Killing and injuring of civilians on 25 August 2008 by government security forces: Kalma IDP camp, South Darfur, Sudan
This report is issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in cooperation with the African Union - United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). This report contains their findings in relation to the killing of 33 civilians and injury to at least 108 civilians during a law enforcement operation at Kalma Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in South Darfur, the Republic of the Sudan on 25 August 2008.
On 25 August 2008, members of the Government of the Sudan security forces comprised of National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), police forces and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) attempted to enter Kalma IDP camp in South Darfur to execute a search warrant issued by a South Darfur judge. The security forces were encountered by a group of IDPs, including women and children, gathered at the site to prevent the security forces from entering the camp. The security forces fired shots in the air before opening fire on the crowd.
Sudanese government officials have alleged that armed elements opened fire at the security forces from behind the IDPs. Credible independent sources have reported the presence of light and heavy arms in Kalma camp. However, UNAMID could not ascertain whether or not there were armed elements amongst the crowd of IDPs on 25 August. After the shooting, the Government security forces did not proceed to enter the camp to execute the search warrant.
Verified information established that the firing from the Government security forces killed 32 IDPs(1) and injured at least 108. The deceased included 10 women and nine children. The 108 injured consisted of 38 children, 25 adult females and 45 adult men. UNAMID evacuated 49 injured IDPs to the Nyala Teaching Hospital while 59 victims were treated at NGO medical clinics located in the camp. All of the 49 injured evacuated by UNAMID received treatment for gunshot injuries.
The findings indicated that the Government security forces committed violations of international human rights law against the civilian population of Kalma IDP camp. It was established that the security forces used lethal force in an unnecessary, disproportionate and therefore unlawful manner. Even if, as the Sudanese government officials have alleged, armed elements fired from behind the IDPs, law enforcement and other security forces opened fire on civilians when it was avoidable(2). This amounts to a violation of the prohibition on arbitrary deprivation of life and constitutes a failure by the state to protect the right to life.
UNAMID could not confirm statements by the Government indicating that armed elements were using the IDPs to prevent the security forces from entering the camp. UNAMID was unable to verify the allegations made by the Government that armed elements from within the camp opened fire on governmental security forces, and that seven military personnel were injured by gunfire, thus compelling the security forces to respond in a purely defensive manner. The Government did not permit UNAMID access to the alleged injured military personnel nor provide details about the nature of the injuries.
In the aftermath of the incident, UNAMID issued a statement condemning "the excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force by the GoS security forces against civilians, which violated their human rights and resulted in unacceptable casualties"(3). Further to this, on 1 September 2008, the Joint Special Representative (JSR) of UNAMID met in Khartoum with Sudan's Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, Dr. Mutirf Siddiq and expressed UNAMID's "grave concern" over the tragic events at Kalma camp. For his part, Dr. Siddiq expressed the regrets of the Government of the Sudan over the incident, adding that an investigation was underway, the outcome of which will be shared with UNAMID(4).
The findings of this report are based upon on-site visits conducted at Kalma camp as well as interviews with victims, witnesses, community leaders, IDP sheiks, tribal leaders, NGOs, medical practitioners, UNAMID police and military, governmental authorities and security forces, including the NISS and police, by UNAMID. Cooperation provided by the Government of the Sudan enabled UNAMID to conduct fact-finding at Kalma IDP camp and to meet with governmental authorities, particularly in Nyala.
(1) The total number of deceased is 33. 32 died as a result of injuries sustained during the shooting and a 75 year old woman died after drowning in a pool of water as she was trying to flee the incident site.
(2) See Principle 9 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, 1990).