Alarming situation of human rights and dramatic humanitarian crisis in Darfur

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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomes the humanitarian ceasefire signed on 8 April 2004 in N’Djamena, Chad, between the Governement of Sudan and the armed rebel groups Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). However, though the signing of this ceasefire constitutes a positive step towards the peace process, the FIDH, considering that it is only valid for 45 days renewable, therefore holds this accord as unsufficient regarding its lack of political implication and the gravity of the situation in the Darfur province.

The FIDH remains gravely concerned by the alarming situation of human rights and the dramatic humanitarian crisis in the Darfur province, and recalls that unacceptable attacks targeting civilians took place a few days before the agreement was concluded. Indeed, according to the information gathered by the Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT), FIDH member organisation in Sudan, the Governement of Sudan military forces launched an aerial attack on 4 April 2004 against the Mahajrea village, Southern Darfur State. The FIDH strongly condemns this bombing, that killed 4 villagers including two 15-years-old children, and seriously wounded another civilian.

The FIDH also denouces with greatest alarm the mass killing which took place on 5-7 March 2004 in the Delaij village in the Darfur province. According to SOAT, 168 civilians belonging to the Fur Tribe were arrested by military intelligence officers and militia leaders in 10 different villages south of Garsilla, Wadi Salih province, Western Darfur State. They were detained for alleged involvement with the SLA rebell group, before being taken to the Delaij village, where they were shot by firing squads outside of any standards of justice.

The ongoing conflict between the government forces allied to the Janjaweed militia groups, and the SLA and JEM rebel groups in the Darfur province has been dramatically escalating for the past months. Local civilian population, in particular the Fur, Zaghawas and Massalit communities, continues to be the main target of the attacks, and are forced to leave their devasted homes and lands. According to UN estimates, 750,000 persons have become internally displaced within Darfur, and 100,000 to 130,000 people have found refuge in the neighbouring Chad. The whole western part of Sudan is now suffering from a dramatic humanitarian crisis. Since January 2004, after the ceasefire agreed by the Government of Sudan and the SLA on 3 September 2003 in Achadi (Chad) collapsed, the flow of refugees steadily increased, overwhelming the camps in eastern Chad and urban centers in the south of Sudan: 15,000 more people took refuge in Kass last week, bringing the total number of refugees in town to 35,000. Moreover, due to the lack of security in the region, most of humanitarian agencies are not granted access to the Darfur province, and are therefore unable to provide the refugees with food, clean water, shelter or health care. The medical situation is alarmingly deteriorating in the camps, and numerous cases of measles broke out in the past few weeks.

Since the government launched a large terror campaign in the region, civilians are subjected to constant, violent and indiscrimimate attacks, which are likely to have made up to 10,000 victims. Arbitrary arrests, the widespread use of torture, abductions and extra-judicial executions of those suspected of supporting the rebels, lootings, as well as the systematic raping of women and girls are regularly reported.

The FIDH condemns with the utmost firmness these violations of human rights conventions, as well as the blatant violations of international humanitarian law, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Geneva Convention. Moreover, the FIDH is concerned that this massive terror campaign is aimed at evacuating these tribes from the region, and fears that these attacks are a « coordinated, scorched-earth campaign of ethnic cleansing », as UN top-level representatives qualified them.

In these regards, the FIDH welcomes the decision of the United Nations to send a fact-finding mission on the human rights situation in Darfur. This investigation mission, which started on 6 April 2004 and began interviewing Sudanese refugees in Chad, is however still trying to negotiate access to the region with the local authorities.

The FIDH calls upon the UN Commission on Human Rights actually meeting in Geneva for its 60th session to:

adopt a resolution under Item 9 (grave violations of human rights) firmly condemning the violations committed in the Darfur province, and establishing a Special Rapporteur on Sudan mandated to monitor human rights situation.

The FIDH, who will present a joint shadow report with SOAT about the human rights situation in Sudan at the 35th session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, which will be held in May 2004 in Dakar, calls upon the Commission to:

- strongly react to the ongoing human rights violations, and to take the necessary measures to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The FIDH also urges both parties involved to:

- bring about an immediate and definitive cessation of hostilities;

- carry on the negotiations in order to reach an effective ceasefire and political peace process;

- respect the basic principles of distinction and precaution provided by international humanitarian law and to put an end to attacks against civilians;

- strictly respect the humanitarian ceasefire concluded on 8 April 2004 in order to allow the relief and humanitarian assistance to reach the needy civilians.

The FIDH urges the Government of Sudan to:

- strictly respect the fundamental standards of international humanitarian law and human rights instruments to which they are bound, notably its obligation to protect civilian populations under all circumstances, as provided in article 23 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and articles 2 and 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

- immediately engage impartial and exhaustive investigations on all allegations of torture and ill treatment in order to identify their authors, to prosecute them and to judge them in conformity with international human rights standards;

- grant international humanitarian workers and human experts full access to the Darfur region and to the victims.

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