Western powers seek action over U.N. failings in Darfur

Report suggests U.N. mission officials in Darfur covered up Sudan’s army wrongdoings

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Britain, France and the United States are demanding that action be taken against senior officials from the U.N. mission in Sudan’s Darfur who failed to report crimes by Sudanese forces, diplomats said Wednesday.

An internal U.N. probe of allegations that the U.N.-African Union UNAMID mission was covering up crimes by Sudanese forces against Darfur civilians found that there was an under-reporting of crimes.

But the special review team which looked at 16 incidents, some of which involved possible wrongdoing by Sudanese government or pro-government forces, concluded that there was no evidence of a willful cover-up.

Representatives from the three countries met with Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson this week to make the case that UNAMID officials should answer for the failings of the mission.

“We believe there are senior people in the mission who ought to be held accountable,” a senior western diplomat said.

“We were disappointed by the report,” said another diplomat. “The credibility of this mission is at stake. We find the recommendations a bit light.”

The review found that UNAMID officials withheld details about attacks in their reports to U.N. headquarters and maintained silence in their dealings with the press.

The 13,000-strong UNAMID force is tasked with protecting civilians and securing humanitarian aid in the western region of Sudan, where more than two million people have been displaced by 11 years of conflict.

- Why such poor decisions? -

Former UNAMID spokesperson Aicha Elbasri, who exposed the alleged cover-up, appealed for accountability in a six-page document sent to the UN Security Council.

Watch Al Arabiya 's Interview with Aicha Elbasri here

By failing to take action against UNAMID officials, the United Nations “clearly tells the world that (it) tolerates that missions, agencies and departments conceal critical information which leads to non-informed decisions by the Security Council.”

This “helps governments escape justice; encourages their impunity which in turn encourages them to commit more deadly attacks on peacekeepers and civilians alike,” Elbasri wrote.

Human rights groups also criticized the U.N. review.

“Call it a cover-up or not, the human rights reporting went horribly wrong in Darfur,” said Philippe Bolopion, U.N. director for Human Rights Watch.

“If the U.N. is serious about learning from this it needs to better account for why such poor decisions were made, and who made them.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said UNAMID had made changes to its procedures for reporting attacks in Darfur and that the mission will come up for review within the Security Council.

Deployed since 2007, the mission has been plagued with problems mostly over its dual-command structure by which the United Nations and the African Union are both running operations.

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