UN expert calls for end to conflict and violence in Darfur and protection of civilians

Demonstrators, most of whom from Darfur and Sudan, hold placards as they protest against human rights violation.
Demonstrators, most of whom from Darfur and Sudan, hold placards as they protest against human rights violation.PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA - The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, called for an immediate end to hostilities which have triggered new protection and humanitarian concerns in Darfur. He warned that, in the past two weeks, tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur in western Sudan after a new escalation of violence.

"Violence is certainly not the way to resolve the current difficulties Sudan is facing, and must stop, now," Mr. Nononsi stressed in a statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He urged all parties to the conflict to respect international human rights and international humanitarian law and to ensure humanitarian access to people in need at all times, including the protection of unarmed civilians.

"The Government of Sudan has a duty to facilitate free, full and unhindered access to all conflict-affected areas to UNAMID (UN-African Union Mission in Darfur), UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations," he noted.

The ongoing hostilities between Government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid have reportedly resulted in human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of international humanitarian law, including destruction of civilian property and objects as well as considerable displacement of civilians, in addition to unspecified number of civilian casualties.

According to UNAMID, up to 21,338 civilians, mainly women and children, have fled into North Darfur State and have sought refuge around their camp by 1st February. About 15,000 others have fled into Central Darfur State, according to the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Marta Ruedas.

The number of internally displaced persons following the attacks on Mouli and surrounding villages in west Darfur is estimated at 5,000 civilians, according to the Humanitarian Aid Commission of the Sudanese Government. These civilians have mostly fled to El Geneina, while the number of civilians who sought refuge in Chad remains unknown.

"I call on the Government of Sudan to create the conditions for an inclusive dialogue and ensure the participation of all armed opposition groups to advance peace and reconciliation in the country," the UN Independent Expert stated.

Insurgents in Darfur took up arms in 2003, accusing President Umar al-Bashir's government of neglecting the region. The International Criminal Court has indicted al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in the area. The conflict has led to the deaths of as many as 300,000 people, mainly due to illness and starvation, with about 2.5 million people currently displaced, according to UN estimates.