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International presence ‘urgently needed’ in Sudan state | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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KHARTOUM, (AFP) — An international peacekeeping presence is urgently needed in Sudan’s embattled state of South Kordofan to document the alleged human rights abuses there and prevent further atrocities, a rights group said on Wednesday.

“Tens of thousands of civilians in Southern Kordofan are in grave danger, and no one is on the ground to report on what is happening, much less do anything about it,” said Human Rights Watch’s Africa director Daniel Bekele.

“An international presence in Southern Kordofan is urgently needed to prevent further atrocities,” he added, calling on the UN Security Council to take “immediate steps,” three weeks after the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan expired.

Fighting has raged in the ethnically divided border state of South Kordofan since early June, between the Sudanese army and Nuba militiamen who fought with the SPLA, the former rebel army of the south, during their decades-long civil war with Khartoum.

An internal UN report seen by AFP said the army’s systematic attacks, targeting the state’s indigenous Nuba peoples, could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The state’s governor, Ahmed Harun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Darfur, insisted on Tuesday that there was no ethnic dimension to the conflict, and said he was fully cooperating with the different humanitarian agencies operating.

The New York-based rights group directly challenged those claims.

“Access to Southern Kordofan remains difficult, as Sudan is blocking road and air access to affected populations. In addition, its bombing campaign has destroyed or damaged airstrips, preventing humanitarian aid from reaching displaced people in the Nuba Mountains.”

The group said the army’s near-daily bombing campaign had killed and injured scores of men, women, and children in the region, while the estimated number of people displaced had more than doubled, from 73,000 a few weeks ago to over 150,000 now, according to sources on the ground.

HRW said the international monitoring presence could grow out of the former peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) or could be a stand-alone operation involving the UN or the African Union.

The United States and United Nations have both tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Khartoum to let UNMIS remain in South Kordofan temporarily, after its mandate expired with the secession of the south on July 9.

“With no eyes and ears on the ground, the Sudanese government may believe it can continue this brutal campaign with total impunity,” HRW’s Bekele said.

“The (UN) Security Council should send a strong message now that those responsible for these violations will be held accountable,” he added.