Rene — Amnesty urges action in West Sudan

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Amnesty urges action in West Sudan
May 01 2004 at 01:30PM
Cairo – Rights group Amnesty International said fighting was persisting in West Sudan despite a ceasefire between the government and rebels, and said time was running out to avert a humanitarian disaster before the rainy season.
The Sudanese government and two main rebel factions in the impoverished Darfur region signed a truce on April 8 to allow urgent aid to reach about one million people affected by the conflict.
Aid officials say rains are expected to start from late May and could hinder the distribution of aid and medical supplies. Rebels took up arms against the government in February 2003 to push for a fairer share of power and Sudan’s resources.
“Two time-bombs are ticking in Sudan in a countdown to disaster: the approaching rainy season, which means that by June many areas may be cut off from food and medical supplies from outside; and the danger that a complete collapse of the ceasefire will lead to an escalation of violations,” Amnesty said in a statement late on Friday.
Attacks on villages, indiscriminate and deliberate killings of civilians, rape and lootings were continuing, and most detainees imprisoned because of the conflict have not been released, it said.
Monitors from the African Union designated to investigate ceasefire violations were not in place, it added.
An official from the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), one of the two main rebel groups, said on Thursday that Arab militias from the Darfur region had crossed about 10km into neighbouring Chad and attacked refugees and local villages.
Rebels and others accuse the government of arming the Arab militias, known locally as Janjaweed, to loot and burn African villages. Khartoum calls the Janjaweed outlaws.
“Unless the international community put maximum pressure to ensure that the government militia are disarmed and removed from the region the conflict will worsen and spread,” the London-based rights groups said.
Amnesty said most villages in Darfur had been destroyed and that the Janjaweed invaded camps for those displaced.
UN officials have said the situation in Darfur is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with more than 110 000 refugees encamped in Chad.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement on Friday that its emergency relocation operation in eastern Chad had so far transported about 45 000 Sudanese refugees inland, away from the insecure Chad-Sudan border.
It said it hoped to have moved at least 60 000 by the start of the rainy season in late May.
AI Press Release in 17/03/2004
Sudan: Darfur – attacks against civilians ongoing
press release, 17/03/2004
“The government of Sudan has made no progress to ensure the protection of civilians caught up in the conflict in Darfur,” Amnesty International said today. Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and dozens of villages burnt by the government-backed Janjiwid militias over the last few weeks.
“This is not a situation where the central government has lost control. Men, women and children are being killed and villages are burnt and looted because the central government is allowing militias aligned to it to pursue what amounts to a strategy of forced displacement through the destruction of homes and livelihood of the farming populations of the region,” Amnesty International said.
During an attack by the Janjawid on at least 10 villages in the Tawila district between Kabkabiya and Al-Fasher in Northern Darfur, between 27-9 February, more than 80 people were killed. A United Nations Humanitarian Task Force who visited the villages after the raids described a situation of fear and devastation. There were reports that school girls had been raped.
In Western Darfur, on 6 March, the Janjawid with three land-cruisers and some 60 men on horseback attacked al-Kureinik, a large village east of al-Jeneina, swollen with refugees. They allegedly killed 15 villagers, all civilians, including a child. Two days later on 8 March three children were among twelve people reportedly killed in ‘Aish Barra, a village west of al-Jeneina, near the Chad border.
In Gokar, not far from al-Jeneina, at least 5,000 fleeing villagers are said to be gathered with no food, shelter or medicine, while al-Jeneina itself is currently occupied by an estimated 100,000 displaced people.
The small town of Mornay is swollen with refugees, with insufficient food and medicines and no doctor; diarrhoea and fever is rife and five to 10 people are reported to be dying each day.
“The government is still severely restricting humanitarian aid in Darfur and appears unwilling to address the human rights crisis in the region. As a result international attempts, including attempts by the United Nations, to resolve the human rights and humanitarian situation in Darfur are being delayed.”
The international community and the UN, who have succeeded in bringing humanitarian aid to some 30% of the displaced populations of Darfur in the past few weeks, have been unable to protect the lives and safety of the rural population. Neither have they been able to reach tens of thousands of people sheltering in rural towns or in the bush with hardly any food and shelter and no medical supplies.
Meanwhile the conflict seems to be spilling over into Chad as the Janjawid make cross border raids. They have reportedly killed more than 100 refugees and Chadians and looted cattle during such raids in the past few months. On 7 March 35 armed men believed to be the Janjawid reportedly attacked border sites and killed one man in Ouendalou, wounded another in Absogo, and stole 100 head of cattle.
Information received by Amnesty International indicates that the Sudan government is encouraging the actions of the Janjawid. Sudanese refugees in Chad have described the Janjawid attacking villages accompanied by soldiers. Often they have described attacks by the Janjawid wearing army uniforms. Some Sudan army soldiers have described following the Janjawid in attacks on villages which, they said, were clearly civilian targets. For the past year no member of the Janjawid has been arrested or brought to justice for a single unlawful killing.
“Sudan is in violation of its obligations under Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that requires protected persons, including civilians, to be treated humanely, and explicitly prohibits violence to life and person, in particular murder” said Amnesty International. Article 3 applies to armed conflict “not of an international character” and applies to “each Party to the conflict”. The destruction and looting of civilian property and means of livelihoods are also forbidden by the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character.