In a statement on Tuesday, the Darfur Bar Association (DBA) criticises the US statement of 18 February that holds the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW) responsible for the outbreak of the fighting in Darfur's Jebel Marra on 15 January.
“The US State Department's statement did not mention any measures the Sudanese government should have taken in accordance with its international obligations to respect the rights of civilians affected by aerial bombardments and attacks on the ground,” the DBA commented.
“The statement indicates that the USA has turned a blind eye to the grave human rights violations in and around Jebel Marra, because of the stances of the SLM president, Abdelwahid Mohamed El Nur, regarding the US efforts for a peaceful settlement [in the region].”
The Bar stated that “El Nur's non-response to the American efforts should not prompt the international forces led by the USA to ignore its international obligations on human rights and the protection of civilians in conflict zones”.
The Darfur lawyers condemn in the strongest terms “the gross violations of the rights of innocent civilians and the destruction of villages and water wells in Jebel Marra”.
They call on the warring parties in Darfur “to act to stop the war and prevent more devastation”, and urge the international community “to take the necessary and appropriate measures to compel the warring parties to stop the war, act to protect civilians, and provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the bombing and the military operations”.
SLM-AW leader Abdelwahid El Nur reacted to the USA’s remarks too in a press statement on Saturday. He strongly denied that his rebel fighters initiated the fighting in Jebel Marra, as stated by the US State Department on Thursday.
He blamed the USA for “its silence on several tragic incidents” that occurred in Darfur recently, while “the Department is quick to incriminate the SLM, [which is] shameful indeed!”
According to the rebel leader, the American statement is “mainly intended to sharpen the appetite of the Khartoum regime, and boost its morale to continue its scorched-earth policy against the innocent civilians unabated, not only in Jebel Marra or Darfur but in Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains as well”.
On Monday, the Sudanese government expressed its regrets that the US administration equated the government and rebels in a press statement on the situation in Jebel Marra last week.
John Kirby, Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesman for the Bureau of Public Affairs of the US Department of State, asserted in the statement that “initial attacks by the Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdelwahid El Nur opposition group on Sudanese armed forces prompted a response by Sudan’s military”.
He called on “both the Government of Sudan and the armed movements of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) to re-commit to their cessation of hostilities declarations for Darfur and in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states”.
Ali El Sadig, Spokesman for the Sudanese Foreign Ministry praised the “objective approach that was absent in the previous statements of the State Department”.
However, it would have been better if the US statement held the rebels “fully responsible” for the fighting and the ensuing displacement, he said.