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Amnesty International calls for humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile

By Toby Collins

February 17, 2012 (LONDON) – Amnesty International (AI) has welcomed the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) call for Sudanese government and rebels from Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) to allow humanitarian groups access to the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. ->http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2012/sc10543.doc.htm]

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SAF soldiers in Damazin, Blue Nile (Reuters)

On Thursday AI released a statement by their representative to the UN describing the move as “long overdue” and calling on the Security Council to “keep pressure on Sudan’s government”.

Khartoum’s forces are engaged in conflict with the SPLM-N rebels, in both states. There are large numbers of people there who need humanitarian assistance according to UN officials particuarly in rebel held areas.

The UN estimates that since the conflict started in Blue Nile in early September 2011 26,400 refugees from South Kordofan moved to South Sudan’s Unity State, 78,605 from Blue Nile moved to Upper Nile state, and 25,256 Sudanese refugees have arrived in Tongo and Sherkole refugee camps as well as the AdDimazin Transit Centre in Ethiopia. An estimated 10,000-15,000 others are reportedly on the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.

However, humanitarian aid organisations are being allowed scant access and those people displaced by the conflict are not safe even when seeking refuge across international borders. The UN condemned an incident in which “Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) dropped at least two bombs near the Yida [South Sudan] refugee camp”, in November 2011.

In January 2012 the SPLM-N called upon the African Union (AU) “take steps to ensure and guarantee humanitarian assistance delivery to South Kordofan”.

The Security Council’s call for improved access to humanitarian aid is not reserved for Khartoum. It calls upon the SPLM-N to do the same and for both parties to “to return to talks to address the issues that have fuelled the current conflict“. The Security Council also expresses its support for the mediation efforts of the AU, UK and Ethiopia and calls for the UN’s increased engagement with Arab states and the AU.

AI call upon the Security Council to act upon the findings of a report from the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights published on 15 August 2011, which documented what may be war crimes and crimes against humanity, by mandating and independent inquiry.

After AI visited South Kordofan in August 2011, Rozni said “Civilians continue to live in precarious conditions with insufficient food, shelter or access to healthcare and in fear of being bombed. It is essential for the civilian population from these two areas to receive impartial humanitarian assistance.”

On the eve of a Security Council meeting to review Sudan’s sanctions AI calls for an extension of the current arms embargo, in line with their briefing on 8 February which alleges Chinese and Russian arms are used in both Darfur and South Kordofan.

The mandate of the current panel of experts of the Sudan Sanctions Committee expires on 19 February.

Khartoum denies the claims.