Sudan

Sudan: Deadly attacks in South Darfur spark UN call for independent inquiry

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The United Nations human rights chief today called for an immediate independent probe into the involvement of Sudanese Government security forces in deadly attacks this year against a series of villages in the violence-wracked Darfur region.

At least 100 people were killed and thousands more displaced in the area known as Bulbul, close to the South Darfur state capital, Nyala, during the large-scale attacks that took place between January and March. Many houses were burned and their contents looted.

The violence results from a long-simmering dispute over land between the Rizeigat Abbala, who are largely pastoralists, and the Tarjum, a mainly agricultural and cattle herding tribe. Members of both groups describe themselves as Arabs and have been pro-Government in the wider Darfur conflict.

A report issued today by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documents numerous violations of international human rights law during the attacks by Rizeigat Abbala, with the involvement of Sudanese Border Intelligence Guards, on Tarjum villages and settlements.

OHCHR said the witness testimony has been consistent: hundreds of heavily armed attackers, many of whom were identified as Border Intelligence personnel, have fired indiscriminately from the outskirts of settlements with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. They then entered the settlements, burned large sections, shot men found inside and systematically looted any items of value, especially livestock.

No effective action has been taken by the Government to prevent the attacks, bring the perpetrators to justice or compensate the victims, High Commissioner Louise Arbour stated in the report.

"The ongoing impunity for these crimes is of great concern and is a violation of Sudan's obligations," she wrote.

Ms. Arbour said "an adequately resourced, independent, transparent investigation" was needed into the Bulbul attacks, with any evidence collected to be used for potential prosecutions and the findings to be made public.

"All necessary measures, including through disciplinary and dismissal procedures," should be taken to control members of the regular armed forces and paramilitary forces, the High Commissioner added.

She called for the deployment of police officers and regular armed forces in the Bulbul area settlements that are deemed vulnerable to attacks, with a clear mandate to intervene to prevent further attacks.

The Sudanese Government should also "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."

Across Darfur, more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes because of fighting between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups since 2003.