China, Russia faulted for Sudan arms sales
China and Russia have supplied weapons and aircraft to Sudan that have been used in deadly attacks against civilians in Darfur in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, Amnesty International charged in a report Tuesday.
The report cites witnesses who said they saw Russian-made aircraft and helicopter gunships used in bombing raids and traced spent cartridges in raided villages to new Kalashnikov assault rifles.
Brian Wood, author of the report, said from London that Amnesty was particularly concerned about 12 Russian MI-24 helicopter gunships acquired by Sudan that are the same type being used in attacks in Darfur.
“Those are the machines that are flying around right now,” Wood said, noting that one was shot down last week by a rebel group in Darfur. “The Russian government knows that they are being used in violations of human rights, so how can they in good conscience keep selling them?”
The rights group also said it was concerned that Sudan had transferred six K-8 attack aircraft recently acquired from China to Darfur in breach of the ban, and it noted that Khartoum was expecting six more.
The report cites Sudanese trade figures showing that in 2005, the year a United Nations resolution banned transfer of weapons to all parties in Darfur, Russia sold almost $35 million in helicopters and other aircraft and China supplied $24 million in arms and $57 million in aircraft equipment.
More than 200,000 people have died as a result of four years of conflict between rebel groups and militias widely believed to be backed by the government. More than 2 million people have been displaced by the attacks, according to the U.N.
The arms sales exploit a gray area in the resolution, which may technically allow the government to buy weapons as long as they are not used in Darfur.
“Those are not in violation of anything. Sudan needs to defend itself,” Khartoum’s ambassador to Washington, John Ukec Lueth Ukec, told CNN International on Tuesday. He denied the government was involved in attacks in Darfur.
“We do not bomb civilians, we don’t even use aircraft. We don’t need bombs to fight with the rebels. We are at peace,” he said.
China and Russia denied selling weapons for use in Darfur, though they acknowledged selling them to the Sudanese government for general military use.
“No Russian arms are shipped to Darfur,” the Russian Foreign Ministry told the Interfax news agency Tuesday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China did not sell to any regions under U.N. embargo.
The Amnesty report says China and Russia, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council who abstained from voting on the embargo, should know that the weapons can be used to violate human rights. It called for an all-out arms ban for Sudan. “We are not saying that Russia and China broke the embargo, but they are sending arms knowing that the Sudanese government is breaking the embargo,” Wood said. “As permanent members of the Security Council, they should be doing more to stop the violence.”
The United States prohibits weapons sales to Sudan, as does the European Union. The U.S. and Britain are preparing a resolution to expand the international embargo and impose sanctions on officials and militia leaders who undermine a Darfur peace agreement.
But Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked for more time to persuade Khartoum to allow peacekeepers into the region.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir has rejected a proposed joint U.N.-African Union force of up to 20,000 soldiers to stabilize Darfur, saying it would be tantamount to “foreign occupation.”