UN human rights chief urges immediate end to violence in Abyei

Homes set on fire by armed elements in Abyei following the seizure of the town by Northern Sudanese troops

24 May 2011 – The United Nations human rights chief today condemned the recent attacks in the disputed Sudanese region of Abyei and called on the governments of both the north and the south to peacefully resolve the crisis.

On 19 May, a UN convoy transporting troops of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Joint Integrated Unit came under attack in Dokura, an area just north of Abyei, which was under the control of the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

Two days later, the SAF attacked and took control of Abyei itself – a move condemned by the Security Council as a breach of the 2005 ComprehI urge all parties to explore a negotiated solution to the Abyei crisis and to avoid a descent into further conflict and chaosensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the recent attacks and counter-attacks in Abyei by both sides, saying this is “certainly no way to advance the peaceful coexistence of north and south Sudan.”

She voiced particular alarm at the shelling of civilian areas in Abyei by the SAF, as well as reports of aerial bombardment in other locations such as Todacch, Tajalei and in the vicinity of the River Kiir Bridge.

“I urge all parties to explore a negotiated solution to the Abyei crisis and to avoid a descent into further conflict and chaos,” she stated in a news release.

Yesterday the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) strongly condemned the looting and burning of Abyei which took place on Monday, just days after the SAF took control of the region. The recent upsurge in violence has displaced large numbers of civilians, possibly hundreds of thousands, according to the mission.

“Any remaining civilians in Abyei and surrounding towns and villages must be protected and guaranteed safe passage in line with international human rights and humanitarian law,” Ms. Pillay stated.

She called on the Government of Sudan to ensure that, in areas under its control, homes and property are not burned and looted. Those found responsible for such criminal acts must be brought to justice.

“The governments of both the north and the south must investigate all breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law and ensure that perpetrators of violations are brought to justice,” she stressed.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos told a news conference in New York that her office is seeing a number of reports about the “substantial movement of people” out of Abyei as a result of the recent fighting.

She reported that the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Georg Charpentier, along with members of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and others, has travelled to Abyei today.

“I’m waiting for a report but it’s very difficult for us to say exactly what the humanitarian impact is until we get in and we’re able to say for ourselves,” said Ms. Amos.

Meanwhile, UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters that additional peacekeepers are being sent to Abyei to boost patrolling activities, which have already stepped up.

“This is to deter incidents of looting and to identify if possible the groups responsible,” he stated, adding that the UN has asked the Government of Southern Sudan to launch an investigation immediately into the 19 May attack and to hold the perpetrators accountable.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Sudan: UN strongly condemns looting and burning of town of Abyei

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