UN calls for end to fighting in disputed Sudan Kordofan region

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[JURIST] UN Officials and the UN Security Council [official website] on Monday called for an end to fighting [press release] in the Southern Kordofan area of Sudan [BBC backgrounder]. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] announced [press release] that the UN has received reports of indiscriminate aerial attacks, abductions, extrajudicial killings and mass graves discovered in the area. He also reported that UN staffers have been abducted, injured and killed during their efforts to investigate the human rights abuses. In a press conference, Simonovic discussed the “disturbing” trends that have been ongoing in Sudan since early June:

UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon [official websites] also voiced concern about the violence in South Sudan, called for a cease-fire and emphasized the UN’s need for “unfettered access” to the area. The UN was unable to monitor the conditions in some regions of Sudan recently because the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) [official website], a peacekeeping mission, does not extend to the Republic of South Sudan, which became independent on July 9 [JURIST report]. The UN will publish an official report on its findings within the next 10 to 14 days.

South Kordofan, which has been held by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) since the 2005 peace deal that stifled Sudan’s civil war, is a state in the center of Sudan, and has been a disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan due to its oil reserves. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs [official website] and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] denounced continued human rights abuses [statement] against civilians in the South Kordofan region in June, saying that the UN knows of more than 70,000 people who have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom are subject to violence and targeting due to their ethnic heritage. Sudan’s army, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), took over Abyei, a district in the state in May, causing a rebuke and demand for withdrawal [JURIST reports] by the UN. The UN confirmed reports of bombing and shelling in and around Abyei by the SAF, as well as widespread looting and burning of houses. Aid workers estimate 40,000 people have fled the area [BBC report]. While the UN has said that attacks on its peacekeepers amount to war crimes under international law, both the UN and the US have called on the northern troops to withdraw from Abyei. From the northern capital of Khartoum President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; ICC case materials; JURIST news archive] has stated he will not withdraw troops from the region and insisted that the area belongs to the north. An International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] case is open against al-Bashir and several nations have been urged to arrest him on sight including: China, Malaysia, Djibouti, Kenya and Chad [JURIST reports].

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