HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
CALLS FOR PROBE OF INVOLVEMENT OF
SUDAN FORCES IN RECENT ATTACKS
IN SOUTH DARFUR
|Geneva, 18 May 2007: The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called today for an immediate and independent investigation into the involvement of Sudanese security forces in attacks on villages near Nyala, South Darfur, that have left over 100 people dead and thousands displaced since January of this year. The Office is seriously concerned that to date no effective action has been taken by the Government to prevent the attacks or bring the perpetrators to justice. |
In a report released today, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights documents violence in an area known as “Bulbul” resulting from a dispute over land between the Rizeigat Abbala and Tarjum groups. The report, issued in cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Sudan, details the involvement of Border Intelligence Guards in attacks by the Rizeigat Abbala on the Tarjum starting on 6 January. The latest large-scale attack was reported on 31 March. Members of both groups describe themselves as Arab.
Witness testimony about the attacks is extremely consistent, according to the report compiled by human rights officers. In all instances, witnesses described hundreds of heavily armed attackers, many of who were identified as Border Intelligence personnel. Most of the attackers were dressed in green or beige khaki uniforms and accompanied by machine gun-equipped Border Intelligence vehicles. During all the incidents, attackers fired indiscriminately from the outskirts of the settlements with heavy machine guns and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), before entering the settlements and shooting men found inside. They then systematically looted items of value, particularly livestock. In most cases, they also burned large sections of the settlements.
The report concludes that Sudan is failing to protect the human rights of the population in the Bulbul area, and in particular the right to life. The responsibility to protect includes carrying out investigations, prosecuting perpetrators and providing reparations to victims, UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour recommended in the report. Since January 2007, despite clear evidence that members of its security forces were involved in the attacks, the Government did not meet its obligations under international law to take effective action to prevent the attacks, control members of its security forces and use of its equipment, pursue the attackers or intervene to protect civilians.
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Seventh periodic report
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
on the human rights situation in the Sudan
Involvement of Sudanese security personnel in attacks on the Bulbul area of South Darfur from January to March 2007
This report is issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). It documents violations of international human rights law during attacks on villages in South Darfur during an ongoing dispute between members of the Tarjum and Rizeigat Abbala “Abbala” is a general term that refers to several Rizeigat Arab sub-tribes whose primary source of income is camel-herding. They are also known as the “Northern” Rizeigat. Members of multiple Rizeigat sub-tribes may have been involved in the violence documented in this report. in the Bulbul area of South Darfur. Members on both sides of the dispute describe themselves as Arabs.
Large-scale attacks started in January 2007. Since then, well over 100 people have been killed, many others have been injured, houses have been burnt, property has been looted and thousands of civilians have been displaced. The most recent large-scale attack took place on 31 March 2007 when, according to credible reports, more than 60 people from the Tarjum village of Morayajengay were targeted and killed.
This is not the first dispute between members of these groups, however what is particularly striking is the intensity of the fighting, the high number of casualties and, in particular, the involvement of Sudanese security personnel, weapons and vehicles’ in the attacks on villages. This report documents Border Intelligence Guards, participation in attacks on Tarjum villages of Mohajirya-Moraya, Mohajirya-Ajami Amar Jadeed, and Morayajengay in the Bulbul area of South Darfur between January and March 2007 Although not included in this report UNMIS Human Rights also documented attacks in early January 2007 on the settlements of Missik, Giderke, Mordade and Maramandi involving Border Intelligence Guards. .
Despite clear and consistent evidence gathered between January and March 2007 that members of government security forces were involved in the attacks, the Government did not take effective action to prevent the attacks, control members of its security forces and use of its equipment, pursue the attackers or intervene to protect civilians. There were some attempts to promote reconciliation, however these fell far short of what was required under the circumstances to prevent further loss of life.
Moreover, after the attacks, insufficient action was taken to identify and prosecute those responsible or provide reparation to the victims and the Government has still not taken measures to prevent the reoccurrence of the attacks. The ongoing impunity for these crimes is of great concern and is a violation of Sudan’s obligations under international law.
The information in this report is based on the work of UNMIS Human Rights officers who monitor the implementation by the Government of Sudan of its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The monitoring mandate of the human rights component of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in Darfur derives primarily from the Joint Communiqué of July 2004 between the Government of Sudan and the United Nations, which was endorsed by Security Council resolution 1556 (2004). It is also derived from Security Council Resolution 1590 (2005), which, inter alia, called for an adequate human rights presence, capacity, and expertise within the mission to carry out human rights promotion, civilian protection, and monitoring activities. They also monitor respect by other parties to the Darfur conflict to their obligations under international law. In Darfur, Human Rights Officers conduct field investigations and on site visits; interview witnesses and victims; meet officials of the Government of Sudan, political and tribal leaders, representatives of UNMIS, UN Agencies, and the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS); and other stakeholders. To ensure reliability, information is cross-checked with other sources. Human Rights Officers regularly engage in dialogue with local, regional, and national authorities to obtain information, raise human rights concerns, and recommend corrective and preventative actions. Human Rights Officers in Darfur also provide capacity building on human rights to Government institutions, civil society, and UN agencies.
Recommendations to the Government of Sudan
· Respect its obligations under international human rights law and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms and in particular the right of every individual to life and security of the person. Proactively investigate all reports of violations and bring perpetrators to justice.
· Take all necessary measures to avert the threat of further attacks on civilians. Seek assistance as may be necessary from the international community in order to enhance its protection capacity.
· Deploy police and regular armed forces around civilian settlements in the Bulbul area that are vulnerable to attacks with a clear mandate to prevent attacks, intervene to protect communities and create conditions to facilitate safe, voluntary return of displaced persons from the Bulbul area. In locations where a police presence exists, such as Bulbul Abujazo, issue orders and resources for stronger and more effective preventative action. In locations where there is no presence, the Government should urgently establish an adequate presence and ensure maximum protection, through regular, well-resourced, and effective patrols.
· Publicly condemn violations of human rights and hold those in command of security forces and law enforcement activities at the time violations are perpetrated personally responsible for the abuses.
· Take all necessary measures, including through disciplinary and dismissal procedures, to control regular armed forces and members of paramilitary forces.
· Take swift action in cases were security forces are involved in unlawful activities in either their official or personal capacities and prosecute those responsible. Screen members of its security forces and determine their suitability for continued service. Those alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights or serious crimes under international law should be removed from office and prosecuted to prevent the recurrence of those acts.
· Conduct an adequately resourced, independent, transparent investigation into the attacks on settlements in the Bulbul area and the allegations of Government security forces involvement in those attacks as documented in this report. The investigation should collect evidence to identify and prosecute those found to be responsible for the attacks as well as those who failed to prevent the attacks and protect the civilian population. The methodology, staffing and the ultimate findings should be made public.
· Ensure that those directly involved and those with command responsibility for the attacks as well as those who failed in their responsibility to protect the civilian population are brought to justice. In addition to criminal prosecution, any members of Sudanese paramilitary or regular armed forces found to have violated international and domestic law in the January to March 2007 attacks or at any other time should be subject to disciplinary measures and removed/suspended from duty.
· Ensure victims are provided with reparations and witnesses protected.
· Ensure the implementation of past commitments granting UN Human Rights Officers free and unfettered access to places of detention and hospitals.
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