The conflict in Sudan’s embattled Darfur region has reached a new level of violence, both in intensity and frequency, according to a U.N. report released Tuesday.
Sudan’s government is falling far short of its human rights commitments and is failing to protect civilians from attacks, including sexual violence, said the report by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“As a result of the fighting, Darfur’s civilian population suffered from indiscriminate attacks, loss of property, and massive displacement,” said the report. “In many cases, people fled violence only to arrive at a place where they were subjected to more violence and again had to flee.”
The report, which reviewed the situation in the whole of Sudan between December and April, said that those responsible for human rights abuses must be held accountable, regardless of where and when the crimes took place, or who committed them.
“In Darfur, the government and rebels should immediately respect the governing cease-fire agreement,” the report said. “The government should also disarm the militia and protect the physical security of all Darfurians by putting in place a credible, capable and professional police force and judiciary.”
Fighting in Darfur has not abated since a May 5 deal to end the conflict. The fighting, which has left more than 180,000 dead and 2.5 million displaced in the arid western region, began when Darfur’s African ethnic groups rose in revolt in early 2003, provoking a counterinsurgency in which pro-government militia conducted widespread killings and destruction.
Civilians caught in the crossfire
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a separate report released this week, accused Sudan’s government of violating international humanitarian law by barring fuel, food and relief aid to civilians in Darfur.
“Particularly alarming is that the government reverted to using helicopter gunships on various occasions,” the U.N. human rights report said. “In attacks by militia where there was no clear government involvement, the government repeatedly failed in its obligations under international law to prevent them.”
The report also said that isolated incidents of civilians being killed, physically abused, sexually assaulted and harassed by militia continued daily. Humanitarian access also deteriorated because of insecurity and blockades on civilian populations.
“Sudan’s security apparatus continued to arbitrarily arrest people and abuse detainees for assumed rebel affiliation,” it added.