Summarized by Piotr Dudek, IJP Law and Policy Intern
Amnesty International Report Concerning Four Years of Attacks Against Civilians In Sudan’s South Kordofan State
In June 2011, armed conflict began between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N). Since then aerial and ground attacks have been conducted (against civilians living in in SPLA-N controlled areas of South Kordofan) by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). There have been military offensives by one or both parties to the conflict, which have increased the dangers faced by civilians over the last four years.
In April 2014, the Sudanese government launched an operation “Decisive Summer,” starting intensified aerial bombardments, civilian casualties and destruction of civilian property. The attacks by the SAF increased in April 2015, making it one of the months with the highest number of attacks since the start of the armed conflict.
AI has reported that many of the attacks targeted civilians and objects without legitimate military targets. The Sudanese forces have used cluster bombs, or used weapons and delivery systems, which are too imprecise to be used in civilian areas (unguided bombs dropped from Antonov aircraft).
The SPLA-N has maintained control of a substantial portion of territory in South Kordofan. However the SPLA-N does not have aerial capabilities and the SAF has control of the skies over the state.
The Sudanese government has refused humanitarian supplies to areas controlled by the SPLA-N. The widespread damage to civilian property has disrupted agricultural production, health care and education in the area. The last agreement on humanitarian access was in 2012 (by UN, AU, and AL). The agreement expired in November 2012.
Attacks against civilians and civilian objects constitute breaches of international humanitarian law. AI has concluded that they constitute war crimes.
AI has evidence that the SAF “do not distinguish between civilians and combatants” violating international humanitarian law.
AI has also information of international humanitarian law and human rights violations by the SPLA-N forces in government controlled areas (e.g. they are carrying out attack by means of ground shelling). Tens of thousands civilians have been displaced as a result of their attacks.
The lack of humanitarian access to areas controlled by SPLA-N has contributed to a number of deaths.
At least one-third of the South Kordofan population of approximately 1.4 million people may be internally displaced. Close to 100,000 people have fled from South Kordofan to refugee camps in South Sudan. The attacks by the SAF have spread fear and terror among the civilian population. The attacks raise concerns that they intentionally targeted hospitals and schools.
International governmental organizations, including AU, UNSC, UNHRC had been trying to put an end to crimes and human rights violations.
In 2012 because of escalating border tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, the UNSC was more engaged with the situation in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Currently, African Union makes no efforts to mediate the conflict between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-N.
AI urges the Government of Sudan, the SPLM/A-N, and other governments working through both the AU and the UN, to take immediate steps to end violations of international humanitarian law and violations of international human rights law.
The report is based on field research conducted by AI researchers in May 2015, and builds on other facts and reports carried out by AI over the past four years.
In may 2015, AI researchers visited 11 locations in four counties in South Kordofan and documented the bombardment of schools, health clinics, hospitals, houses and other civilian property that were destroyed in the last 12 months. 52 people were interviewed individually in South Kordofan.
AI researchers visited 27 sites, which have been subjected to bombardment and shelling.
In 2010, before the armed conflict started, approximately 2.5 million people, representing over 100 different ethnic communities, lived in South Kordofan. The majority of the population is from nomadic Misseriya and Hawazma Arab tribes and agriculturalist African Nuba communities. In the Kadugli area and surrounding Nuba Mountains, the population is predominantly Nuba. Historically, the Nuba ethnic communities have been marginalized by governments of Sudan.
The current conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states was triggered by among other things, unresolved tensions over failure to implement essential provisions in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 with regards to Sudan’s “Three Areas” covering South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei.
The Sudan government has denied any allegations of violations by the SAF.
Attacks against civilians
From June 2011, an extensive campaign of aerial bombardment and ground shelling has been carried out by SAF.
These attacks were either directed at the civilian population and civilian objects or were indiscriminate attacks that led to civilian deaths.
- AI researchers documented two aerial attacks at an IDP site and a village in Tunguli, Dalami County. The IDP site and the village, Andona, which is approximately one kilometer away, were attacked on 6 February 2015.
- AI has confirmed attacks at or near five hospitals/clinics, four schools and two local relief organizations that resulted in deaths, injuries, extensive property damage and displacement. The attacks (aerial bombardments) were indiscriminate, failing to distinguish between military objectives and civilian objects. Civilians were killed and injured as a result.
A humanitarian crisis
Since the start of the conflict, the civilian population in South Kordofan has been living in desperate conditions, fleeing from bombardment and seeking refuge inside foxholes and caves, with limited access to food, water, and medical care.
According to a Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) report in April 2015, an estimated 3.7 million people in Sudan are food insecure, 15 percent of whom are in South Kordofan.
Over 75 percent of households in South Kordofan experienced severe food insecurity between January and March 2015
- Access to health care
The health infrastructure in SPLA-N controlled areas has been significantly diminished. Since 2011, SAF has bombed 26 health facilities (hospitals, clinics and health units) in South Kordofan. Now only two hospitals are still functioning and provide service to over 1.2 million people.
- Access to education
Now only three out of six secondary schools in SPLA-N controlled areas remain operational.
Restrictions on human rights monitoring
International organizations have faced considerable difficulty in monitoring the human rights situation in the state because of sweeping restrictions by the Government of Sudan on access to the area. (The ban extends to UN agencies, international humanitarian organizations and foreign journalists). Despite the serious limitations and dangers, local human rights defenders are active in South Kordofan.
Monitoring, documentation and reporting of the human rights situation in South Kordofan by UN and AU human rights experts and bodies has been limited.
International and regional failure to address violations and ensure accountability
The international community has not taken any significant action to address the gross and systematic human rights violations or end the war crimes.
A report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was prepared in August 2011, documenting the wide range of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in South Kordofan in June 2011.
There have been no investigations launched into crimes under international humanitarian law and other serious violations of international human rights law by Sudanese officials.
There has been no further UNSC resolution dealing with the situation in South Kordofan since May 2012 despite the fact that over three years since Resolution 2046 (2012) there has been no meaningful progress towards a resolution, the AUHIP process is deadlocked, and there is still no humanitarian access to areas controlled by the SPLA-N.
African Union engagement
In October 2009, the AU created the AU High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan and South Sudan (AUHIP) to assist the Sudanese parties in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) as part of the democratic transformation of Sudan and South Sudan. However, the mediation process between the Government of Sudan and armed opposition groups in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, led by the AUHIP has reached a standoff.
The last direct peace talks between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-N under the auspices of the AUHIP were suspended in December 2014.
- For the Government of Sudan to:
- immediately end all attacks (and aerial bombardments) directed at civilians and civilian objects
- end the use of all weapons and delivery systems which are too imprecise to be used lawfully in civilian areas
- For the SPLA-N to:
- allow unrestricted, independent humanitarian access to and human rights monitoring in all areas of South Kordofan under their control;
- For the UNSC to:
- insist that the Government of Sudan ends attacks directed at civilians and civilian objects and indiscriminate attacks in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States and ends the use of all weapons and delivery systems which are too imprecise to be used lawfully in civilian areas;
- For the UNHRC to:
- in the absence of a decision of the UNSC to establish an independent commission of inquiry, to establish its own independent international Commission of Inquiry into all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights and all alleged violations of international humanitarian law
- For the AU to:
- increase pressure on the Government of Sudan and the SPLA-N to renew dialogue
- call for improving humanitarian access to all areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states for UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations
Full report available on the Amnesty International website: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr54/2162/2015/en/