UN team urges Sudan to punish Darfur rights violators

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GENEVA, Sep 25 (Reuters) A team of United Nations investigators urged Sudan to ensure that people responsible for human rights violations in the embattled Darfur region are quickly made to face justice.

The call came in a report from the seven-member group, headed by former Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Sima Samar, to the UN's Human Rights Council amid continuing fierce debate on the role of the Sudanese government in the conflict.

The 47-member Council, the report said, should call on Khartoum ''to address impunity and ensure that all allegations of violations of human rights ... are duly investigated and that the perpetrators are promptly brought to justice.'' Sudan has refused to turn over a government official and a pro-government militia leader wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

The Hague-based court charged the two men in May. Since then one of the suspects, Ahmed Haroun, has been named head of a committee set up by the Sudanese government to investigate rights violations in Darfur.

Yesterday's report was the second produced by Samar's team -- set up after the Sudanese authorities refused to allow an earlier Council mission to visit the country -- but it gave no overall assessment of the situation.

Egypt, speaking for the African group on the Council, said the report and Khartoum's recent agreement to accept a 26,000- strong joint UN-African Union force to keep peace in Darfur, showed Sudan was determined to resolve the crisis.

Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference, echoed similar views. But Portugal, speaking for the European Union, said the Sudanese government must work hard to stop violence against civilians.

Canada and Norway told the Council that the situation was getting worse while talking continued. ''Violations of human rights and gender-based violence are continuing with renewed vigour,'' a Canadian delegate told the Council.

The UN team -- all experts on rights issues -- asked the Council to renew calls on all sides in the four-year-old conflict to stop violence against civilians, especially women and children, and against relief workers.

The call came as Oxfam, one of the major groups providing aid to people driven from their homes in Darfur, said it might have to pull out of the region because of worsening security.

Team member and Swiss lawyer Walter Kaelin told the Council that he and his colleagues would produce an analysis as ''comprehensive as possible'' in a final report, which it is due to present to the Council in December.

Reuters KK VP0450

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