A plane in Darfur, painted like a United Nations craft, in a photo from a confidential report on Sudan’s involvement in the regional conflict.
By WARREN HOGE (New York Times)
Published: April 18, 2007
A confidential United Nations report says the government of Sudan is flying arms and heavy military equipment into Darfur in violation of Security Council resolutions and painting Sudanese military planes white to disguise them as United Nations or African Union aircraft.
In one case, illustrated with close-up pictures, the report says “U.N.” has been stenciled onto the wing of a whitewashed Sudanese armed forces plane parked on a military apron at a Darfur airport. Bombs guarded by uniformed soldiers are laid out in rows by its side.
The report says that, contrary to the Sudanese government’s earlier denials to United Nations investigators, the freshly painted planes are being operated out of all three of Darfur’s principal airports and used for aerial surveillance and bombardments of villages, in addition to the transportation of cargo.
The report was compiled by a five-person panel responsible for helping the Council’s sanctions committee monitor compliance with resolutions on Darfur, the war-ravaged region in Sudan. It was made available by a diplomat from one of the 15 Council nations, which believes that the findings ought to be made public.
More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur and 2.3 million have been uprooted from their homes, largely by repeated attacks from Arab militias supported and equipped by the Sudanese government.
But while the report focuses much of its attention on the government, it says that rebel groups were also guilty of violating Council resolutions, peace treaty agreements and humanitarian standards. It recommends a tightening of the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council and other restrictions on activities involving illicit weapons, regardless of who is responsible.
The report covers recent conduct, from September 2006 to March 12, 2007, and emerged a day after Sudan announced it was dropping its objections to large-scale United Nations assistance to the overwhelmed African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur. Sudan said Monday that it would agree to a force of 3,000 military police officers, along with six attack helicopters and other aviation and logistics support.
Left uncertain was whether Sudan would drop its longstanding resistance to a proposed 21,000-member joint African Union-United Nations force, to replace the 7,000-member African Union force that has said it cannot curb the violence there.
Sudan signaled its willingness to accept the interim force at a moment when at least two countries on the Security Council, Britain and the United States, were threatening tough new sanctions because of Sudan’s stalling tactics.
Diplomats say those measures include further curtailing the flow of illegal arms, broadening sanctions against individuals who undermine the peace process and imposing a no-fly zone that would put an end to the government’s aerial campaign against its citizens.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked Council members last week to hold off consideration of further sanctions, to give diplomacy a chance to proceed. But on Monday, Margaret Beckett, the British foreign secretary, and Alejandro D. Wolff, the acting American ambassador, held out the possibility that tougher measures might have to be adopted at some point.
Mr. Wolff expressed doubts about whether Sudan would carry out the agreement announced Monday, adding that he sensed a rising frustration and a diminished tolerance toward Sudan among Council members that could cause them to “consider the need for other measures.”
Gerard McHugh of Ireland, the coordinator of the five-person panel that has traveled widely in the region since its creation in June 2005, said he could not comment on the specific findings since they were still confidential, but he said they should be published now. “It’s actually the view of the panel that certain actions could be taken that would actually enhance the peace process rather than holding them back,” he said. To make the report a public document requires the agreement of all 15 Council members.
Marcello Spatafora, the United Nations ambassador from Italy, which leads the sanctions committee, said he had circulated a letter among the other 14 members asking if there were any objections to releasing the document.
Barring objections, he would be free to make the report public in 48 hours, he said.
In the past, China has objected to tough actions against Sudan, and in a closed meeting about Darfur on Monday, China was adamant that talk of sanctions would set back the peace process and lessen the chances of Sudanese compliance with the Council.
It described a night attack by men wearing Sudanese armed forces uniforms and traveling in 60 Land Cruisers mounted with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns to a village that they burned. A 105-year-old man was burned alive and three girls were abducted, raped and sent home naked, the report said.
Sudanese officials also were not enforcing the travel ban and assets freeze imposed on four individuals accused of war crimes — a Sudanese Air Force officer, an Arab militia leader and two rebel commanders — last year by the Security Council, it said. “The panel believes that any undue delay in the implementation of the resolution could embolden the designated individuals to carry on their acts and could also encourage others to commit violations without any fear of sanctions from the United Nations,” the report said.
The report said that the Sudanese government was shipping small-caliber weapons, heavy weapons, artillery pieces, ammunition and other military equipment into Darfur on cargo planes, using airports at El Geneina, Nyala and El Fasher.
It reported that one of the planes crash-landed on Feb. 24 during a trip from Khartoum to El Geneina, and Sudanese Army officials guarded it on the ground for a week while soldiers unloaded howitzers and up to 50 wooden boxes painted in olive drab that, the panel suspected, contained arms and ammunition.
On the painting of the planes, the report said, “The panel believes the use of white aircraft by the government of the Sudan constitutes a deliberate attempt to conceal the identity of these aircraft.”
The panel said that the government was refusing to give advance word, as it was directed to do by the Council, of any introduction of weapons and related equipment into Darfur. When challenged to explain its action, the government said “it does not feel obliged to request permission in advance from the Security Council,” the report said.
The report said various rebel groups fighting the government were also illegally shipping weapons, regularly violating border controls between Sudan and Chad, extending lawlessness in the immediate region and attacking peacekeepers and aid workers. “Organized crime and acts of banditry have now become a source of livelihood for the many groups operating in Darfur and in other neighboring states,” it said.
It said that in addition to jeopardizing the work of the United Nations and the African Union by disguising its aircraft, the government was permitting and sometimes aiding attacks and harassment of people representing the two organizations.
“The prevailing insecurity in Darfur and the raised level of harassment of humanitarian personnel have conspired to seriously curtail humanitarian operations through Darfur,” the report said.