A new report by a UN rights group blames Sudan for orchestrating war crimes across Darfur, while the international community pledged action.
More than 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict
The UN Human Rights Council on Monday accused Sudan of organizing human rights abuses and war crimes in the country's Darfur region, while also criticizing the international community's failure to protect civilians.
Sudan's government has "orchestrated and participated in these crimes," said a long-awaited report by the Council's investigative mission to Darfur, which was led by Nobel peace laureate and anti-landmines campaigner Jody Williams.
Measures taken by the international community have so far been "inadequate and ineffective" in the face of widespread rape, torture and other abuses, it added.
"The situation is characterized by gross and systematic violations of human rights and grave breaches of international law," the report said. "War crimes and crimes against humanity continue across the region. Killing of civilians remains widespread, including in large-scale attacks. Rape and sexual violence are widespread and systematic. Torture continues.
"As violations and abuses continue unabated, a climate of impunity prevails," it added.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the world needed to speak out
International reaction was swift following the report's release.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, representing the EU at the UN Human Rights Council, said the world would have to act on the report's description of "the ongoing, cruel human rights abuses."
"The international community won't remain silent," Steinmeier told the Associated Press, without adding further details.
No Sudanese cooperation
The UN estimates at least 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur with a further 2.5 million displaced.
The conflict and influx of refugees has also spilled over into neighboring Chad, exacerbating existing tensions.
Williams and her team were unable to carry out investigations in Darfur itself, as Khartoum refused to grant visas, saying some of the team's members were "biased" against Sudan -- a charge repeated on Sunday by Sudan's justice minister while en route to Geneva.
Last month, the International Criminal Court in The Hague named a Sudanese government minister and a janjaweed militia leader as the first suspects prosecutors want to try for war crimes in the Darfur conflict.
Darfur requires unified approach
Former Sudanese Interior Minister Ahmed Muhammed Harun was charged with war crimes
The report urged the international community to adopt a "fully unified approach" in addressing Darfur, and to help convene a national conference on peace, human rights and a common vision for Sudan.
It also called for the implementation of measures such as travel bans and the freezing of assets for those identified as rights violators.
Turning to actions on the ground, it demanded that Sudan "end the targeting of civilians in Darfur, cease all support for janjaweed militia forces, and proceed with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of such forces."
"Witnesses, victims and observers we met repeatedly confirmed joint action between Government forces and armed militia in assaulting civilian targets in Darfur," the report said.
Rebels share responsibility
The mission said rebel groups in the region shared some responsibility for the rights abuses, including rape and torture.
Millions have been displaced by violence in Sudan's Darfur region
Khartoum's provision of arms to the janjaweed and other militias is a key factor behind growing tensions between tribal groups and communities, victims and witnesses told members of the mission.
The report also said the UN General Assembly should compile a blacklist of foreign companies that have an "adverse impact" on the human rights situation in Darfur.
The Darfur report kicked off a three-week session of the UN's Human Rights Council, which replaced the Human Rights Commission in 2006.
The Darfur mission was set up by a rare consensus of the Council's 47 members following hard bargaining by Western, African and Islamic nations during a special session last December -- the first time the Council had specifically focused on Darfur.