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Sudan: Darfur Briefing - Sep 2008

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I. Introduction

Over the past five years Darfur has seen indiscriminate aerial bombardment, humanitarian assistance obstructed, and scorched earth tactics which deliberately target civilians.

The conflict has resulted in around 300,000 deaths, the destruction of around 3,000 villages - particularly those from the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes - and the forced displacement of over 2.5 million people(1). Since the beginning of 2008, government forces, militias and rebel groups have all committed abuses, including looting and rapes, without being held accountable(2). The UN's most recent estimate is that as of July 1st more than 200,000 people had been newly displaced in 2008, a rate of more than 1,000 people per day(3). The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan reported several air attacks by government forces in the first half of 2008, which hit civilian targets including a school and a market(4).

II. Protection in Darfur and Eastern Chad

Personal safety within and around the camps is the primary security concern cited by most IDPs

There are well documented fears of attacks, especially rape, when leaving the camps, for example to collect firewood(5) and within the camps IDPs and refugees are increasingly exposed to extortion, violence and recruitment by a variety of armed actors, including rebel groups(6).

Sudanese security forces have attacked the camps

On 25th August 2008, Sudanese forces attacked Kalma camp in West Darfur which is home to 90,000 IDPs. The head of the joint UN-AU peacekeeping force (UNAMID) later expressed 'grave concern' over the killing of 31 IDPs, including seven children and ten women. An unusually strong UNAMID statement criticised the Government of Sudan for using 'excessive, disproportionate force' in the raid. Khartoum claimed its forces were searching for weapons, and suspected bandits and rebels. Reports are now emerging that Sudanese forces have started to build up their position outside Kalma camp, raising fears of a new attack. Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court may add the attack to a list of war crimes allegations against President Omar al-Bashir(7). On September 10, it was reported that Sudanese forces attacked ZamZam camp, causing significant civilian causalities(8).

Extract from Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: - Attacks against IDPs who do not ... participate in hostilities are prohibited in all circumstances. IDPs shall be protected, in particular, against: Direct or indiscriminate attacks or other acts of violence, including the creation of areas wherein attacks on civilians are permitted [and] attacks against their camps or settlements... - IDPs have ... the right to be protected against forcible return to or resettlement in any place where their life, safety, liberty and/or health would be at risk.9

Insecurity threatens food shortages

In a press release issued on 7 September 2008, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that it will have to suspend food distribution in Darfur if the security situation does not improve. Since the beginning of the year, more than 100 vehicles delivering WFP food assistance have been hijacked in Darfur, with many more shot at and robbed10. One person was killed and six were wounded when residents of Um Shalaya refugee camp in West Darfur rioted after having been informed about cutbacks11.

IDPs need protection from forced relocation by the Government of Sudan

IDPs want to go home, but they want to return in safety. It has been reported that the areas to which GoS demand the IDPs relocate are lacking even the basic levels of security and humanitarian assistance available in the camps. The threat of forcible relocation is real:

- In July 2007, President Bashir spoke publicly about the need to empty the camps12.

- In early 2008 forced relocation reportedly took place in Kalma, Otash, and Kass13.