22 July 2011 United Nations human rights experts today expressed alarm over reports of mass killings in the Southern Kordofan region of Sudan, appealed for an immediate cessation of the violence and called for an urgent investigation.
“We are gravely concerned by what appears to be strong evidence that atrocities are being carried out right now in Southern Kordofan and credible reports that civilians as well as combatants are being killed and targeted for gross and widespread human rights violations by Sudanese Government forces,” said Gay McDougall, the Independent Expert on minority issues.
Last week Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said the UN has received “very disturbing” reports recently from Southern Kordofan that include indiscriminate aerial attacks, shelling, abductions, extrajudicial killings and mass graves in fighting between Government forces and members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Recent media reports said that as many as 100 civilians are buried in mass graves.
Ms. McDougall said “worrying reports indicate that persons particularly of Nuban descent have been targeted and killed in incidents that, if they are proved, may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity by those who have planned and perpetrated such acts.”
“A thorough and independent investigation is required with free and unfettered access to the region,” she said.
Jeremy Sarkin, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, said that “under no circumstances should enforced disappearances be allowed or tolerated.” El Hadji Malick Sow, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, called for “an independent and comprehensive investigation [to] be conducted on the massive arrests carried out during the last months of political and civil society activists."
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, (OHCHR), which released the experts’ comments, said “reports suggest that Nuban and dark-skinned people of Southern Kordofan face killings, arbitrary arrest and detentions, disappearances, abductions, attacks on churches and aerial bombardment.”
Southern Kordofan lies in Sudan but borders the newly independent South Sudan. The Nubans have reportedly faced exclusion, marginalization and discriminatory practices that have resulted in their opposition to the Sudanese Government and their support for the SPLA, OHCHR said.
The mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan came to an end after South Sudan became independent on 9 July. The Security Council created a UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), but the new mission does not have a mandate to operate in Sudan.
Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said last week that the Sudanese Government has repeatedly denied the UN access to the area since the skirmishes began early last month.
Ms. McDougall and the other rapporteurs are independent, unpaid specialists reporting to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
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