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UN Human Rights Council Fails to Hold Sudan Accountable

Geneva, November 28, 2006 — The UN Human Rights Council, meeting yesterday and today in its resumed second regular session, rejected an attempt to hold the Sudanese government responsible for halting atrocities in Darfur. By a 22-20 vote, the council turned down a resolution from the European Union and Canada telling the Sudanese government to prosecute those responsible for killing, raping and injuring civilians in the western region of the country.

Instead the Council adopted a text on Darfur sponsored by the UN's African group. The resolution, opposed by the EU and Canada for being too weak, merely "notes with concern" the serious situation in Darfur—which it attributes to "all parties"—and it even "welcomes" the Sudanese government's "cooperation" and urges the international community to give it financial support.  All of this is a far cry from accusing Sudan of violations.

As noted by some of the countries speaking today, the tone was vastly different from the harsh texts, sponsored by the Arab and Islamic groups, that the Council has passed against Israel, and even from the last resolution on Darfur adopted by the Council's discredited predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights.

"Even the faint resolution on Sudan adopted by the 2005 Commission—where the Darfur situation was officially classified as a matter of 'technical cooperation'—was stronger," said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer. "At least that text made an attempt to describe the reality of 'continued, widespread and systematic' human rights and humanitarian law violations, and called on the Sudanese government to 'stop and investigate violations of human rights' and 'end impunity.'  All of these basic elements from 2005 have now been eviscerated by today's text."

A Canadian and European Union attempt to slightly strengthen the African group's text—by adding a reference to the "primary obligation of the Government of Sudan to protect all individuals against violations" and asking the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report to the Council on Darfur at its next session—was defeated in a close vote of 20 in favor, 22 against, and 4 abstentions.  But even with these amendments, the text would still have been weaker than the 2005 Commission resolution, according to Neuer. The original African group text passed in a vote of 25 in favor, 11 against, 10 abstaining.

"That the Council's long awaited action on Darfur took such a kid gloves approach is deeply disappointing—especially in light of the Sudanese President's latest rejection, just yesterday, of the UN Security Council-mandated peacekeeping force for Darfur," continued Neuer.  In Neuer's view, the right Council action on Darfur is to call an urgent special session to put a spotlight on, and hopefully help to halt, the ongoing atrocities.  (Since its inauguration in June, the Council has held three special sessions, all on Israel.)

Neuer also expressed concern over another Council resolution, adopted yesterday, that seeks to rein in the Council's independent human rights experts. These experts, assigned to investigate human rights violations around the world, often anger repressive governments when they issue critical reports. The resolution, which calls for a "code of conduct" for the experts based on input from governments, was sponsored by the African group and supported by such abuser states as China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.  It passed over the objections of most of the Council's free democracies.  "New or old, every mechanism designed to hold countries to account for their human rights record is under attack," said Neuer.

Yesterday Israel was harshly condemned by the Council in two resolutions alleging human rights violations regarding the Golan Heights and settlements.  The Council, in its five months of existence, has now passed six condemnatory resolutions against Israel—the only country that the Council has expressly censured for violations.

For more on the Human Rights Council, see our recent reports:

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information.