GENEVA, (Reuters) – Sudan’s security forces violated international law in an attack on a Darfur refugee camp in August, a United Nations and African Union report said on Friday.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said the government troops acted unlawfully when they opened fire on a crowd in Kalma displacement camp, killing 33 people.
Sudan’s government dismissed the report on Friday, saying their forces were fired on first by “outlaws” inside the camp and shot back in defence.
The joint U.N./African Union report said: “Police and security forces failed to employ alternative peaceful means of crowd control before resorting to the use of lethal force.”
“Government security forces committed violations of international human rights law against the civilian population.”
The findings could add to rising tensions in Darfur, where all sides of a near six-year conflict are waiting for the International Criminal Court to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant against Sudan’s president for war crimes.
International experts estimate that fighting between Sudanese forces and armed rebel groups has killed 200,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes, with many fleeing into neighbouring Chad.
The Aug. 25 incident occurred when a group of residents in the 80,000-person camp in South Darfur had been trying to block government forces from searching for arms and drugs.
Some 108 people were wounded when troops shot into the air and then into the crowd; 14 men, 10 women and nine children were killed in the attack. While Sudanese authorities said their forces were fired upon by camp residents, the report issued on Friday said there was no evidence to back this up.
The report said seven officers which Sudanese forces reported as wounded in the raid had been assaulted in a separate incident later that day. “It did not appear that the crowd posed any imminent threat to the security forces before they opened fire,” the report said, adding that credible independent sources had said light and heavy arms were in the Kalma camp.
The spokesman for Sudan’s Foreign Ministry, Ali al-Sadig, said the government did not accept the report. “The government gathered very strong evidence Kalma camp was being used as a place to accumulate weapons … by outlaw groups. This is why the government had to take action. It was part of the duty of the government,” he told Reuters. “The troops were attacked first.”