raping of Darfur women is not sporadic or random, [but is a systematic action aimed at psychologically making the women inferior, and] is inexorably linked to the systematic destruction of their communities. ” (Boustany 2008) In testimony given by one of the victims in the rape cases to reporters, the Janjaweed used racial slurs such as “I will give you a light-skinned baby to take this land from you,” in order to make them feel racially inferior (Boustany 2008). This was also echoed by relief organizations such as World Vision which work in the area. The inhuman treatment of the black African tribes is dehumanizing.
Young boys who are mostly targeted by the Janjaweed to be used as soldiers try to escape capture by traveling from one refugee camp to another. The United nations says that more than 30,000 children have become ‘travelers’, moving from one location to another if only to avoid capture. For these children school is something they’ve never heard of, and are therefore illiterate. Education, being one of the basic human rights, is an integral pert of ensuring proper development of the child and a better future. Even the children in Darfur are able to survive this on going genocide; there is no guarantee to a bright future. Apart from rape and child soldiers, Darfur has also witnessed mass killings.
Some of the ‘independent’ local media deny even that there has been rape, torture and killing of innocent Africans. According to the Sudan vision an ‘independent Daily’, a report filed by a committee of the United Nations investigating the possibility of existence of a genocide in Darfur in January 2005, showed that”… despite the serious violations of human rights in Darfur there was no genocide or any existence of genocide in the region…” the paper argued that the allegations of killings and rape were based on a small number of isolated cases which were backed by evidence from relief workers. In fact, the paper alleges that rape and killings and the Janjaweed are a creation from the west and do not really exist.
The paper further explains that the information given by the relief workers to western media is biased because if it wasn’t then the aid workers would not be afraid of talking to local media about their findings. The arguments put forward by the paper are self defeating because the neighboring countries like Chad and CAR would not be experiencing the influx of refugees from Darfur in the thousands every day. Secondly the paper, by citing the report by the United nations committee to the security council in 2005, is actually acknowledging the fact that serious human rights violations were taking place at the time; this is usually a pre-cursor to serious war crimes or is just the top layer of the deep rot that is planned wipe out of a group of people.
Finally the fact that the aid workers were afraid to talk to the local media goes along way to show how gagged the local media was by the government; there was obviously no protection of the source and it was almost a guarantee that the information would not be shared with the general public or the rest of the world. To really make their story believable, then the Sudan Vision should try and back up their defense by action. What would be the harm of allowing the western media to freely access the area and cover stories of the local people if there’s nothing to hide? According to Amnesty International (2004), in a 43 page report filed with the United Nations, “massive abuse of human rights in the region…” and”…many people killed for no reason “should be reason enough for the international community to lay sanctions against Sudan.
The governments attempt to end the conflict using the Janjaweed is obviously failing. The Janjaweed and the Darfur based militia groups are threatening the lives of over six million inhabitants of the region. Acts of arbitrary bombings, torture and killing of victims, planned abductions and rape are mostly perpetrated by the government forces and their hired goons- the Janjaweed. The nature in which most of the killings are carried out as explained by survivors is akin to extrajudicial killings and summary executions styles. Amnesty international further criticizes the government for keeping mum on the killings going on and accuses the government of malice by its open support for the janjaweed militia.
In fact President El- Bashir continues to use Arab convicts and prisoners in the Janjaweed by freeing them on condition that they join the militia group. It is these men who under the direct orders of the powers that be, who carry out the heinous, act of raping, killing and plundering of innocent people in the name of racial cleansing. Those who manage to escape to camps in neighboring Chad were still facing death in another form. The region being remote and with harsh climatic conditions was inaccessible to most of the relief and aid workers so the wounded malnourished and the sick cannot get help. Secondly, the Sudanese government using helicopters, dropped bombs in the border town of Tina that killed and wounded civilians in the very same camps they were supposed to be safe.
According to the Human rights watch organization world report 2009, there are many impediments to establishing the magnitude of the true scale of human rights abuse in the region due to laxity by many nations to act on the preliminary reports by people in the field. The fact that that UJN has not been able to find evidence of genocide in Darfur has also dealt a big blow to the people of Darfur. Since the Darfur crisis began more than 5 years ago, more than 2. 5 million have been displaced and more than 70,000 killed according to figures released by the United Nations. However analysts point out hat this could be an underestimation because nobody knows how many have actually died. The fact that this figure is based only on a six month study and did not include deaths from violence, executions and fighting means that it could be a number of times more than what is given(BBC news, 2005).
In the US analysts estimate the figure of the dead people in the region to be more than 340,000 up to the beginning of the year 2005. In the UK the estimated death rate is put at 300,000 because no data is available for people killed by the janjaweed, those who are missing or detained by the government One of the former workers in the region told BBC that “the reality is that we just don’t know the scale of the problem,” (BBC news, 2005). Efforts by people and organizations that have worked in the area and witnessed the atrocities of the militia men to get the international community to act have been thwarted by some very key members of the UN council in charge of security.
The countries have challenged the legality of the arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan by the ICC by citing that he is a sitting head of state and should therefore not be summoned to the court until his term expires. A report by Human Rights Watch showed how governments choose to delay on human rights actions because of maintaining alliances with other countries. They mostly hide under the banner of sovereignty so as to escape the responsibility of chastising their neighbors. “These governments make claims of regional solidarity or solidarity within the global South, but the solidarity that they have in mind is with abusive leaders, not their victims”(HRW, 2009).
Most of them try to run away from the problem by saying it’s a political issue which they have no say in but the reality is that in our world today the two are like different sides of the same coin. So what is being done to abate the situation? In Darfur the non state actors such as world vision, Amnesty international and other humanitarian agencies have been on the fore front to expose human rights abuses in the continent, however they have also face d difficulties from state owned armed groups such as the police who have reportedly beaten and even killed some aid workers because of revealing such injustices. In Sri-Lanka this is common to appoint where media has continually been locked out of conflict areas and the areas sealed off by the government as operation areas.
Other bodies such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) work to offer the best expertise and support to the different human rights monitoring mechanisms in the United Nations system: In addition other UN charter based bodies also formed under the same office perform the functions though within certain areas of jurisdiction and ensure that the respect for human rights is observed. Law and human rights can be understood in practice as it is in the Security Council such that an armed group violating human rights today succeeding to form the next government will equally be responsible for the human rights violations of the movement that brought it to power. Though this has never actually been seen to work in practice, it is s good theoretical point of view to argue from. It is time to change our scope of thinking.
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International are reporting on these armed insurgents and pushing for reforms and respect for human rights obligations even beyond humanitarian law. Forced divorces and physical torture on members of the armed groups have been highlighted by activists, taking this to a more informative level with development of declarations, commitments, and memoranda of understanding and codes of conduct being adopted. This help in tailor-making standards, rules and obligations for a specific situation. Preliminary empirical work done in this area ‘‘suggests that where armed groups do commit themselves to written codes of conduct, this encourages them to respect human rights’’.
A study of some of the important codes with regard to Burundi, Liberia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, East and West Timor, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation revealed that the agreements state that the beneficiaries of humanitarian aid are to enjoy the following rights: ‘‘the right to live in security and dignity, the right to basic needs, the right to receive humanitarian assistance without discrimination and according to basic needs, the right to be involved in humanitarian activities of concern to them, the right to legal and effective human rights protection, and the right to protection against forced population transfer’’. Organizations are engaging with non-state actors in monitoring commitments made by such armed groups in the areas such as interpersonal mining for instance the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict works by obtaining and monitoring commitments not to recruit or use children in armed conflict. Geneva Call is such an organization (Clapham, 2006)
It is argued that non-state actors such as armed opposition groups and private security companies have human rights obligations. Other non-state actors though not mentioned here, are present in times of armed conflict and have their own human rights obligations. It is important to mention international organizations their associated peacekeeping operations and Non security firms. Now that it is becoming apparent that the legal; framework has to be expanded to include non- state actors in resolving conflicts, lawyers need to widen their field of human rights obligations to include of non-state actors. This has in fact been noted in countries such as Guatemala Sierra Leon Sri Lanka Lebanon and Nepal.
Sometimes governments have laid obstacles in the name of political mileage by accusing the humanitarian agencies of giving legitimacy to the armed resistance groups and thus threaten to halt their support. However humanitarian law has come in handy. No one can be accused of supporting terrorists by accusing them of flouting article 3 of the Geneva convections and this applies to o human rights law. Human rights do not only govern our relationship as individuals with the government but also the relationship we have between ourselves and between government and other illegitimate associations such as armed resistance groups without us risking giving them legitimacy by according them human rights.
The simple act of ignoring human rights issues concerning these non- state actors means also that we are failing in protecting the rights of the victims of abuses perpetrated by these agencies. The solution therefore lies in how both the state and non- state actors ply their parts in the problem. Though reforms in the international law will go along way to improve the human rights of many people caught up in conflict areas, it still is not enough to guarantee that they will be strictly observed. Human rights do not just need strong legislation to make it relevant and enforceable. It also needs the goodwill on the part of the government non state players, commissioned bodies and commitment on the part of the state to ensure that human rights remain human rights whether in conflict situations or in peaceful situations.
According to the resolution 1556 by the UN Security “on the crisis in the Sudanese province of Darfur, the Philippines ambassador to the UN remarked that ‘sovereignty also entails the responsibility of a State to protect its people. If it is unable or unwilling to do so, the international community has the responsibility to help that State achieve such capacity and such will and, in extreme necessity, to assume such responsibility itself’ “(Williams & Bellamy, 2005). Hence if El- Bashir, having demonstrated that he has been unable to protect the citizens of his own country, needs to be forced to act or action taken against him. References Amnesty International (2004) Massive abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur Press release
BBC News how many have died in Darfur? 16th Feb 2005 http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/world/africa/4268733. stm Boustany R (April 2008): Rape in Darfur. UNICEF adviser says rape in Darfur, Sudan continues with impunity Washington post http://www. un. org/apps/news/story. asp? NewsID=12280&Cr=darfur&Cr1= CIA world fact book www. travel-brazil. info/cia-world-fact-book-Sudan. html Clapham A (2006): Human rights Obligations of non- state actors: Vol. 88 No. 863 International Review of the Red Cross Journal Everything 2. com http://everything2. com/title/Darfur HRW: world report: 15th 2009 http://www. humanrightsblog. org/reports/archives/007743. html