Chad’s government seems to have misplaced its copy of the Rome Statute, the founding document of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who was recently charged with the crime of genocide by the ICC, just spent the last two days in Chad, without the Chadian government lifting a finger to respect its obligations under the Rome Statute.
Presumably, Al Bashir was in Chad to discuss the agreement Sudan and Chad signed in January 2010 to normalize their relations while armed insurgencies continue to devastate eastern Chad and western Sudan. Chadian President Idriss Déby had gone to Khartoum in February to meet with Al Bashir, and several weeks later the two governments started to deploy a jointly-commanded military force along the border. But as we noted in our most recent report on Chad, fighting continues to erupt between the Chadian National Army and armed opposition groups. The situation across the border in Darfur remains extremely volatile, especially with the arrival of more than 1,000 new refugees in Chad in May 2010.
Between this refusal to arrest Al Bashir while he was in Chad and the government’s insistence that the UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Chad, MINURCAT, withdraw before the end of the year, human rights are being threatened.
I checked my email this morning to find this message from Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty Canada, currently in Abeche, Chad, and wanted to share it with you. It’s a powerful reminder of why we all need to speak up now to ensure peacekeepers aren’t forced out of eastern Chad.
We have begun our work on the ground in eastern Chad and in early days much of our focus is on the impending decision of the UN Security Council about the future of the critical UN mission here. Under pressure from the Chadian government, and with the conspicuous absence of the usual strong influence of Chad’s former colonial power, France, the Security Council is poised to agree to begin a pull out of UN troops from the east of the country, to be completed by mid-October. It could very well prove disastrous for human rights protection, development projects and overall security. And at this point in time it seems near irreversible.
My friend Celine Narmandji, a remarkably tenacious women’s human rights defender who I’ve worked with on missions here in the past, put it very well when we met for lunch right after my arrival in Chad. She said:
We were abandoned before. We’re going to be abandoned again. The good news is that in between, for a short while, the world did care about the situation in eastern Chad.
MINURCAT’s future still hangs in the balance. Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously decided to postpone making a decision on whether or not MINURCAT, the UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Chad and northern Central African Republic, should be renewed.
Refugees in Mile refugee camp, eastern Chad. Copyright Amnesty International
All 15 members of the UNSC felt they needed more time to think about the recommendations put forward by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and to determine Chad’s capacity to protect civilians without the help of the peacekeeping mission.
We’ve been pushing for the UN Security Council to continue protecting civilians in the region by renewing MINURCAT’s mandate. At least 10,000 people worldwide have already taken action. There is still time to add your voice – take action now and ask Secretary Clinton to support MINURCAT’s renewal.
And don’t forget to ask Secretary Clinton to support MINURCAT’s renewal! We need you to take action today to make sure peacekeepers can stay in Chad and the Central Africa Republic. MINURCAT still has a chance.
Refugees in Mile refugee camp, eastern Chad. (c) Amnesty International
Yesterday, Reuters began reporting that the government of Chad has formally requested that the mandate for the peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) not be renewed when it comes to an end in March. But the peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MINURCAT, provides much needed security for refugees and humanitarian aid workers in eastern Chad and northeastern CAR, regions which suffer from rampant insecurity and violence.
In these camps, the burden of finding food and other necessities for survival falls on the shoulders of women. They must regularly leave the relative security of the camps to fetch water, travel to village markets, tend vegetable plots, and gather wood for the fire and straw for the livestock. Once outside the camps, the risk of rape, sexual assault and harassment becomes even higher. Perpetrators of the violence are rarely brought to justice and Amnesty found that even when those responsible could be identified, Chadian authorities did not follow-up with the cases. Many women who have been raped are shunned or left by their husbands, and young girls who are victims find it difficult to marry.