November 4, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - A group of thirty two U.S. lawmakers have urged Secretary of State John Kerry to ask the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use by the Sudanese army in Darfur.
- US secretary of state John Kerry (Photo: Daniel Getachew/EPA)
Late last month, Amnesty International reported that over 200 people had been killed in Darfur Jebel Marra area by banned chemical weapons since January 2016. But the government denied the claims.
In a letter to Kerry, the lawmakers expressed serious concern about “increased civilian displacement in Darfur and the recent allegations that the Sudanese government has used chemical weapons against its citizens”.
“We find the use of such measures against innocent men, women, and children appalling and urge you to take every appropriate step to ensure unfettered humanitarian access to the Jebel Marra region so that the victims of these attacks can receive the medical attention they require,” said the lawmakers.
The letter also called on the Secretary of State to ask the OPCW to investigate these allegations in Sudan, “and to strongly encourage Sudan to cooperate with such an investigation”.
“Sudan has acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and as such has a legal responsibility not to use, produce or stockpile chemical weapons” read the letter.
“If OPCW is not granted access to conduct its investigation, we will have to assume that the government is hiding its complicity in these atrocities” it added.
Following the release of Amnesty’s report on the use of chemical weapons in Darfur last September, OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter requested the Sudanese government to provide “its official position and any other relevant information on the matter”.
Sudan in its response to the request reiterated its commitment to the convention and denied the allegations reported by the international human rights group, says the OPCW in a statement released on 8 October.
“Sudan would not act in any way to undermine its obligations and responsibilities towards the Convention and Organisation and emphasized that the position of the Sudanese Government on this matter had been publicly expressed and confirmed” said the Sudan’s ambassador in his letter to the Hague based organization.
It is noteworthy that the letter was co-signed by House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Chairman Edward R. Royce, along with Reps. McGovern, Rooney, Lee, McCaul, Capuano, and Pitts of the Sudan and South Sudan Issues Caucus and 24 other Members of Congress.
The U.S. congressmen also underscored importance to support “a peaceful Sudan in which its citizens can enjoy increased stability, civil liberties, and economic growth”.
“However, we remain deeply concerned that peace talks have failed to bring security for the people of Darfur. We thank you for your sustained work towards these ends and await your response on this important issue” they added.
The Sudanese army and its allied militias have been fighting a number of armed movements in Darfur since 2003.
Last August, direct peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, between Sudanese government and Darfur rebel movements under the auspices of the African Union have collapsed after rebels throw out government requests to disclose fighters’ locations.
UN agencies estimate that over 300,000 people were killed in Darfur conflict since 2003, and over 2.5 million were displaced.