Top UN rights official warns of deteriorating situation in West Darfur

Top UN rights official warns of deteriorating situation in West Darfur

The top United Nations human rights official today called on the Government of Sudan to take immediate action to protect civilians residing in the west Darfur village of Bir Dagig, where residents have faced human rights abuses and livestock theft.

The problem in the village started when a neighbouring Arab community accused villages of stealing their livestock, a charge Bir Dagig villagers have denied, according to a spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Since the beginning of this month, a number of human rights abuses – mostly perpetrated by armed men in military uniform – were said to have been committed in the village, but the population of Bir Dagig has complained of ill-treatment, especially against women and girls, since this January.

Although the Government had sent extra police to the area, they were withdrawn in April. OHCHR spokesperson José-Luis Diaz said in Geneva today that the Government pledged to the UN that it would investigate both the livestock theft and human rights abuses, as well as redeploying police to Bir Dagig.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour urged the Sudanese Government to re-establish a police presence in the village and to meet its responsibility and commitment to complete investigations and bring the guilty to justice.

In a related development, the UN and the African Union (AU) will hold consultations from 30 July to 2 August in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

According to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, the two organizations will finalize joint deployment plans, accountability structures and personnel generation for the hybrid operation.

Two UNHCR Representatives – for Chad and for Sudan – today highlighted the massive humanitarian challenges faced by both internally and externally displaced refugees.

Chris Ache, UNHCR Representative in Sudan, stressed that the Darfur region is only one of five in the East African country, and each as “special populations.”

For example, there are 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in the Khartoum region, while in the west there is an additional 2 million – and UNHCR can reach only half a million of them.

The Darfur conflict has spilled over into neighbouring Chad, which is facing its own refugee problem. Since 2003, over 200,000 Darfurian refugees have crossed the border into Chad.

“The solution in Darfur is the solution that is needed in order for these people to be able to go back home,” Serge Malé, Representative in Chad for UNHCR, told reporters at UN Headquarters.

Another situation related to the Darfur crisis is a relatively new phenomenon – 170,000 Chadians have been internally displaced since early last year and both their numbers and needs are increasing.

In the face of increased violence against humanitarian workers – some have been held hostage while others have been carjacked – Mr. Malé stressed that 1,000 of these IDPs have been violently killed, with over 100 villages having been wiped out.