World

Sudan's mass killings not genocide: UN report

A United Nations report concludes the Sudanese government committed war crimes but not genocide in the country's Darfur region.

A United Nations report says Sudan's government is responsible for mass killings, rape and other atrocities in the Darfur region, but it stopped short of saying Khartoum actively supported genocide.

"Some of these violations are very likely to amount to war crimes, and given the systematic and widespread pattern of many of the violations, they would also amount to crimes against humanity," said the report, released Monday.

But "the crucial element of genocidal intent appears to be missing, at least as far as the central government authorities are concerned."

A United Nations convention defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." If a government is found to have committed genocide, nations that signed the convention are obliged to intervene to prevent further deaths, as well as find and prosecute those responsible for the genocide.

The conclusion of Monday's report was welcomed by Sudanese government officials who have long denied oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs in the western Darfur region.

But the 176-page report does list individuals it believes should be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. Suspects included government officials, militia members, rebels and even "certain foreign army officers acting in their personal capacity."

However, UN spokesperson Fred Eckhard said suspects' names will remain secret until the Security Council decides what to do. They're concerned criminal trials could be tainted if names are released prematurely.

The number of deaths in the Darfur crisis is estimated to be about 300,000. Another two million have fled their homes.

The Security Council has been divided over how to approach Sudan. Some members wants economic sanctions. Others want the issue brought before the International Criminal Court. But the U.S., which has called the Sudanese killings a genocide, refuses to join or support the International Criminal Court.

On Monday, Canada, New Zealand and Australia sent a letter to the Security Council urging it to take action sooner rather than later.

"It's clear, frankly, that the situation in Darfur is worsening. It's not getting better," said Australia's UN Ambassador John Dauth.

In the meantime, Sudan's parliament unanimously ratified the government's peace agreement with southern rebels, officially ending Africa's longest civil war.