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Sudan: Annan Reports 'Gross And Systematic' Abuses

In Sudan, Annan Reports 'Gross And Systematic' Abuses Of Human Rights

There have been "gross and systematic" violations of human rights in the Darfur region of Sudan, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today after meeting refugees on the final day of a visit to the troubled region.

Ahead of a meeting with Sudanese President Omer Al Bashir in Khartoum tonight to discuss the humanitarian crisis and the militia attacks across Darfur, Mr. Annan stressed the importance of making the region - which is about the size of France - secure before people can feel comfortable about returning to their homes.

In Iridimi, Chad, where Mr. Annan toured a camp housing some 15,000 people, thousands of refugees sat or stood in a semi-circle while holding placards that read "Stop the ethnic cleansing and the genocide" and "Security first, then voluntary return."

The Secretary-General met female community leaders and a representative of the refugees and also spoke to non-governmental organization (NGO) staff working at the camp.

He was also briefed by Haroun Saleh, Governor of Chad's Ouaddie province, on the devastating impact of the huge influx of refugees.

Mr. Annan said later that security is paramount for the refugees and internally displaced "and of course that would have to be assured before they go back."

About 170,000 refugees have fled to Chad and more than a million others are internally displaced within Darfur, largely because of attacks by Government-allied Arab militias - known as the Janjaweed - against local black Africans. The Janjaweed have been armed and recruited by Khartoum in its fight against two rebel groups.

Yesterday, after meeting Chadian President Idriss Deby, Mr. Annan said the international community is not providing aid and support at a rate fast enough to meet the crisis.

UN agencies estimate that at least 2 million people in Darfur need humanitarian relief, including basic food aid, because of the conflict.

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