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UN criticizes Sudan for human rights abuses

A UN official on Tuesday denounced continued human rights abuses [statement] against civilians in the South Kordofan region of the Sudan [BBC backgrounder]. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs [official website] and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] said that the UN knows of more than 70,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom are subject to violence and targeting due to their ethnic heritage.

I am also concerned that the overall security situation in Sudan is deteriorating at an alarming rate, with severe humanitarian consequences. Civilians are increasingly bearing the brunt of the volatile and uncertain political climate. The conflict has also prevented sowing at the beginning of the agricultural season which will cause food shortages. We could be facing a worst case scenario, with millions of civilians in both North and South Sudan in need of protection and critical humanitarian assistance.
Last week, the UN reported that several peacekeepers had been held and tortured [UN News Centre report] in the region, and that those providing humanitarian relief are vulnerable. On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama released a statement praising Sudan [text] for its efforts toward building peace, but also echoing Amos' concerns: "The situation in Southern Kordofan is dire, with deeply disturbing reports of attacks based on ethnicity. The United States condemns all acts of violence, in particular the Sudanese Armed Forces aerial bombardment of civilians and harassment and intimidation of UN peacekeepers."

South Kordofan is a state in the center of Sudan, and has been a disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan, due to its oil reserves. South Sudan is scheduled to become independent next month and its forces, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), have held South Kordofan since the 2005 peace deal that stifled Sudan's civil war. Sudan's army, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), took over Abyei, a district in the state in May, causing a rebuke and demand for withdrawal [JURIST reports] by the UN. The UN confirmed reports of bombing and shelling in and around Abyei by the SAF, as well as widespread looting and burning of houses. Aid workers estimate 40,000 people have fled the area [BBC report]. While the UN has said that attacks on its peacekeepers amount to war crimes under international law, both the UN and the US have called on the northern troops to withdraw from Abyei. From the northern capital of Khartoum President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; ICC case materials; JURIST news archive] has stated he will not withdraw troops from the region and insisted that the area belongs to the north. An International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] case is open against al-Bashir and several nations [China; Malaysia; Djibouti; Kenya; Chad JURIST reports] have been urged to arrest him on sight.

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