Sudan: Government forces need to stop attacking civilians in Darfur
Elements of government forces, along with armed militias, are carrying out multiple large-scale attacks against civilians in North Darfur in what represents the worst instance of violence in recent years, Amnesty International says in a briefing today. Border Guards, who are under the authority of the Sudanese Military Intelligence, have been involved in attacks that have reportedly killed more than 500 people so far this year. According to the UN, roughly 100,000 people have been displaced since violence broke out on 5 January when an officer of the Border Guards and leader of the Rizeigat tribe both laid claim to a gold-rich piece of land in Jebel ‘Amer. Amnesty International is calling upon the Sudanese government to ensure a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into these allegations.“Any member of the Border Guards who is reasonably suspected of involvement in committing such attacks must be immediately suspended from their posts,” says Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director. “They should be charged and prosecuted in fair proceedings, which comply with international standards of fair trial, without resort to the death penalty.” Amnesty International is also calling on the UN to monitor adequately and report back on the allegations of government forces attacking civilians which to date they have labelled “inter-communal violence”. Government forces and militias are still present in the area and continue to cause insecurity, but the latest large-scale attack took place on 23 February when hundreds of gunmen attacked the town of El Siref, where 60,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) had taken refuge. IDPs told Amnesty International that armed men arrived on 150 camels and 200 horses and in more than 40 four-wheel drive vehicles to attack the town.Fifty three people were killed and 66 injured, most of whom were civilians, including women and children. Attackers also burned down houses and other civilian buildings.Villagers fought back with Kalashnikovs, killing 17 of the attackers, most of whom carried government issued identity documents, identifying them as members of the Border Guards. In addition to naming Border Guards officers who participated in attacks, civilians described the use by attackers of heavy weapons, such as Dushka-type heavy machine-guns, RPGs and grenade launchers - equipment used by government forces in the area and not normally available to civilians. The Amnesty International briefing on Sudan also includes information on indiscriminate aerial bombardments, ethnically targeted attacks, torture of human rights defenders and the violent suppression of demonstrations.