Rights Group: Sudan Still Sends Weapons to Darfur Amnesty International says Sudan's government continues to send weapons to Darfur in violation of a peace treaty and a U.N. arms embargo. The human rights group urged the United Nations to give its planned peacekeeping force for the region the authority to confiscate weapons from combatants.
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Rights Group: Sudan Still Sends Weapons to Darfur

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Rights Group: Sudan Still Sends Weapons to Darfur

Rights Group: Sudan Still Sends Weapons to Darfur

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Amnesty International has put new photos on its Web site that it says proves Sudan is violating a United Nations arms embargo and shipping weapons to the war-torn Darfur region. Sudan has rejected the report, which comes as the U.N. is trying to put together a peacekeeping force.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: In the report, Amnesty says that the pictures were taken by credible witnesses at the El Geneina airport in Darfur in July. Two show Russian-made helicopters at the airport. Another one shows Sudanese soldiers moving containers from an Antonov cargo plane on to military trucks.

The deputy executive director of Amnesty USA, Curt Goering, says the company that operated that plane is already under investigation for violating a U.N. arms embargo.

Mr. CURT GOERING (Deputy Executive Director, Amnesty USA): These photographs help show that the government in the Sudan is flaunting the U.N. arms embargo and these photographs, combined with the evidence that Amnesty International has gathered and other groups have gathered, shows that the government of the Sudan is playing a very destructive role and a very active role in the commission of violations on the ground in Darfur.

KELEMEN: Though you can't see what's inside the containers, Goering says there is a long history of Sudan sending in small arms and weapons to militias that have attacked civilians. He says his group also has evidence that Sudan has carried out new aerial attacks in the past couple of months.

Mr. GOERING: These kinds of aircraft have been used in the past and we fear, as they're continuing to be supplied, an apparent violation of the U.N. arms embargo, will be used again to commit very serious violations.

KELEMEN: Sudan denies it's violating the United Nations arms embargo where shipping weapons to the so-called Janjaweed militias. Sudanese officials complain that their government is the target of an international smear campaign. But activists on the Darfur issue say they were not surprised at all to see the latest pictures.

Gayle Smith of the Center for American Progress is cofounder of the ENOUGH project.

Ms. GAYLE SMITH (Cofounder, ENOUGH Project; Senior Fellow, Central for American Progress): There's a general problem with arms embargoes particularly in Africa in that they are put in place. There's a lot of rhetoric wrapped around them and very little done in the way of monitoring and less done in the way of enforcement.

KELEMEN: She says the question now is whether the U.N. will do more to enforce the embargo. Amnesty International is calling on the U.N. Security Council to give a new peacekeeping force the right to disarm all the warring factions there. The U.N. official putting together that peacekeeping force, Jane Holl Lute, says so far it has been asked only to keep an eye on the issue.

Ms. JANE HOLL LUTE (Assistant Secretary-General, U.N. Peacekeeping): At the moment, it consists of monitoring and reporting.

KELEMEN: Asked whether she thinks the peacekeepers will need a stronger mandate to enforce an arms embargo and disarm militias, Lute says that's a political decision yet to be made by the Security Council. She says there are high expectations as to what this joint U.N.-African Union force will be able to do once it's deployed.

Ms. LUTE: People have a right to expect that given the world's capabilities, the world can pool its strengths to share this burden. And we're determined to do that. We are determined. We have a good sensibility about what we think is required. No one should underestimate the difficulty of the problem, however.

KELEMEN: Lute was here in Washington today to tell U.S. officials that she's been receiving troop contributions for what's expected to be the largest peacekeeping operation in the world. The U.S. isn't offering troops, but Lute says she does need wealthy nations like the U.S. to provide helicopters, intelligence and logistical support to make sure the peacekeepers are mobile enough to protect civilians in a vast and remote part of the world.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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