Reacting to growing bloodshed in the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and resolve their differences at the negotiating table.
“The Secretary-General is seriously concerned by the major escalation of violence in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, particularly the heavy fighting in the Golo and Shearia areas that has forced humanitarian agencies to evacuate,” a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement issued in New York.
Condemning the attack by Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) forces on Golo, he called on all parties “to immediately stop all hostility.”
The statement also reiterated Mr. Annan’s strong call on all parties to the conflict to respect their agreements and the provisions of international humanitarian law. “A lasting solution to this conflict can only be found through a negotiated settlement,” he stressed.
In a related development, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today issued a detailed report portraying dismal human rights conditions in Darfur and other parts of Sudan and calling on the country’s Government to take measures to end a prevailing culture of impunity.
While noting some progress since peace accords were signed last year, such as the lifting emergency law in certain areas, the report says other initiatives have been inadequate, especially in Darfur, where any positive political measures were “overshadowed by an ineffective judiciary, an ongoing conflict, and widespread human rights abuses.”
From September to November 2005 government forces, working with militia who were often described by witnesses as Janjaweed, carried out at least eight organized armed attacks on over a dozen camps or villages occupied by internally displaced persons (IDPs). The attackers killed and wounded civilians and destroyed their homes.
The report rejects Sudan’s rationale that it was responding to rebel activities, stating that in most cases civilians were “deliberately targeted.” It notes that State-sponsored offensives fan the flames of violence by irregular groups. “The increase in large attacks on civilians by Government forces likely encouraged the militia to execute other abuses with impunity.”
Examples of sexual violence are also described in the report, such as the case of an IDP who was collecting hay one morning when she was approached by three armed military men, “slapped in the face, kicked in the stomach, and accused of being a rebel. She was then raped by two of the men.”
The Geneva-based OHCHR reported allegations of torture at the hands of the national security, military intelligence and police officials in Khartoum, and voices serious concern about the absence of fair trial guarantees as well as inhuman detention conditions.
The 42-page report, which bases its findings mostly on direct investigations and information collected from victims, witnesses, and government authorities, calls on the Government to cease its attacks on civilians in Darfur, disarm militias there, and install an effective law enforcement system.
Khartoum is also urged to end culture of impunity, strengthen the judiciary and revoke immunity laws protecting state agents. “The National Security Service should be stripped of it abusive and unchecked powers of arrest and detention,” the OHCHR states in the report, which was prepared in cooperation with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).
Noting that the conflict in Sudan was initially sparked in response to marginalization and discrimination, the report recommends that resource allocation be fair, transparent, non-discriminatory, and involve the affected communities. The Government should also facilitate the humanitarian and development aid and allow civil society to function freely.
In January, 2005, the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), ending a 21-year civil war which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2 million people and the displacement of some 4 million others.