UN mission in Darfur condemns ‘excessive’ use of force at displaced camp

26 August 2008

The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) today strongly condemned what it called the “excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force” by Sudanese security forces against civilians during a raid inside a displaced persons’ camp yesterday.

An estimated 64 people were killed and 117 others wounded as a result of yesterday’s exchange of gunfire inside the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Darfur state, according to information provided to UNAMID staff who later visited the site.

The mission later evacuated 49 people to a hospital in Nyala, the state capital, and warned that the number of casualties of both dead and wounded could rise.

In a statement released today in El Fasher, UNAMID said the Sudanese military and police who raided the camp to execute a search warrant for weapons and drugs were heavily armed, while the camp residents seemed to carry only sticks, knives and spears.

Sudanese forces told the mission that they were met by a human shield of women and children, from behind which gunfire erupted, when they entered – thus prompting them to return fire.

“While the alleged presence of weapons in the Kalma camp is a real security concern for the Government of Sudan authorities, the actions taken to address it are a clear violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement,” UNAMID stated.

“UNAMID strongly condemns the excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force by the Government of Sudan security forces against civilians, which violated their human rights and resulted in unacceptable casualties.”

However, the statement also stressed “that the presence of weapons voids the status of IDP camps granted to them by international humanitarian law and exhorts the IDP community and its leaders and representatives, to ensure that their camps are, and remain, weapons-free zones.”

About 60 vehicles belonging to the Sudanese military and police forces surrounded the camp yesterday morning, and when they tried to enter they were met with resistance by the IDPs. Humanitarian staff in the camp, which is home to about 80,000 people, said the situation escalated into a confrontation and the gunfire that followed lasted about two hours.

An attempt by a team from UNAMID, comprising military, police, security and humanitarian staff, to enter the camp, assist any casualties and conduct a fact-finding mission, was delayed by a checkpoint and protracted negotiations with Sudanese security authorities.

The mission has been in place in Darfur since the start of the year in a bid to try to quell the deadly fighting and humanitarian suffering that has afflicted the impoverished Sudanese region since 2003.

In the past five years an estimated 300,000 people have been killed, either through direct combat, disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy, while another 2.7 million people have been forced to flee from their homes because of fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed.

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UN alarm at reports that Sudanese police attack displaced camp in South Darfur

The United Nations has voiced grave concern over reports that Sudanese police vehicles today surrounded a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Darfur and that civilians were killed during subsequent attacks inside the camp.