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UN is urged to enforce Sudan arms embargo, add sanctions

NAIROBI, Kenya -- The UN Security Council should impose sanctions on Sudan's government and enforce an arms embargo on pro-government Arab militias accused of ethnic cleansing in the country's Darfur region, a human rights group and aid agencies said yesterday.

Sudan has failed to disarm and disband the Arab militias responsible for atrocities, instead absorbing some into its security forces "to 'guard' the camps of the very same displaced civilians whom they had originally burned out of their villages," Human Rights Watch said in its report.

Last week, one of those camps was forcibly dismantled by Sudanese forces, driving the people who sought refuge there back into Darfur's arid countryside, the group said.

The report, titled "If We Return We Will Be Killed," was released ahead of the Security Council's special session on Sudan opening in Nairobi on Thursday.

The United Nations says the Darfur conflict has created the world's worst ongoing humanitarian crisis, claiming at least 70,000 lives since March -- mostly from disease, hunger, and hardships from being uprooted. Many more have been killed in fighting since the conflict started in February 2003, but no firm estimate exists.

The conflict has driven 1.8 million people from their homes.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council on Nov. 3 there were strong indications that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed "on a large and systematic scale" in Darfur.

The Security Council has passed two resolutions on Darfur, threatening sanctions against Sudan's government if it does not disarm and prosecute the militias and others responsible for abuses in Darfur.

"But these resolutions have had little effect in either restraining the Sudanese government, its allied militias, or in improving security and protection for civilians," the report said.

On July 30, the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on rebels and the pro-government Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed. The UN also ordered a freeze of assets held by the Arab militia and imposed a travel ban on their leaders.

"But the Janjaweed don't travel and they don't have assets abroad," and no sanction committee has been set up by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch's Jemera Rone said. "The Sudanese government continues to supply them with weapons and back their attacks with helicopter gunships."

The Security Council should extend that arms embargo to the Sudanese government and impose travel sanctions and asset freezes on key government and military officials, the group said, and ensure that displaced people can return home safely.

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