The top United Nations human rights official today warned that comments by the Governor of Southern Kordofan state in Sudan – who was filmed telling his soldiers not to bring rebels back alive – could amount to a serious crime and lead to an escalation of violence.
“We have long been seriously concerned about the possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states,” stated High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “Such comments are extremely worrying in this context and could amount to incitement.”
According to a news release issued by the High Commissioner’s office (OHCHR), Governor Ahmed Haroun was filmed telling Sudanese soldiers to “hand over the place clean, swept, rubbed and crushed. Do not bring them [i.e. rebels] back alive, they will be an administrative burden.”
The Government has since claimed that Mr. Haroun, who has already been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan, was simply trying to boost the soldiers’ morale.
“We urge all parties to the conflict to refrain from attacks against civilians and to refrain from making inflammatory statements that could amount to incitement to commit gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law,” Ms. Pillay said.
The states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, which lie on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, have been beset by fighting between Sudanese Government forces and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) since last year. The SPLM-N was previously part of the rebel movement that fought for the independence of South Sudan.
Ms. Pillay said that witnesses who have visited the Nuba mountain region, mainly inhabited by the Nuba people and located in Southern Kordofan, have been reporting the burning of villages and killing of civilians in “an apparent scorched-earth policy.”
“We know very little about the scale of the military operation in Southern Kordofan, as we have been denied access to the area,” she said. “But as far back as August last year, we found that human rights violations that could amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes have taken place in Southern Kordofan.”
The High Commissioner stressed that it is essential that there is an independent, thorough and objective investigation into these allegations and that the Sudanese Government ensure access for human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies.