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Sudan Leaks: UN admits Darfur reports slanted to please Sudan

April 8 - 2014 NEW YORK

The UN peacekeeping department says it cannot always report “accurately and candidly” about the violence in Darfur because it has to “preserve the consent and good will” of the Sudanese government.

In its daily press conference, the UN spokesman on Monday refused to provide specific comments on leaked documents published by Radio Dabanga and Foreign Policy. It suggests that the UN deliberately omitted information about war crimes committed by the Sudanese Air Force and government-backed militias.

Some hard evidence of air raids banned by a UN Security Council resolution were not provided to the Security Council. The documents showed that the UN peacekeeping mission was also systematically obstructed by the Sudan government from implementing its mandate to protect civilians.

In a recent massive attack on 23 March 2014, government forces destroyed the entire Khor Abeche camp for the displaced, located next to the UN team site. The head of Unamid, Mohamed Ibn Chambas expressed later only general concerns about the “escalation of violence” in Darfur, while a Unamid spokesperson told the press they were protecting the displaced.

The UN peacekeepers staying at an adjacent plot did not interfere despite their mandate to protect civilians. After the destruction, Unamid provided humanitarian assistance. Eyewitness testimony and satellite images showed that the destruction included many homes. No damage was found to the Unamid compound.

A Unamid spokesman said that peacekeepers and displaced people at Khor Abeche were first alerted of a possible attack on the camp on March 21. A part of the population of the camp, about 3,000 people, took refuge at the Unamid base.

The following day, while the peacekeepers protected those within its own compound, about 300 heavily armed men set fire to the nearby camp for the displaced. The assailants burned to death a sheikh, injured many residents, kidnapped camp leaders, and looted property and livestock while also destroying water wells, homes, and a hospital, Radio Dabanga reported. The attack raised questions about whether Unamid was willing to fulfill its mandate.

On Monday the UN spokesman in New York read a statement in defence of Unamid after criticisms following the leak of the documents.

“I’m not commenting on the leaked memos. Beyond that, regarding the sort of criticisms: Part of what we’ve been trying to do is deal with the problems that the Mission faces. In the case of Unamid, as with every other mission, there is tension between the necessity to preserve the consent and good will of the host government required to allow peacekeepers to do their jobs, and the sometimes contradictory imperative to report accurately and candidly on any and all incidents of violence.”

He declined to explain the discrepancies between the internal reports of Unamid and the public UN reports submitted to the Security Council, in which no mentions are made of the Sudan army and government-backed militias being responsible for mass atrocities over the past few years.

Photo: Farhan Haq, the Deputy Spokesmann for the UN Secretary-General, speaks to press in New York, 7 April 2014

Youtube: Video/audio of the press conference

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