Home | Press Releases    Thursday 8 April 2004

UN fact-finding mission must have full access and investigate extrajudicial executions in Darfur

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE

- AI Index: AFR 54/037/2004 (Public)
- News Service No: 083
- 7 April 2004

Sudan: UN fact-finding mission must have full access and investigate reported extrajudicial executions in Darfur

Amnesty International is urging the UN fact-finding mission into Chad and Darfur, western Sudan, to investigate the extrajudicial execution of 168 men near Deleij in Wadi Saleh between 5 and 7 March 2004.

The fact-finding mission headed by Bacre Waly Ndiaye, head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York, is to investigate the human rights situation in Darfur where government-aligned militias have killed people, devastated villages and caused what UN spokespeople have described as "ethnic cleansing".

Amnesty International has now obtained detailed accounts of the 168 people extrajudicially executed. The men were taken from 10 villages in Wadi Saleh, in the west of Darfur near the Chad border, by a large force which included members of the Sudan army, military intelligence and Janjawid, (meaning armed men on horses - the name given to the government-aligned militias drawn mostly from Arab nomad groups).

They were blindfolded and taken in groups of about 40, on army trucks to an area behind a hill near Deleij village. There they were then told to lie on the ground and shot by a force of about 45 members of the military intelligence and the Janjawid.

Two of those shot lay wounded among the bodies before escaping and giving information to the outside world.

"Reports about these extrajudicial executions were circulating a month ago," said Amnesty International. "But only now have human rights activists been able to obtain detailed accounts and names of most of the 168 people who lost their lives."

Amnesty International is urging the fact-finding mission to ensure that those who give evidence to it are protected. The organization fears for the safety of witnesses; one of those who originally informed about the Deleij killings was detained immediately after he gave the information.

"The fact-finding team must have a clear mandate, powers and all necessary resources to thoroughly investigate alleged abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law," said Amnesty International. "It must have full access to all parts of Darfur, including the right to visit detention centres and talk to all those detained."

Ceasefire negotiations are now taking place involving the Sudanese government and representatives of the armed groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in N’Djamena, Chad. The talks are mediated by the Chad government with observers from the African Union, European Union and United States.

"The tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda should concentrate the minds of the negotiators in N’Djamena to act to end a horrifically escalating conflict where civilians, killed, raped, abused and plundered, are the principal victims," Amnesty International said.

"The international community should put pressure on the participants to agree on a durable ceasefire which should be monitored by international monitors with a strong human rights component and the right to report publicly on human rights abuses," said Amnesty International.

Background

Gross human rights abuses have been carried out by Sudan government forces and by the government supported Janjawid militia since the conflict escalated with the formation of armed opposition groups a year ago. Since then, thousands of men, women and children have been killed and wounded, villages burnt and livestock and goods plundered, mostly by the armed militias supported by the Sudanese Government.

During this large scale forced displacement of civilians, members of the Janjawid have raped women and girls and abducted children and adults.

A year ago, the Sudan government appears to have adopted a strategy of military repression and support for the violence of the Janjawid rather than seeking redress for abuses and reconciliation. Since then, over 750,000 civilians from Darfur have left their homes. Most have taken shelter within the region, swelling towns or forming vast camps outside the towns.

Some 130,000 people have taken refuge in Chad. An unknown number - the UN puts the figure at 10,000 - have died, at the hands of the Janjawid and Sudanese soldiers, including by indiscriminate or deliberate bombing by military planes, or by diseases which are spreading in overcrowded camps with limited water, food and medicaments. Hundreds of people from the Darfur region, including human rights defenders and lawyers, have been detained and some tortured by the Sudanese security services.

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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