15/06/2004

Civilians 'slaughtered' by Sudanese government forces

The UN has accused the Sudanese government of slaughtering dozens of civilians in villages in the Darfur region of the country.

A UN human rights expert who is on a fact-finding mission in the country said that she had also received reports of mass killings by government-sponsored militias in the Malakal region.

Following a 13-day tour of Sudan, UN's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir, said that she was “disturbed and alarmed by the gravity of the human rights abuses perpetrated” in Africa’s largest country.

The Darfur region is where the greatest problem lies, as two rebel groups have been fighting the Sudanese government since early last year. Aid agencies believe that a humanitarian crisis "is unfolding", Ms Jahangir said.

UN agencies and relief organizations estimate that at least one million people have fled their homes and become internally displaced since fighting broke out, while another 150,000 refugees have escaped across the border into Chad.

“I am deeply concerned,” she said. “The crisis is not over and the right to life of [millions of] people is seriously threatened.

A report by the UN’s Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued last month, found that Janjaweed militias – loose bands of Arab fighters that were recruited and armed by Khartoum – have carried out murders, rapes and other atrocities against the region’s black African population. Ms Jahangir’s briefing echoed many elements of that report.

During her inspection tour, Ms Jahangir said she received credible information that members of Sudan’s armed forces, the Popular Defence Forces and government-sponsored militias had “attacked villages and summarily executed civilians”.

She said she had been unable to verify reports of the location of some mass graves because it was not safe to travel to certain areas within Darfur or they were too far away to reach during her visit.

The Government and the rebel groups reached a ceasefire deal in April, but aid workers say refugees arriving in Chad have told them of continuing attacks by the Janjaweed.

Ms. Jahangir will issue a formal report to the UN Commission on Human Rights about the situation in Sudan after she visits Nairobi and Cairo to collect more information.

(gmcg)

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