September 29, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese diplomat and military Thursday denied the use of chemical weapons in Darfur region following a report by Amnesty accusing the army of using it in the mountainous area of Jebel Marra in Darfur.
- In this photo released by Amnesty, the skin of this victim’s back shows multiple circular wounds that appear to be from freshly popped blisters revealing fresh pink skin. According to the group, these circular wounds are consistent with exposure to a chemical warfare blister agent such as sulphur mustard. (Amnesty Photo)
However, the armed groups in Darfur praised the efforts of the rights groups, saying it confirms what they were repeating during the past years and called on the international community to probe the situation and to arrest those who are wanted by the war crimes court in the Hague.
"An Amnesty International investigation has gathered horrific evidence of the repeated use of what are believed to be chemical weapons against civilians, including very young children, by Sudanese government forces in one of the most remote regions of Darfur over the past eight months," says a report released by the group.
According to the report, between 200 and 250 people (including many children) probably died due to exposure to the chemical weapons.
“The scale and brutality of these attacks is hard to put into words. The images and videos we have seen in the course of our research are truly shocking; in one a young child is screaming with pain before dying; many photos show young children covered in lesions and blisters. Some were unable to breathe and vomiting blood,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Research.
However, in Khartoum the Sudanese army spokesperson Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami Amnesty accusation and described it as false.
"Amnesty’s report is incorrect because the situation on the ground does not need intensive bombing as there is no real presence of rebels anymore," Sudanese army spokesperson Ahmed Khalifa a-Shami told the AFP.
"There is also a clear order to our troops not to target rebels if they happen to be in villages or in areas inhabited by civilians," he further said.
Also, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gharib Allah Khidir, denounced the "fabricated and unfounded accusations", pointing that it aims to obstruct "the pioneering efforts" to achieve peace and stability and to promote reconciliation in Sudan.
"The Foreign Ministry is confident that all regional and international partners are aware and informed of the stability in Darfur and that Sudan is witnessing comprehensive efforts to achieve security, stability and peace and national reconciliation," he added.
The nearly 109-page report contains photographs of children suffering from apparent chemical burns, satellite images of destroyed villages and displaced people, interviews with more than 200 survivors, and analysis by chemical weapons experts.
The assumed chemical attacks took place during a large-scale military campaign launched in January 2016 by the government forces in Jebel Marra against the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLA/AW).
"Amnesty International can confirm that 171 villages have been destroyed or damaged in the last eight months of the military campaign," said the group.
Different Sudanese opposition groups issued statements, calling to probe the accusations and to dispatch fact-finding mission to Jebel Marra.
The Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi condemned the "heinous crimes" committed by the Sudanese government troops and stressed that it had already tired to draw the attention of the international community to the use of chemical weapons in Darfur since 2003.
"The Sudan Liberation Movement(-Minni Minnawi) strongly condemns the inaction of the International Community in prosecuting the criminals committing atrocities in Darfur," said Minnawi in a statement issued on Thursday.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) spokesperson Gibril Adam Bilal, from his part said they can confirm that the Sudanese government used the internationally prohibited chemical weapons in Darfur. It regretted that its use has been extended to the Nuba Montains of south Kordofan state and Blue Nile state.
"JEM renews its demand to the international community to activate the principle of non-impunity especially after more than enough time has passed to arrest those who are wanted by the International Criminal Court," Bilal stressed.
Sudanese officials recently repeated that the situation in Jebel Marra is stable but admitted that the army still carrying limited operations in the western part of Jebel Marr to wipe it up from rebel elements.