30/03/2005

Darfur death toll 'grossly underestimated', MPs claim

British MPs have claimed that the death toll in the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan could be much higher than previously estimated.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had estimated that around 70,000 people had died since the conflict erupted in 2003. The government of Sudan and Arab militias had been accused of committing war crimes against black Africans in the region.

However, the International Development Committee said that the death toll is likely to be around 300,000 and described the events, which occurred in Darfur as "no less serious and heinous as genocide".

The report stated that the WHO figures were inaccurate because they only counted violent deaths within camps for Sudanese people internally displaced by the crisis, not those who were killed before reaching the camps. The WHO figures also only cover the period between March and mid-October 2004 and only accounted for deaths within Darfur's borders.

The report also criticised governments around the world, including Britain, as well as aid agencies and the UN Security Council, for what they called a "scandalously ineffective response" to the Darfur crisis. Among the problems identified in the report were a failure to respond quickly to the crisis and a failure to secure humanitarian access to the region. However, the report said that much of the responsibility for the crisis lay with the Sudanese government.

The publication of the report follows a vote by the UN Security Council to tighten its arms embargo on Sudan's government and rebels through the formation of a Council committee to monitor the implementation of the weapons ban.

The Council would also be able to freeze the funds, financial assets and economic resources of anyone who "impeded the peace process" or committed "violations of international humanitarian or human rights laws or other atrocities".

(KMcA/SP)

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