23 January 2009 Sudanese forces violated international human rights law by using lethal force in “an unnecessary, disproportionate and therefore unlawful manner,” when they fired on a crowd in a displaced persons camp in Darfur last August, killing 33 civilians, states a new United Nations report.
The report, issued today by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), is the result of an investigation into the 25 August incident at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Darfur, which also left 108 civilians wounded.
Witness testimonies confirmed that security forces shot arbitrarily at a large crowd of IDPs including women and children>
The Sudanese forces had entered the camp, home to about 80,000 IDPs, to execute a search warrant for illegal weapons and drugs. They were confronted by a group of camp residents who tried to stop them from entering the camp. The security forces fired shots in the air, before opening fire on the crowd.
According to the report, the 33 people killed included 14 men, ten women and nine children. The casualties include one 75-year-old woman who drowned in a pool of water as she attempted to flee the shooting. The 108 people injured during the incident included 38 children and 25 women.
The report notes unconfirmed reports by “credible independent sources” that light and heavy arms had been situated in Kalma. However, UN investigators could not verify Government claims that security forces had responded in a purely defensive manner after armed elements within the camp opened fire on them, allegedly injuring seven army personnel.
“Witness testimonies confirmed that security forces shot arbitrarily at a large crowd of IDPs including women and children,” the report says. “Furthermore, it did not appear that the crowd posed any imminent threat to the security forces before they opened fire.”
The report concludes that, “Government security forces committed violations of international human rights law against the civilian population of Kalma IDP camp. It was established that the security forces used lethal force in an unnecessary, disproportionate and therefore unlawful manner.”
Government security forces also “failed to protect the right to life according to their obligations under international human rights law,” the report adds.
In addition, during the Kalma incident “police and security forces failed to employ alternative peaceful means of crowd control before resorting to the use of lethal force.”
UNAMID has been in place in Darfur since the start of 2008 in a bid to try to quell the deadly fighting and humanitarian suffering that has afflicted the impoverished Sudanese region since 2003. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed, either through direct combat, disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy, while another 2.7 million people have been forced to flee from their homes because of fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed.
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