August 21, 2015 / 4:57 PM / 4 years ago

U.N. calls for end to impunity for crimes in Darfur, Sudan

GENEVA (Reuters) - Sudanese police and security forces have shot, killed and abducted civilians in Darfur with near-total impunity, the United Nations said on Friday in a report also documenting crimes committed by rebels last year in the remote western region.

The military conducted aerial bombing and ground attacks on civilians and burned villages in its campaign to end the insurgency in North and South Darfur in 2014, the U.N. human rights office said, citing serious violations of international law.

Peacekeepers from the African Union and U.N., whose joint force in Darfur is known as UNAMID, documented 411 cases of abuses by all sides in the conflict, affecting 980 people, the report said. Nearly one-third involved sexual violence.

“These included abductions, physical assault, and armed attacks against civilians, particularly IDPs (internally displaced persons), causing injury or death, sexual and other forms of gender-based violence cases, including allegations of rape, gang-rape and sexual harassment,” the report said.

The true figures are believed to be higher due to fear of reprisals, social stigma, and a lack of trust in authorities to take action, it said.

Sudan’s government has faced a rebellion in Darfur since 2003 and a separate but linked insurgency in Blue Nile and South Kordofan since South Sudan seceded in 2011. More than 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict, the U.N. says.

UNAMID documented the killing of 392 civilians across Darfur last year.

“Cases which involved Government security elements and affiliated militia tend to illustrate the weakness of law enforcement institutions and the degree of impunity in which violations are committed,” the report said.

Sudanese armed forces are alleged to have committed mass rape of more than 200 women and girls in Tabit, North Darfur, but UNAMID investigators were repeatedly denied access by Sudanese authorities, it said.

“The authorities must bring an end to the endemic impunity in Darfur,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Zeid urged the Khartoum government and rebel movements to cooperate with both domestic investigations and those at the International Criminal Court, which began in 2005.

The Hague-based ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

On Thursday he proposed a two-month ceasefire with rebels and set a date for a new meeting in a national reconciliation process that collapsed in January.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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