Darfur civilians need help, says UN

More action is needed to protect civilians in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, who continue to suffer serious human rights violations in the ongoing conflict, a United Nations special rapporteur said in a preliminary report.

Sima Samar, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council, said Darfur remained a region where gross violations of human rights have been perpetrated by all parties to the conflict.

”I have recently received allegations of serious violations of human rights in areas under SLA/M [Sudan Liberation Army/Movement] control,” she said this week, ”in particular, [of] harassment, extortion, torture and sexual violence in Tawila and Shangil Tobayi, north Darfur.”

Samar added: ”I also received information about forced disappearances and killings in Gereida, south Darfur. These cases should be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

In the Sudanese capital Khartoum, the SLA/M faction allied to Minni Minawi refuted the claims, with legal adviser Abdel Aziz Salim describing Samar’s findings as ”nonsensical accusations”.

Minawi’s faction signed a peace deal with the government last year, after which he was appointed special assistant to President Omar al-Bashir. But aid workers say his forces have continued to attack civilians and peacekeepers.

The Darfur conflict erupted when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003, accusing the Sudanese government of marginalising their region. The government-armed militias, known as the Janjaweed, who are now blamed for terrorising non-Arab communities in the region.

About 200 000 people have died and more than two million been displaced since the conflict began. The UN Security Council has passed a resolution authorising the deployment of 26,000 peacekeepers and police in Darfur to contain the problem.

Samar also raised concerns over the challenges facing transitional areas administered by the north, where large parts of its population are ethnically and linguistically close to the south.

”Pockets of clearly divided SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] and SAF [Sudan Armed Forces] control areas, namely in Southern Kordofan and north and south of Abyei town,” she said.

”The administration of justice faces enormous challenges as two parallel judicial systems are in place,” Samar added.

”Clashes over land, water points and cattle have resulted in numerous killings and large displacement of the civilian population.”

The Special Rapporteur, who conducted her fourth visit to Sudan from July 25 to August 2, will present her findings to the UN Human Rights Council next month.

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