Sudanese Government military forces and Darfur’s rebel movements have both committed human rights abuses in the war-wracked region, carrying out killings, acts of sexual violence, looting, the destruction of property, arbitrary arrests and forced displacement, an independent United Nations envoy said today.
Sima Samar, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in Sudan, issued a statement after completing a 13-day visit to the country in which she said she was “extremely disturbed” by the ongoing situation, especially in West Darfur, the scene of a major military offensive in recent weeks.
“The Government and the movements have failed in their responsibility to provide protection to civilians in areas under their control and are violating international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” Ms. Samar said. “I received reports of killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention and impunity for such crimes.”
She cited a Government air and ground attack, supported by allied militiamen, on 8-9 February on the West Darfur towns of Sirba, Silea and Abu Suruj in which at least 100 locals were reported killed and an estimated 12,000 forced to flee over the nearby border to neighbouring Chad.
“The attacks were marked by indiscriminate killings, destruction of property and looting and plundering,” she said, adding that the Sudanese armed forces carried out similar attacks on 18-19 and 22 February on villages in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur.
“Bombs were reportedly dropped on several locations populated by civilians, including one near an internally displaced camp in Aro Sharrow.”
She called on the Government and the movements to comply with all obligations under international law and to protect civilians in areas they control in Darfur, the scene of fierce fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied militia since 2003.
More than 200,000 people have been killed there in the past five years and at least 2.2 million others displaced, and at the start of this year a hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force known as UNAMID was deployed in a bid to quell the fighting and humanitarian suffering.
The Special Rapporteur also spoke out today about the case of 19 Massalit men who were arrested by the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), a rebel movement, in September 2006 after an attack on the South Darfur town of Gereida by a Massalit armed group.
“In October 2006 a mass grave was found containing the remains of some of those who had been arrested. I call on the Government to investigate and inform the families of the fate of their relatives and bring the perpetrators of human rights violations to justice.”
During this visit, her fifth to Sudan, Ms. Samar was not allowed access to Kajbar, Amri, Merowe and Makabrab in Northern state, where she had planned to meet with local authorities and communities affected by the construction of two hydropower dams in the Nile valley.
“The visit was cancelled by the state security committee the day before I was scheduled to travel to the area. The reasons provided by the Government did not justify their decision to prevent access.”
Ms. Samar added that she was particularly concerned about the lack of accountability for the killings of protesters in Amri and Kajbar in 2005 and 2006.