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UN expert reports gross violations of human rights by all sides in Darfur

UN expert reports gross violations of human rights by all sides in Darfur

All parties to the Darfur conflict continue to carry out “gross violations” of human rights, including killings, disappearances, torture and sexual violence, an independent United Nations rights expert has reported after wrapping up her latest visit to Sudan.

Sima Samar, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Sudan, yesterday called for greater action to protect civilians in violence-wracked Darfur from breaches of international law.

“While the [Sudanese] Government has the primary responsibility in this regard, I welcome the recent approval of the [African Union] AU-UN peacekeeping force for the region,” she said in a statement issued in Geneva after her visit to Sudan, which took place from 25 July to 2 August.

Ms. Samar said she had received allegations of serious violations in areas under the control of the wing of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) controlled by Minni Minawi, a faction that was a signatory to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) last year. Those allegations include torture, sexual violence, harassment and extortion.

In South Darfur, Ms. Samar said she had also been told of forced disappearances and killings in the town of Gerida. “These cases should be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

The Special Rapporteur, who reports to the UN Human Rights Council, noted that both the Council and the Sudanese Government have undertaken or pledged to carry out steps and measures to ameliorate the conditions inside Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since 2003 and another 2 million people forced to flee their homes.

“I welcome the Government’s acknowledgement of the seriousness of the situation,” she said, urging Khartoum to quickly carry out the recommendations of a group of UN rapporteurs and other experts – which she presides over – on the situation in Darfur.

Fighting began in Darfur, an impoverished and arid region of western Sudan that is almost as large as France, when local rebels took up arms against the Government, which then responded with the support of notorious militia known as the Janjaweed.

In her statement Ms. Samar also said that civil and political rights are breached in other regions of Sudan, despite the Government’s efforts to introduce legislative bills to ensure that its armed forces, police and national security apparatus comply with international legal obligations.

The situation is also tough in the “transitional areas” in the wake of the comprehensive peace agreement in January 2005 ending the north-south civil war, according to Ms. Samar. Those regions are officially administered by the north but its populations are linguistically and ethnically closer to the south, causing “particular problems,” especially given that two parallel judicial systems are in place.