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UN Voices New Alarm Over Abuses, Hunger In Darfur


New York, Mar 17 2005 12:00PM

United Nations agencies are voicing renewed alarm over human rights abuses and looming hunger in Sudan’s western Darfur region, where tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and almost 2 million forced from their homes in fighting between the Sudanese Government, allied militias and rebels.

“If the vow that the international community will ‘never again’ stand idly by while crimes against humanity are being perpetrated is to have any meaning, now is the time for decisive action,” 15 UN human rights experts said in a statement yesterday in Geneva.

“The violations in Darfur have been staggering in scale and harrowing in nature. Extra-judicial executions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances, scorching of villages and forced displacement of civilians have taken place in a widespread and systematic manner and continue on a daily basis.

“Members of civil society who have sought to address the violence in Darfur have suffered arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the security forces, typically after publishing reports of human rights violations in Darfur,” they added.

The experts strongly endorsed the recent findings of an international commission of inquiry that a host of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides, but mostly by Government or allied forces be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Strong, concrete and effective measures are urgently needed to bring to a close what is widely acknowledged to be one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today,” they concluded, noting that past Security Council resolutions on Darfur have been repeatedly violated without penalty.

“It is past time to send a clear message that the international community has forged a unified commitment to bring an end to serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur and to the impunity that has enabled them to continue.”

In a dispatch from the field on hunger after visiting camps for displaced people, UN World Food Programme (WFP) public information officer Laura Melo reported that some now anticipated a much higher number of people in need of food aid during the July-September rainy season than the original agency peak of 2.8 million.

“Darfur is facing the grim prospect of worsening hunger,” she wrote. “With the continued displacement and prevailing economic hardship, more and more people are likely to find themselves with nothing to feed their children.”

Women in the camps are terrified of going out to collect firewood or grass to sell amid talk of armed men on camels harassing those who do venture out, she said.

“Humanitarian agencies, meanwhile, continue to race against time to reach those in need,” she added. “Every day, hundreds of trucks and aeroplanes are on the move to deliver much-needed food aid. Insecurity, bad roads, a lack of funds and a consequent lack of capacity are, however, major obstacles to the Herculean task of delivering an average of 30,000 to 40,000 metric tons of food a month.

“It can take as long as four months for food contributions from abroad to reach Port Sudan, and two more months for the commodities to reach Darfur. With the rainy season approaching, the pressure is even greater.”

With large areas of West Darfur likely to be cut off during the rainy season an additional 23,000 tons of food need to be moved to be ready for distribution when the rains start but WFP is short of funds to purchase all the food required and sufficient trucks to transport it.

2005-03-17 00:00:00.000

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