Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Sudan’s armed forces bombed civilian areas in Southern Kordofan state after President Umar al-Bashir announced a cease-fire last week, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said.
Amnesty and Human Rights Watch researchers witnessed government planes dropping bombs in civilian areas this month and investigated 13 airstrikes in the Nuba Mountains that killed 26 people since mid-June, the groups said in a joint statement today. Al-Sawarmi Khaled, a Sudanese army spokesman, denied the report and said the government was committed to the cease-fire.
“The relentless bombing campaign is killing and maiming civilian men, women and children, displacing tens of thousands, putting them in desperate need of aid and preventing entire communities from planting crops and feeding their children,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.
Forces loyal to the government in Khartoum, the capital, have clashed since June 5 with fighters from the northern branch of the ruling party in neighboring South Sudan, which gained independence on July 9. Bombings, attacks and fighting have forced more than 150,000 people to flee their homes and they now live “in harsh conditions in caves, on mountaintops, under trees and in the bush far from towns,” according to the statement.
Southern Kordofan is Sudan’s only oil-producing state, accounting for 115,000 barrels a day, according to energy ministry. South Sudan assumed control of 75 percent of the country’s former daily crude output of 490,000 barrels a day.
Crimes Against Humanity
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called in an Aug. 15 report for an investigation into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in the state, allegedly committed mainly by government forces.
Both al-Bashir and his governor in Southern Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, are wanted by the International Criminal Court over allegations they were involved in war crimes in the eight-year- old conflict in the western region of Darfur.
The rights groups cited witnesses who said soldiers and militia shot people in the streets, looted and burnt churches and homes, and bulldozed houses of known members of Sudan’s People Liberation Movement’s northern branch.
Army spokesman Khaled disputed the groups’ findings that government forces hindered aid to civilians considered supportive of the opposition.
“The army is there to protect civilians and guarantee humanitarian aid reaches them well,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday in Khartoum. “Rebels are random, and they benefit from continuation of the chaotic situation in there. They hinder aid groups from doing their job.”
Many displaced families told researchers they were eating berries and leaves and that their children were suffering from diarrhea and malaria.
“Indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and restrictions on humanitarian aid could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser. “Such attacks must cease and independent humanitarian-needs assessments and relief delivery must be allowed immediately.”
--Editors: Karl Maier, Jennifer Freedman
To contact the reporter on this story: Salma El Wardany in Khartoum through the Nairobi newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at email@example.com.