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Volume 764: debated on Wednesday 9 September 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the effectiveness of sanctions against Sudan’s leaders and the extension of the UNAMID mandate, following recent reports by Amnesty International of alleged war crimes continuing to be committed by President Bashir’s regime in the Blue Nile, Darfur and South Kordofan regions.

My Lords, the recent reports on the impact of conflict on the people of Sudan are deeply troubling and show the continuing need for a strong international response. In June, the United Kingdom led negotiations that resulted in the successful renewal of a mandate focused on the protection of civilians for the AU/UN hybrid mission in Darfur, despite calls from the Government of Sudan for its exit. We are also working through the Security Council to increase the effectiveness of UN sanctions.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Sudan has 570 tribes, speaking 595 different languages, and 57 ethnic groups, yet the overwhelming majority of the 300,000 killed by the Khartoum regime since 2003 and of the 3 million displaced refugees are from non-Arab, African tribal groups. That raises fears of incipient genocide. What action are the Government taking to press Khartoum to face the challenges of impunity and accountability as set out in 15 specific recommendations in the recent UN report? Has the massive trade deal signed by President al-Bashir with the Chinese not fatally undermined US-led sanctions and the remote chances of dialogue in Addis Ababa between rebels and Khartoum, so leading us towards stronger, UN-led intervention?

My Lords, to deal with the first part of the noble Lord’s question, I can say that we take action to press for an end to impunity at different levels. With EU partners, we continue to call for compliance with the ICC arrest warrants; through bilateral lobbying, UN Security Council action and support for the peace process, we continue to press the Government of Sudan for an end to aerial bombardments. I cannot comment on US sanctions policy. However, we continue to call for both the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict to engage in dialogue and to move towards a renewed and comprehensive peace process.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I visited Blue Nile state earlier this year and witnessed first hand the terror and the suffering of civilians subjected to constant aerial bombardment by the Government of Sudan, who deliberately targeted markets, schools, clinics and people trying to harvest their crops? The bombers now come with searchlights, so they kill by night as well as by day. The Government of Sudan continue these genocidal policies with genuine impunity. What really effective measures will Her Majesty’s Government take to break this impunity, such as the imposition of targeted sanctions?

I pay tribute to the noble Baroness’s work in this sector. We have constantly raised the issue of attacks on civilians in the two areas in both the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council. We continue to emphasise to all sides that resolution of the conflict can be achieved only through political dialogue and not through military means. At present, we judge that the best way the UK can promote such dialogue is through supporting the African Union negotiation track rather than through sanctions.

My Lords, can the Minister give us his assessment of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, in the light of the continuing attacks that we see on civilians and evidence that more than 3 million people continue to live in camps, who face attacks, violence, murder and of course rape? According to the UN, they are being shot, killed and abducted with near total impunity for their attackers.

The noble Baroness, who also has experience in this area, brings attention to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. This has a wide range of helpful provisions that, if implemented, could help promote stability in Darfur and contribute to a political settlement. We are therefore disappointed that it has not been implemented fully and that, as a result, the terrible conflict continues, as she highlighted. We continue to monitor the DDPD process, including through the attendance of Her Majesty’s Government at this week’s implementation follow-up committee meeting in Qatar. However, given the urgency of the situation in Sudan, it is right to also pursue other avenues towards peace, including the efforts of the AU high-level implementation panel.

My Lords, does the Minister agree with Amnesty International that the atrocities committed by the Sudanese armed forces in South Kordofan, including deliberate attacks on civilians, hospitals, schools and NGOs, constitute war crimes for which the leaders of the junta should be indicted? Could we propose to the UN Security Council that a task force be appointed to collect the evidence that would allow such prosecutions to be made at the International Criminal Court against any of the criminals who might stray into the jurisdiction of countries that believed in the rule of law?

My Lords, the noble Lord raises the terrible issues in Darfur, including two areas where nearly 5.5 million Sudanese remain in need of humanitarian aid. He mentions the ICC, which I know is keeping a very close watch on this issue, but the UN has also extended the use of UNAMID, which is operating in extremely difficult and challenging environments and is basically there for the protection of civilians.

Does the Minister accept that the problem of refugees relates not just to people fleeing oppression in Syria? There are refugees from many countries in Africa, including Sudan. Does he agree with what Peter Sutherland said at the weekend: that this is a problem not just for the European Union but for the whole world, and that other countries including Australia, Canada and the United States ought to be mobilised to help in the way that we did for the Vietnamese boat people?

I did not read the piece that the noble Lord mentioned, but it is a matter for the whole world. Some refugees from Sudan come from Sudan but others travel through it from Eritrea and other countries.

Does the Minister recall that when the UNAMID force was in being before, it was unable to protect some of the non-governmental organisations and local groups working in Darfur? Will the new mandate ensure that the UN force is strengthened in that direction?

As I said in the previous answer, UNAMID operates under extremely difficult circumstances and is doing as much as it can at the moment. We are encouraging it to do more.