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SHRO’s-London Intervention at African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights


Sudan Human Rights Organisation, UK


African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights 34th Sessions, 6th - 20th November 2003 Banjul (The Gambia)

Oral Intervention on Agenda Item No. 9 (a)

(Situation of Human Rights in Darfur, Western Sudan)

Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Commissioners, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Sudan Human Rights Organisation wishes to draw the attention of this session of the Commission to the dire situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Greater Darfur region in Western Sudan. Our Communication to the Commission dated 8th September 2003 and its support documents provided some basic background information about the region and a detailed account of few sample events that describe the ongoing carnage. Because of the human tragedy that currently unfolds in this region on a daily basis, it is our hope that the African Commission takes immediate action on this Communication at its present Session. The situation is so acute and so urgent that an immediate and decisive action to save the lives of the people of Darfur is required today. Tomorrow will be too late.

Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Commissioners,

The armed conflict that engulfs the Darfur region dates back to about three decades when a series of unprecedented deadly tribal conflicts started rearing their ugly head in the region. Little is known about this crisis because it was overshadowed by the civil war in Southern Sudan and other areas of the country. Tribal attacks created a state of complete lawlessness in the region which was aggravated by the government’s apparent unwillingness or inability to protect the people of the region and ensure their safety and security. In fact the government played a cardinal role in the ongoing crisis in Darfur by sponsoring some Arab tribal groups against the Black African tribes. Arab militia groups that are armed, financed and sponsored by the government in Darfur region are known as the Janjaweed and Murahleen as well as the paramilitary formations known as the Popular Defense Forces. These tribal gangs are mainly composed of nomad tribes and were lured by the government in the fighting because of their interest in confiscating land, looting and war booty. They were initially used by the government to fight a proxy war in Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains and later on were deployed in the Darfur region. During the last two decades the government allied militia groups staged a concerted campaign of destruction of life and property calculated to displace the African tribes in Darfur from their original habitat and clear the way for others to settle in their place.

To face this question of life or death, the indigenous African tribes in Darfur were left without choice but to organise themselves for self-defense which has now degenerated into an armed resistance against the government authority in a bid to end their victimization. A new armed group known as the Sudan Liberation Movement issued a political manifesto on 13th March 2003 and entered into clashes with the government army in earnest. The number of those under arms in Darfur is increasing day by day and consequently there is an increase in the area of their military operation. The government’s response to this act of distress was devastating as it deployed large numbers of its security forces in the region equipped with armoured vehicles and fighter jets with orders to shoot and kill people indiscriminately especially in the areas inhabited by the Black African tribes. More so, the government granted its allied militia groups carte blanche to commit all sorts of crimes against the Black African populations of the region. This dramatic development has aggravated the situation manifold and necessitated the ongoing humanitarian intervention by the international community through the UN.

Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Commissioners,

Civilians are the main target of the ongoing war in Darfur. It is estimated that more than 10,000 have lost their lives since the war started last March. The number of persons that were forced to leave their original land and became internally displaced inside Sudan is estimated at more than 500,000 individuals. According to the UN estimates more than 75,000 individuals were forced into exile in neighbouring Chad during the last two months alone. They now live in refugee camps being fed by the UN and humanitarian organisations. These refugees are mainly women and children forced to leave their original areas because of intensive and indiscriminate aerial bombardments of their villages by the government fighter jets. They live in difficult conditions without enough food, medicine, sanitation or shelter.

Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Commissioners

Contrary to what have been said by the delegation of Sudan before this Commission, the situation has not changed as the government army and its allied militia groups continue to commit war crimes in the region without accountability. The government is more interested in reaching an agreement to disarm those joined the guerrilla movement without addressing the root causes of the crisis. More so, the arrangements for cessation of hostilities agreed upon in the first week of September 2003 were hardly respected by the government and its allied militia groups though the arrangement will essentially maintain the status quo and aggressions against the Black African tribes continue. Only three days ago the government allied militia groups killed 42 persons and burned down 32 villages in the area of Zalengi in Western Darfur. We hereby call on this Commission not to take the claims of the government about the end of the conflict in Darfur at their face value and instead it should undertake all that it can to protect the lives of the people of Darfur.

Thank you, Madam Chairperson for your attention.

Banjul, 10th November 2003


SHRO Office #311, 154 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 4JD ( United Kingdom).

Tel no:0044 207328 7251/311 E-mail: shrolondon@yahoo.co.uk

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