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UN urges probe of Sudan Kordofan region war crimes

The UN on Monday called for a thorough investigation [press release] into alleged violations of international law and war crimes in the Southern Kordofan area of Sudan [BBC backgrounder]. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the former UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) [official websites] issued a preliminary report [text, DOC] describing human rights conditions following armed combat in Kadugli in June between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army North (SPLAN). Alleged violations include "extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, looting of civilian homes and destruction of property," as well as indiscriminate aerial attacks and mass graves. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged the Sudanese government to ensure access to areas under investigation:

It is vital that unhindered access is granted to human rights monitors to conduct investigations into allegations of continuing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and to humanitarian actors trying to bring relief to the affected populations whose access has also been severely restricted by both sides.
Pillay also called for the immediate release of UN staffers and detainees who have not committed any crimes.

South Kordofan, which has been held by the SPLA since the 2005 peace deal that stifled Sudan's civil war, is a state in the center of Sudan, and has been a disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan due to its oil reserves. In July, UN officials called for an end to the fighting [JURIST report] that had been ongoing since early June. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs [official website] and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] denounced continued human rights abuses [statement] against civilians in the South Kordofan region in June, saying that the UN knows of more than 70,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom are subject to violence due to their ethnic heritage. The SAF took over Abyei 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; 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 have been urged to arrest him on sight including China, Malaysia, Djibouti, Kenya and Chad [JURIST reports].

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