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UN rights expert urges investigation into Darfur attack

UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan Muhamed Chande Othman called Tuesday for a thorough and transparent investigation [press release] into the early September attack in Northern Darfur [JURIST news archive] that left many civilians dead. The Janjaweed [Slate backgrounder] militia is suspected of conducting an attack on civilians [UN News Centre report] in a Tarabat village marketplace, killing more than 37 and injuring more than 50 people. The Sudanese Government provided no immediate comment on the situation. It is reported that government armed forces and rebel groups initially blocked [AP report] UN and African Union (AU) [official website] peacekeepers from entering the Tarabat viliage. Othman, who conducted a fact-finding report [statement] on Sudan in February, responded to the attack, saying:

This incident should be investigated thoroughly and impartially and those responsible should be brought to justice. ... I am deeply disturbed about these killings which highlight the continuing deterioration of the situation in Darfur.
In February, Othman noted that many people in Darfur lack access to justice [JURIST report] and that the government often detains people for significant periods of time without bringing charges against them and has failed to bring to justice those suspected of committing war crimes. Also in February, UN and Darfur government groups began work [JURIST report] on compensation for victims of the conflict in Darfur.

While violence has been declining in Darfur, the September incident is one of several recent clashes between Sudanese government forces, militias, and rebel groups marking unrest in the region since President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was re-elected [JURIST report] in April. In July, the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] charged al-Bashir [case materials; JURIST report] with three counts of genocide [warrant, PDF] in relation to the Darfur conflict. The chamber found that there were reasonable grounds to conclude that Bashir had committed genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. The genocide charges were added to the seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that were filed against Bashir [JURIST report] in March 2009. Also in July, Chief prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] called for the arrest of al-Bashir [JURIST report], saying that he will eventually face trial before the ICC.

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