The human rights crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region is in some respects worse than 18 months ago, humanitarian aid is declining, the national security apparatus inspires fear among hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and rebel attacks are reported to be causing massive displacements, the top United Nations rights official said today in Khartoum.
Impunity remains the norm in human rights violations, UN rights monitors have repeatedly been denied access to detention facilities, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), to which the situation has been referred, should act “robustly and visibly,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour added at the end of a six-day visit.
“The human rights crisis in Darfur was the reason for my first visit to Sudan,” Ms. Arbour said in a statement. “A year and a half later the situation is just as critical, and in some respects worse. There are continuing attacks on civilians, raids and pillaging of villages and rape and gender-based violence.”
Accounts from IDPs in South and West Darfur highlight high insecurity within and outside the camps and confirm reports by human rights monitors, relief workers and Sudanese and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that violence has recently reached a level not seen since late 2003 and 2004, she added.
Women in West and South Darfur say they have been sexually assaulted recently, others now have babies born as a result of rape they attributed to the Janjaweed militia, and armed men are alleged to be recruiting or abducting children from IDP camps to serve as soldiers.
Overall at least 180,000 people have been killed and some 2 million uprooted from their homes in the three years since fighting erupted between the Government, pro-Government militias and rebels in Darfur, a region about as large as France.
Ms. Arbour noted that NGOs and IDPs voiced serious concern over the decline in humanitarian aid coming to the region. “An immediate worry is the cutback in assistance from the [UN] World Food Programme (WFP) due to a shortfall in contributions from donors,” she added.
Insecurity has limited access to communities outside regional capitals, and the Government is imposing limitations on delivery of aid, a situation set to worsen with the entry into force of a new law on the work of NGOs that the Government says is aimed at combating terrorism and money laundering.
When fully implemented, the law will further hamper NGO work by imposing heavy bureaucratic requirements and additional costs and delays.
Ms. Arbour said she had heard reports of increased involvement of rebel groups in attacks against civilians, looting and causing massive displacement, reportedly as a result of infighting.
Rebels have also attacked humanitarian workers and impeded humanitarian work. A particularly worrying development is the proliferation of armed groups, with no clear allegiances or political aims, engaged in criminal activity, she added.
She was struck by efforts of Sudanese local and national authorities to minimize the gravity of the crisis. “All other accounts differ from official claims that there is no significant problem of rape and sexual violence specific to Darfur, or that the military does not act in concert with armed groups in attacks that frequently result in civilian casualties,” she declared.
“Human rights violations committed by members of Sudan’s security services have long been documented, including arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture. Many violations are reported to occur in places of detention operated by the security and intelligence services,” she said, noting that UN human rights monitors have repeatedly been denied access to such facilities.
She herself was not able to enter the Kober prison in Khartoum and speak to detainees despite earlier assurances from officials of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). The Sudanese national security apparatus requires fundamental overhaul, she added.