Sudan: Amnesty report reveals bombing of civilians

Alex Neve, Amnesty International CanadaMessage to Amnesty International supporters:
Report on mission to Sudan reveals indiscriminate bombing of civilians 

by Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

It is so crucial that Amnesty International makes sure that we will not forget this terrible crisis; because many would like it to be forgotten.

We have heard that sentiment numerous times over the past few days as we have been in and out of the offices of governments that are members of the UN Security Council, and various UN officials and experts.  I have been in New York for three days this week, with Amnesty colleagues from our offices here and in London, pushing and prodding for international action to bring the grave human rights crisis and humanitarian catastrophe in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States to an end.

Amnesty International Report from Mission to Southern Kordofan 2013
Report and research mission

Amnesty report on Sudan reveals deadly indiscriminate bombing of civilian population

Specifically, we have come to New York to launch our new report, Sudan: Civilians Caught in Unending Crisis in Southern Kordofan.  The report lays out the grim and troubling findings, as well as recommendations for action, coming out of our research mission to South Sudan and to Sudan’s  volatile Southern Kordofan State in January of this year. 

The report makes it clear that Sudan’s campaign of indiscriminate aerial bombings, underway for close to two years, has led to overwhelming numbers of civilian deaths and injuries.  The wrenching accounts range from two young brothers cut down by shrapnel while playing under a tree to a 90 year old grandmother who was so badly torn apart by a Sudanese bomb that her neighbour had to gather up her body parts.

Beyond death and injury the report also highlights the deep crisis of inescapable hunger, as well as lack of water and proper health care, that has been unleashed through the combination of the relentless bombing campaign and the Sudanese government’s refusal to allow humanitarian assistance into the ravaged area.

Be it from hunger, from bomb attacks that have occurred or fear of bomb attacks that might be coming, around 300,000 people are now displaced either within Southern Kordofan or in remote refugee camps across the border in harsh and isolated corners of South Sudan.  They are particularly vulnerable amidst the continuing violence and hardship.

Sudan crisis needs response from United Nations

This is not new. This is a crisis that began in June 2011.  But it is a crisis that has governments stalemated.  That is why we have come to New York.  The UN Security Council has a key role to play.  Yet divisions and politics take precedence over rights and safety.  In much the same way that China and Russia have blocked strong UN action on Syria; they and a few allies have stood up for the government in Khartoum rather than people suffering on the ground in Southern Kordofan.

We are here to help build the pressure for action.  We need to see the Security Council finally condemn the aerial bombardments and blocked humanitarian aid for what they are – clear violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law – which must end; now.  We need to see the Security Council establish an independent inquiry into the abuses.  And we need to see the Security Council extend the Sudan arms embargo that currently only applies to Darfur, to the whole of Sudan.

Amnesty International is pressing for action

That is why we are here.  That is what the scores of people whose stories we heard in villages, towns and displacement settlements throughout Southern Kordofan demand.  Every meeting I have been in and out of, I have remembered the words of feisty Khadija, after she described gathering up her neighbour’s body parts.  She sent us off with the exhortation that we had to find a way to ‘stop the planes.’

We haven’t done so yet.  But our information, including Khadija’s story, has been helpful and timely for many members of the Security Council who are concerned about this crisis.  And it has certainly strengthened their resolve to find a way forward.

We will now build on that resolve.  Our three days at the UN will now be a springboard for pressure from around the world, some directed at the Security Council, much concentrated on the governments and armed groups at the heart of the conflict, and certainly a great deal focused on the African Union, which has assumed a leadership role in responding to this grievous situation, but has failed to date to deliver much progress.

With targets for our lobbying spread across the globe, the global strength and presence of Amnesty International is obviously incredibly valuable.  Voices will speak out from Canada, Chile, Thailand and the Netherlands, but also from across Africa – all demanding that the indiscriminate bombings end and the humanitarian aid begins.

Support from Amnesty members gives hope for civilians in Sudan

Thank you for your support of this work.  Through your generosity and concern I have been able to be on the ground twice in the past year to hear directly from Khadija and countless others.  I have been able to follow up at the UN and in various world capitals, pressing our demands.  I know that without those efforts, made possible through your support, there is a very real risk that this crisis would have been forgotten.  But it hasn’t been.  Governments are feeling increasingly uncomfortable.  And that can be, must be the beginning of change.

I cannot yet report to Khadija that we have stopped the planes.  But I am sure that we are getting closer.

– Alex

New York, April 2013


Your financial support to Amnesty International helps:

– Tell the world of our eye-witness accounts of the horrific killings happening right now in southern Sudan

– Meet UN decision-makers to make sure they understand the reality of this campaign of violence against civilians and make a commitment to stop it

– Step up our campaign to end the use of indiscriminate weapons – like bombs — that destroy the lives of so many innocent civilians

– Ensure that those responsible for war crimes against civilians in Sudan are brought to justice

– Improve conditions for Internally displaced persons and refugees in south Sudan and neighbouring countries.

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