UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called Friday for an investigation [press release] of the previous day's aerial bombing of a refugee camp in Unity State in South Sudan. Refugees in the camp claimed to witness [BBC report] an Antonov plane, often used by northern Sudan [BBC backgrounder] as a makeshift bomber, circling the camp and then making two bombing runs, reportedly dropping five bombs, of which four exploded. Pillay noted that the information available at the time suggested that the bombing may amount to an international crime or serious human rights violation. Pillay expressed alarm about the fighting and indiscriminate attacks that continue to take place just across the border in Sudan's Southern Kordofan region, violence which has spilled over into neighboring states, including those in South Sudan:
This latest attack risks aggravating what is already an extremely tense and dangerous situation. ... The camp at Yida, which is close to the border with Sudan, is housing thousands of civilians, including women and children. ... There needs to be an independent, thorough and credible investigation to establish the precise circumstances of this aerial bombing, and if indeed it is established that an international crime or serious human rights violation has been committed, then those responsible should be brought to justice.Many suspect that the bombing raid order came from Khartoum, but a Sudan Armed Forces spokesman vehemently denied any links to the raid. South Kordofan remains a disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan due to the region's extensive oil reserves.
The Republic of South Sudan was recognized as an independent country [JURIST report] in July, making it the world's 193rd nation. In February, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who campaigned against secession, issued a formal decree [JURIST report] accepting the result of the referendum. However, tensions between the newly independent country and Sudan remain high. Much of the recent violence stems from action in the South Kordofan region between Sudanese troops and troops loyal to South Sudan's army. In June a UN official denounced continued human rights abuses [JURIST report] against civilians in the region. 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. Additionally, 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.