Darfur: UN police conduct night patrols at displaced persons’ camp

15 October 2008

Bangladeshi police officers serving with the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) have started conducting night patrols at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) that was the scene of deadly clashes with Sudanese police less than two months ago.

The confidence-building and security assessment patrols at the Kalma IDP camp in South Darfur state will be conducted 24 hours a day and seven days a week, UNAMID reported today.

Members of the Bangladeshi formed police unit (FPU) are working with a team of police advisers from Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, to carry out the patrols in line with the mandate of UNAMID, which is trying to quell violence and humanitarian suffering across the conflict-wracked region.

FPUs are specialized, self-sufficient and fully mobile rapid reaction police units that are entirely composed of police elements from a single contingent, with expertise in crowd management and other police tactical operations.

Police advisers serve as unarmed civilian police officers who conduct patrols, investigate incidents, monitor reports, conduct training and carry out community policing with IDP camps.

The mission said the patrols’ main focus is to create an interactive and friendly environment inside Kalma – which is home to about 80,000 people – that will ensure a peaceful co-existence between the IDPs and others and also demonstrate the mission’s commitment to achieving lasting peace.

In late August at least 31 IDPs were shot dead by Sudanese police and military forces when they raided the camp to execute a search warrant for illegal weapons and drugs.

The police and military forces said they only returned fire after gunshots were directed at them from behind a human shield of women and children.

At the time UNAMID issued a statement condemning what it called the “excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force” by Sudanese security forces, noting that those forces were heavily armed while the residents carried sticks, knives and spears.

“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.”

Meanwhile, in response to reports indicating that the Sudanese Government has detained Ali Kushayb, a leader of a pro-Government militia, for alleged war crimes committed in Darfur, a spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he had taken note of this development.

If the report is confirmed, the spokesperson added, Mr. Ban regarded it a welcome step towards ending impunity in Darfur and bringing to justice those responsible for the gravest crimes.

Some 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed across the impoverished, arid region in western Darfur since fighting erupted between rebels, Government forces and allied militiamen in 2003. Another 2.7 million people have been displaced from their homes.

In a related development, the Security Council today voted unanimously to extend the mandate by one year of the current Panel of Experts monitoring sanctions imposed over the Darfur conflict.

The panel, which monitors an arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze, can now continue its work through 15 October next year.

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UN tries to rebuild confidence after deadly attack at displaced camp in Darfur

The head of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) set up meetings today with the residents of a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in a bid to ease tensions after dozens of people were shot dead there earlier this week during clashes with Sudanese security forces.