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Attacks on South Kordofan 'may constitute war crime’: Amnesty Int

June 25 - 2014 LONDON

The recent widespread attacks on civilians in South Kordofan may constitute a war crime, Amnesty International stated in a new briefing, released today (Wednesday).

The armed conflict that started mid 2011 has intensified following the launch of a new military operation by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on 14 April. Satellite images secured by Amnesty since that date offer further evidence of indiscriminate aerial bombardments, and correspond to reports that homes, markets, hospitals, and schools have been bombed. 

“The evidence captured in these images taken over a sustained period in May corresponds to numerous reports of attacks on civilian areas that are not only a clear violation of international humanitarian law but may also constitute a war crime,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director for Eastern Africa.

The recent intensification of fighting between SAF and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) was accompanied by sustained indiscriminate aerial bombardments in civilian areas including Heiban County, and the areas of Um Dorain, and Dalami. 

Failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants is a breach of the fundamental “principle of distinction” under international humanitarian law. It is a war crime to intentionally direct attacks against civilians or civilian objects, Amnesty International stated. 

Barrel bombs

Between 15 and 22 May, human rights monitors documented over 200 bombs dropped over Tangal, in the area of Um Dorain. On 26 and 28 May, 33 bombs were reportedly dropped on Kauda, a town with no known military presence, damaging homes and other buildings, including the office of a local NGO. 

The aerial attacks often use unguided weapons such as barrel bombs which are rolled out manually from aircraft, and parachute-retarded bombs launched from aircraft at high altitudes, causing extensive damage to civilian areas, the AI said in its briefing.

Agricultural season

The months of May to August are the main planting season in South Kordofan. By intensifying attacks during this time, the SAF are hindering people’s ability to cultivate their fields. This in turn contributes to an already acute situation of food insecurity. Over the last three years, AI has documented a pattern of attacks during these months.

The Sudanese government continues to block humanitarian assistance to civilians in opposition-held areas, placing civilians in an extremely precarious situation. “After three years of conflict the people of Southern Kordofan, already desperately vulnerable to hunger and disease, are facing a looming humanitarian catastrophe,” said Kagari. 

“The world has watched this conflict unfold from the sidelines. The time has now come for the international community to ensure that the government of Sudan ends its indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas which are causing suffering on a massive scale.”   

On 14 April 2014, the Sudanese government publicly launched its “decisive dry-season” military operation to “end all rebellion in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur”, which includes deploying the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by the national security apparatus, as support for the SAF. 

The SPLM-N reported that about 90,000 people were displaced within South Kordofan in May, adding to the reported 800,000 people displaced, or otherwise affected by the conflict in SPLM-N areas since the start of the conflict.  

File photo: Analysis of satellite images shows bomb craters in Kauda, South Kordofan, measuring up to 20 metres in diameter. (DigitalGlobe/Amnesty International)

Related:

Hospital bombed in Sudan's South Kordofan (17 June 2014)

‘Attacks on South Kordofan displace 35,615’: SPLM-N (16 June 2014)

EU concerned about bombing of hospital in Sudan's Nuba Mountains (12 May 2014)


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