UN rights chief accuses Sudan of "disproportionate" attacks

News and Press Release
Originally published
GENEVA, May 11 (Reuters) - The United Nations' human rights chief on Friday said recent air raids by Sudanese forces on at least five Darfur villages appeared to be "indiscriminate and disproportionate", and violated international law.

The attacks between April 19 and 29 have already been condemned by U.S. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, although Khartoum says they never took place.

Making no reference to the Sudanese denial, the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said the attacks were reportedly carried out by helicopter gunships and Antonov aircraft.

There were "numerous civilian casualties and destruction of property," with school children amongst the wounded, Arbour's spokesman Jose Luis Diaz said in a statement.

At least five villages near El Fasher in North Darfur were targeted during 10 days of attacks which had "contributed to an already critical humanitarian situation".

"The bombardments appear to have been indiscriminate and disproportionate", and as such constituted "violations of international humanitarian and human rights law," Diaz added.

Earlier this month, Ban called for an end to air raids by Sudanese forces, which he said had caused civilian deaths and destruction, although he gave few details at the time.

But Sudan's ambassador to the U.N. Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem denied the reported attacks and said rumours were being spread by people out to torpedo peace talks with rebels.

The United Nations says that some 200,000 have died and more than 2 million have fled their homes since conflict flared in Darfur in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government accusing it of years of neglect.

Sudan says only 9,000 have perished.

The U.N. has sent some peacekeepers to Darfur, in western Sudan, and is trying to get agreement with the Khartoum government on more.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit