Monday, November 19, 2012

UNAMID Evacuates Wounded SAF Soldiers in Darfur: Larger Implications

Eric Reeves
November 18, 2012
On November 13, 2012 the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) made the decision to provide “medevac” (medical evacuation) to approximately twelve Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers following heavy fighting with rebel forces in North Darfur. One report puts the number of evacuated wounded soldiers at two dozen.  The injured were taken to the city of el-Fasher, location of the primary SAF military base in Darfur.  Such military clashes between the SAF and rebel forces have been escalating for many months, as has violence against civilians, especially by Khartoum’s proxy forces in Darfur; all this occurs even as UNAMID has resolutely insisted that fighting and violence have diminished, thus justifying a draw-down in forces.  But the grim truth is that UNAMID can’t sustain an adequate security presence for the vast majority of locations in Darfur facing threats of violence by Khartoum-allied militia forces.  We might well wonder, then, why UNAMID would choose to deploy its conspicuously inadequate resources to evacuating Khartoum’s combatants, especially since such medevac forms no part of UNAMID’s mandate—indeed, “evacuating combatants” is neither mentioned nor suggested anywhere in the UN delineation of that mandate (running to over 1,300 words, included below as Appendix A).  Nor is the task of evacuation, by aircraft or ground vehicles, anywhere mentioned in the very lengthy and highly detailed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed by Khartoum and the UN/AU force in February 2008.
To be sure, UNAMID spokesman Chris Cycmanick is narrowly accurate in declaring that this medevac is justified by International Humanitarian Law (the medevac was “completely in line with International Humanitarian Law”), and several of the Geneva Conventions are explicit on the question of the legality of such medical evacuation.  But Cycmanick seriously misrepresents the situation by declaring that medical evacuation of SAF soldiers is in any way part of the core requirement of international humanitarian law, which falls under the Mission’s mandate” (UNAMID press release, November 13, 2012).   International Humanitarian Law certainly governs the UNAMID mandate and the actions of UNAMID; but again, there is not one word about medical evacuation of combatants.  On the contrary, the meaningful language of the mandate is given overly entirely to specifying the obligations of the peacekeeping force to protect civilians and humanitarians—this is the “core” task, and to suggest otherwise is simply disingenuous.  The mandate does also speak vaguely about UNAMID’s assisting in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (May 2006); but the DPA had long been irrelevant when the language of the mandate was drafted, and it was simply convenient for a UN peacekeeping force to have at least a nominal “peace agreement” to be presiding over (the absurdly negotiated and widely rejected “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur” now serves as an equivalent placeholder).
Moreover, the real question here is not a legal one—it concerns the implications of UNAMID’s consequential decision to use scarce transport resources for a military medevac on behalf of a regime that has an abysmal record of itself defying International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in any number of situations.  Here it should first be pointed out that UNAMID has in the past been highly selective in its use of transport resources for medevac purposes.  Cycmanick claims that UNAMID has in the past provided such services to rebel wounded and civilians; however, this is a highly questionable assertion, one borne out by pitifully little in the way of reporting from the region, including from UNAMID itself.  It is hardly surprising that one of the main rebel groups vehemently protested the medevac, since they are quite aware that their own wounded would never be accorded such assistance.  Nor would such wounded rebel combatants enjoy the protection of IHL, even in hospitals supposedly enjoying UNAMID protection. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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