Posted by: africanpressorganization | 23 January 2009

Sudan / Killing of 33 civilians in Darfur camp was unlawful, says UN report



Sudan / Killing of 33 civilians in Darfur camp was unlawful, says UN report


EL FASHER (DARFUR), Sudan, January 23, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A new UN report into the killing of 33 civilians and wounding of 108 others in a camp for displaced people in Darfur last August concludes that Sudanese government security forces violated international human rights law by using lethal force in “an unnecessary, disproportionate and therefore unlawful manner.”

The report, issued jointly on Friday by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), is the result of an investigation into a law enforcement operation that ended disastrously on 25 August 2008 at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons, some 15 km east of Nyala in South Darfur.

Sudanese security forces attempting to execute a search warrant authorizing them to look for arms, drugs and other forms of organized crime in Kalma were confronted by a group of camp residents who had gathered to stop them entering the camp. The security forces fired shots in the air, before opening fire on the crowd.

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, one of the largest camps in Darfur with a population of around 80,000 internally displaced people (IDPs). 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.

Seven police officers who had received minor injuries, and were subsequently interviewed by UN investigators, turned out to have been assaulted in a separate incident later in the day by an angry crowd of IDPs wielding stones, sticks, knives and metal bars. None of them had suffered gunshot wounds.

“Witness testimonies confirmed that security forces shot arbitrarily at a large crowd of IDPs including women and children,” the UN 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, despite the General Search Order for the operation carried out in Kalma, “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.”

Under international law, security forces – particularly police – are empowered to use force in order to protect the right to life. However, the report says, “Police may… employ force only when necessary, and for a legitimate purpose when peaceful means have not and will not succeed.” The report concludes that 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.”


SOURCE : Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)



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